registered dietitian education requirements

Do Dietitians Need a Master’s in Nutrition? Registered Dietician Degree Requirements

Do you have the drive and passion to help members of your community achieve their best health? Do you strive to educate others on how their diet is impacting their health? If you have the ambition to do all of these things, you may be well-suited for a career as a Registered Dietician. The journey towards this career requires specialized education, practical training, and of course, a credentialing examination. But very soon, the Registered Dietitian requirements will be shifting.

Read more to find out about the current education requirements for Registered Dieticians, as well as whether or not RDs are required to earn a master’s degree.

Current Dietician Education Requirements

As of this year, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics requires future Registered Dietitians to complete, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree in Dietetics or Nutrition. The program must be approved by the Dietetics’ Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). During their course of study, students must complete a practical component, as well as coursework in subjects such as food and nutrition sciences, chemistry, microbiology, sociology, biochemistry, and physiology, among others. Following graduation, prospective RDs will also need to complete an internship prior to sitting for their registration exam. These education requirements for Registered Dieticians are not set in stone, however. Very soon, Registered Dieticians will be required to earn a master’s degree in order to work in the field.

The New Master’s Degree Mandate

As briefly mentioned, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) is making some changes to the educational requirements for Registered Dietitians. Beginning in 2024, Registered Dietitian education requirements

will become a bit more stringent. New Registered Dietitians will be required to earn, at minimum, a master’s degree before they’re eligible to sit for the registration exam.

What is the Purpose of a Master’s Degree Requirement?

Across the healthcare sphere, care providers are being required to earn higher levels of education in order to qualify for licensure or registration. In some ways, this upcoming CDR change is a response to this trend. As other disciplines in healthcare have begun moving toward advanced degree requirements, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics feels that dietitians should have a similarly prestigious level of education and career preparation. Updating the Registered Dietitian requirements to include advanced degrees will empower dietitians to lead the nutrition-care field and will add cache to the whole RD career.

What if I’m Already a Registered Dietician?

The good news is that, if you’re already a practicing dietitian in good standing with the CDR, then the master’s degree mandate will not apply to you. Registered Dietetic Technicians will also not be impacted by this change. However, there are several reasons why you may want to consider pursuing a master’s degree anyway.

Who Does the Mandate Impact?

The primary population of people this change impacts is new Registered Dieticians. If you are planning on entering the field as of 2024 or later, you will be required to earn a master’s degree in order to practice in the field of dietetics. As of now, however, the master’s degree you earn does not need to be in the area of dietetics. Some may choose to earn an MBA or a master’s degree in a health-related field, like Nutrition. And while you have options, there are a number of reasons to consider earning an MS in Nutrition.

The Value of an MS in Nutrition

If you’re new to the field, you will be required to earn a Master of Arts, Master of Science, or Master of Public Health before sitting for your registration exam. While you might consider a degree in Food Science or even Business, an MS in Nutrition can be an ideal choice to prepare you for the rigors of a career in dietetics.

Increased Salary

Whether you’re new to dietetics or you’re a long-established dietician, earning a master’s degree can mean a higher level of pay. Compared to those who hold a bachelor’s degree, workers with master’s degrees earn, on average, $300 more per week. PayScale estimates that an MS in Nutrition provides degree holders with an annual salary that is at least $3,000 more per year than those who hold a bachelor’s degree.

Better Job Outlook

A master’s degree in nearly every field can provide graduates with more job opportunities. This is equally true in the field of Nutrition and Dietetics. However, as the CDR will be requiring new RDs to earn their master’s degree, it is likely that employers will consider graduate degree holders more favorably than those who only hold a bachelor’s degree for new positions. If you hope to have an advantage while seeking a job, earning a master’s degree in Nutrition is a great move.

Higher Level of Skill

An MS in Nutrition distinguishes itself from other master’s programs in a number of ways. This degree pathway focuses on a functional approach to the prevention and management of disease. Within the curriculum of an MS in Nutrition is the concept of bio-individuality. This approach prepares graduates to treat each of their clients as unique individuals with highly specific needs. They’ll be able to offer tailored treatment plans and solutions. Additionally, while a degree in Dietetics shares similarities with a degree in Nutrition, an MS in Nutrition delves deeper into nutrition modules including planning and assessment as well as nutrition education and promotion. These aspects prepare graduates to offer community education as well as individual treatment. In this way, an MS in Nutrition can be more versatile.

While the current Registered Dietician education requirements don’t include a master’s degree, change is right around the corner. In an effort to elevate the field, future RDs will be required to earn a master’s degree in order to practice. Those who earn their graduate degree in Nutrition will be prepared to offer the highest level of care to their clients. They’ll be able to educate their patients on how to use nutrition to reach their optimal health and prevent or treat chronic illness. A master’s degree in Nutrition is a wonderful choice for future Registered Dieticians, as well as existing Registered Dieticians who hope to gain a leg up in the employment market.

Interested in pursuing a master’s degree in Nutrition? Contact us online to get more information about the University of Bridgeport’s Nutrition program.