Internship and Professional Credentials in the Field of Nutrition and Dietetics

  • RD is a Registered Dietitian, RDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (These are equivalent credentials).
  • DTR is a Registered Diet Technician.
  • CDN is a Certified Dietitian or Nutritionist in the State of New York.

What is the difference between a “nutritionist” and a Registered Dietitian/Registered Dietitian Nutritionist?

Unlike the credential RD/RDN, there is no nationally recognized credential associated with the title “nutritionist.” This means anyone can call himself or herself a nutritionist, with or without any educational preparation in food and nutrition.

The term nutritionist could be appropriately used if the person were educated in nutrition. However, since the term is not regulated or credentialed, it is often used by people without any training who may actually do harm by giving inappropriate advice. Therefore, when you hear the term “nutritionist”, you need to request more information about the person’s qualifications before you can feel secure with the advice you are getting.

How to Become a Registered Dietitian (RD) or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)

In order to become a Registered Dietitian or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RD/RDN) you must complete your B.S. in Nutrition or Dietetics at a regionally accredited college or university. Your degree must meet the minimum academic requirements as approved by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). This will make you eligible to apply to any of the approximately 245 different internships located in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

The internships are extremely competitive, so you will need to show that you have a solid GPA as well as some experience in the field of dietetics before you apply. College and community involvement also is an important part of the process. This means you need to start early in your career in nutrition planning for your internship. After completing an ACEND approved internship you must pass the National Registration Examination for Dietitians. When you pass the exam, you are qualified to be a Registered Dietitian (RD).

Learn more about how to become an RD or RDN at eatright.org.

Steps to Become a Registered Dietitian:

1. Academic Requirement

Complete a Didactic Program in dietetics (DPD) accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND), formerly known as the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education (CADE), such as a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition at SUNY Plattsburgh. In the fall of your senior year of college you will begin the process of applying for your internship. The Nutrition Program Director will help you select and apply for the internship of your choice. A listing of all internships available can be found on the Academy's website (www.eatright.org) or from the program director. You will need a "Verification Statement" from the DPD Program Director prior to applying for a dietetic internship. A cumulative GPA of 3.0 is required to obtain the "Verification Statement" from SUNY Plattsburgh's Nutrition Program.

2. Dietetic Internship or Supervised Practice

Be accepted into and complete an ACEND-accredited dietetic internship. Each internship is comprehensive and designed to provide students with the understanding and skills vital to pursue a satisfying career in nutrition and dietetics. Some internships provide interns with the chance to also complete a graduate degree. Each internship exposes the intern to a vast scope of available career options. You will complete rotations of supervised experience in clinical, community, and food-service management.

Dietetic internships are competitive. Students can apply for internships in their senior year or after graduation.

Dietetic internships are usually 9–12 months long and offered by approximately 245 sites throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. Students are expected to complete 1200 hours of supervised practice during their internship.

3. Registration Exam

After successfully completing all the requirements for the dietetic internship (1. academic requirements, B.S. and 2. the internship), you will be eligible to take the National Registration Exam for Dietitians. Computer testing at specific sites allows you to immediately find out if you passed the exam. Once you have passed the exam you are allowed to use the initials "RD" or "RDN" after your name signifying your status as a Registered Dietitian or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. You may re-take the exam at a later date, if needed to pass.

Over the past five years, 90% of SUNY Plattsburgh nutrition program graduates passed the National Registration Examination for Dietitians on their first attempt.

What is a Dietetic Technician?

Dietetic Technicians generally work independently or in teams with (or under the supervision of) an RD to perform routine duties at the technical level. Areas of employment are similar to that of RDs, such as hospitals, nursing homes, long term care facilities, out-patient health care & wellness clinics, community nutrition (WIC programs, public health agencies, meals on wheels, community health programs), food companies, and in food service management. The job market for Dietetic Technicians is assumed to be good and growing somewhat faster than that of RDs. According to AND, the average salary level for dietetic technicians is about 75% of the average salary for RDs. Salary levels vary within regions and scope of responsibility. Please see the Academy's website for more information at www.eatright.org.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that Dietetic Technicians be registered, and many work environments require that an individual be credentialed as a Dietetic Technician, Registered (DTR). Some hospitals and long term care facilities will employ B.S. dietetic major graduates as Dietetic Technician without the DTR credential.

Steps to Become a DTR (Registered Diet Technician):

1. Academic Requirement

Complete a 4-year Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD) accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND), formerly known as the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education (CADE), such as a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition at SUNY Plattsburgh. In spring of your senior year of college you will begin the process of applying for the examination for Diet Technicians. The DPD Nutrition Program director will help you complete the application process for taking the Diet Technician Registration Exam.

You will need a "Verification Statement" from our Nutrition Program Director before you can register to take the exam. A cumulative GPA of 3.0 is required to obtain the Verification Statement from SUNY Plattsburgh's Nutrition Program.

2. Examination for Registered Diet Technicians

After successfully completing the academic requirements (B.S.), you will be eligible to take the National Registration Exam for Diet Technicians. Computer testing at specific sites allows you to immediately find out if you passed the exam. Once you have passed the exam you are allowed to use the initials "DTR" after your name signifying your status as a registered diet technician. You may re-take the exam at a later date, if needed to pass.

What is a Licensed Dietitian or a Certified Dietitian?

In New York State, dietitians and nutritionists who provide out-patient services must be certified. The certification is CDN (Certified Dietitian Nutritionist). Insurance reimbursement for medical nutrition therapy requires a provider to be an RD and CDN. To meet the education and experience requirements for certification in dietetics-nutrition, you must satisfy certain criteria as outlined on the New York State Education Department website at www.op.nysed.gov/dietlic. You can become a CDN with or without being an RD.

Certification is a state credential that limits the use of particular titles to persons meeting pre-determined requirements, while persons not certified could still practice the occupation or profession. This credential recognizes, or certifies, that the professional is qualified to practice in that specialized area. Consumers in these states who are seeking nutrition therapy assistance need to be more cautious and aware of the qualifications of the provider they choose.

For more information on steps to become a CDN (Certified Dietitian Nutritionist) in New York State, please refer to the Handbook.

Questions, Comments, Suggestions?

If you would like to find out more about the nutrition program at SUNY Plattsburgh, please contact:

Dr. Ena Joseph, Program Director
Office: Hawkins Hall 215B
Phone: (518) 564-4223
Fax: (518) 564-3100
E-mail: josephe@plattsburgh.edu