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Nutrition & Dietetics

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics defines a Registered Dietitian (RD) or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) as a food and nutrition expert who has met the minimum academic and professional requirements to qualify for the RD/RDN credential. RDs/RDNs translate the science of nutrition into practical solutions for healthy living. They work in health care, community and public health, wellness, private practice, research, and policy settings to improve the nutrition of individuals and communities.

Pre-dietetic students should complete the necessary prerequisite coursework to apply to a graduate program in nutrition and dietetics and pursue experiences to develop themselves as strong applicants.

Major information

Most graduate dietetic programs do not require a particular undergraduate major, but students should research the programs of the schools to which they hope to apply to determine if there is a requirement. If there is no requirement, students should choose a major they enjoy and one in which they will be academically successful. Strong academic performance in both your major and prerequisite coursework is essential.

What type of education and credentialing is required?

To obtain this credential after completing your undergraduate degree at UW, prospective students should plan to complete a master’s or doctoral degree that includes the dietetic coursework as well as 1200+ hours of supervised practice through a program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). Dietetic training can be combined with a variety of degrees; UW offers Master of Science, Master of Public Health, and Doctor of Philosophy degrees. In addition, you must pass a national examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR), the credentialing agency for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

In addition to national RD/RDN credentialing, many states require dietitians be licensed or certified to practice. Frequently state requirements are met through the RD/RDN training requirements.

Some RDs/RDNs hold additional certifications in specialized areas of practice. These are awarded through CDR and/or other medical and nutrition organizations and are recognized within the profession, but are not required. Some of the certifications include pediatric or renal nutrition, sports dietetics, nutrition support, and diabetes education.

While dietetic programs offered at any college or university are required to meet the same standards, each program is able to express their unique strengths through their program mission, goals, and objectives. Prospective students should consider their personal interest areas and career plans when deciding whether to apply to a particular program. The UW dietetic program’s mission emphasizes a strong foundation in the applied science of nutrition, the integration of research into practice, and leadership development. Another important consideration when selecting a dietetic program is their RD/RDN national exam pass rate. The UW dietetic program has a 100% one-year pass rate.

 Prerequisite coursework required for UW’s dietetic program

  • Nutrition
  • General chemistry
  • Organic chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • English
  • Psychology
  • Microbiology
  • Food science, with lab
  • Management of nutrition services

These courses are the prerequisites for the UW’s Graduate Coordinated Program in Dietetics. Students should research the prerequisites of the schools to which they hope to apply and attempt to incorporate as many of those requirements as possible into their undergraduate course schedule.

Career information

RDs/RDNs work in a variety of employment settings, including hospitals, private practice, or other health care facilities, to treat and prevent disease. They also work in community and public health settings and in academia and research. A growing number of RDs/RDNs work in the food and nutrition industry, business, journalism, sports nutrition, and corporate wellness programs.

Websites to visit

Here are some helpful websites to learn about the field of nutrition and dietetics and how to become an RD/RDN.

General advice

Dietetic programs are competitive, so it is important for students to pursue experiences to develop themselves as strong applicants. Students can gain experience while an undergraduate by becoming a member of student, community, or professional organizations, volunteering, working on a research study, and/or being employed in a position related to food/nutrition. Some ideas for volunteering include food banks, cooking classes, farmers markets, meal service programs, and senior services organizations. 

There are two schools in Washington that have coordinated programs in dietetics—UW and Washington State University. There is one school in Washington that has a master’s-level didactic program—Bastyr University. Not all programs have the same prerequisites and admissions procedures, nor do they have the same emphasis of study, so it is important that students research the programs of the schools to which they hope to apply.