A dietitian (or dietician) is an expert in dietetics; that is, human nutrition and the regulation of diet. A dietitian advises people on what to eat in order to lead a healthy lifestyle or achieve a specific health-related goal. Dietitians work in a variety of settings from clinical to community and public policy to media communications.
A registered dietitian (RD), or registered dietitian nutritionists (RDN), is a dietitian who meets special academic and professional requirements, including: the completion of a bachelor’s degree with an accredited nutrition curriculum; satisfactory performance on the registration exam; and an internship at an approved health care facility, foodservice organization, or community agency. Roughly half of all RDNs hold graduate degrees and many have certifications in specialized fields such as sports, pediatrics, renal, oncological, food allergy, or gerontological nutrition. After learning about a patient’s health history, favorite foods, eating and exercise habits, the RD helps the person set goals and prioritize. Follow-up visits often focus on maintenance and monitoring progress.
Most RDs work in the treatment and prevention of disease (administering medical nutrition therapy, as part of medical teams), often in hospitals, health maintenance organizations, private practices, or other health care facilities. In addition, a large number of registered dietitians work in community and public health settings, and/or in academia and research. A growing number of dietitians work in the food industry, journalism, sports nutrition, corporate wellness programs, and other non-traditional dietetics settings