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Steps to Becoming a Registered

Dietitian Nutritionist (R.D.N.)

The following information is intended to give undergraduate and prospective students an idea of the multi-step process required to become a registered dietitian (R.D.). Becoming a dietitian is a four step process.

  • Step 1: Bachelor's Degree

    Complete a Bachelor's degree from a U.S. regionally-accredited university or college. Your bachelor's degree does not need to be in food and nutrition, but see Step 2!

  • Step 2: Required Dietetics Courses

    Complete the courses that meet the ACEND accreditation standards. ACEND-accredited dietetics programs, known as DPD Programs, combine the coursework necessary to meet the ACEND Standards of Education (Step 2) along with the bachelor's degree program (Step 1). The Food, Nutrition and Dietetics program at Illinois State is an ACEND-accredited DPD Program. Students with a bachelor's degree in another area of study must complete the course requirements of a DPD Program to be eligible to begin an ACEND-accredited dietetic internship.

    • Completing the DPD-Required Coursework
    • If one has earned a bachelor's degree in a non-dietetics (DPD) major, it is necessary to complete the coursework required by a ACEND-accredited DPD program to satisfy the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly American Dietetic Association - ADA) Standards of Education. The upper level dietetics courses are typically only offered at one of about 224 accredited Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD) programs, such as Illinois State University.
    • Upon successfully completing a bachelor's degree and the required DPD courses, one receives a Verification Statement of DPD Program Completion from the ACEND-accredited DPD Program director. You are then eligible to begin a dietetic internship, if matched.
  • Step 3: Dietetic Internship

    Apply to a dietetic internship (also known as an ACEND-accredited supervised preprofessional practice program) by the annual February or September deadlines. Applying to dietetic internships is a highly competitive process. Science, dietetics course and overall GPAs, dietetics-related work experiences, the quality of your application materials, and interview, if required, are the factors that determine one's competitiveness and probability of being matched with an internship. Completing an undergraduate DPD Program, Master's degree or coursework, and receiving a DPD Program Verification Statement is not a guarantee of being matched by a dietetic internship.

    Students graduating in May or August generally apply to internships in February, while December graduates generally apply by the September deadline. DICAS is the national application process used by almost all dietetic internships. Applicants are either matched to one DI through the national D&D Digital matching system or not matched to a DI.

    Dietetic internships provide training in the clinical, community, and food service areas of dietetics, and beginning in 2009, all DIs have an area of specialization which provides extra training. DIs last a minimum of about 8 months, but can be 21 months or longer if part of a Master’s degree program. There are approximately 250 Accredited Dietetic Internships in the United States, mostly located in major cities or affiliated with college and university food and nutrition graduate programs. Illinois State has a 21-month Master's degree - Dietetic Internship Program. Most dietetic internships participate in the spring match period and accept 6 - 12 interns a year. Illinois State's MS-DI program accepts 10 interns each year during the spring match period.

    A new, additional route other than the dietetic internship was adopted in 2011 by ACEND and is known as Individualized Supervised Practice Pathways (ISPPs). Illinois State University does not offer this option.

    NOTICE: As of January 1, 2024 a master's degree will be required to become a registered dietitian! Prior to this date a bachelor's degree and dietetic internship is acceptable.

    Upon successful completion of a dietetic internship, students will receive a Verification Statement of DI Program Completion from their dietetic internship program director which is required to apply to take the registration exam (Step 4).

  • Step 4: National Registration Exam

    Study, register for, take, and pass the national R.D. exam administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR). It is important to pass the R.D. exam on the first attempt because this an important assessment criteria for the DPD and DI Programs completed. First time pass rates on the registration exam are important for both programs to maintain their ACEND accreditation status. It is important for your first dietetics position and your employer.

  • Step 5: State Licensure

    Gain licensure in your state of practice, if applicable.

  • Step 6: Continuing Education

    Once you are a R.D., you maintain your R.D. status by completing the required continuing education activities each five year time period.