What qualifications do I need to become a dietitian?

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What qualifications do I need to become a dietitian?
Dietitians specialise in food, nutrition and health. (Finger food - finger food pieces at Mediterranean wedding image by FotoWorx from Fotolia.com)

Dietitians are people who specialise in the studies of food and nutrition. They can work in personal practices as nutrition counsellors, promoting healthy diets and lifestyles. They can also work in hospitals and other health care settings, evaluating patients and designing diet plans. The requirements to become a dietitian vary between states. There are general requirements, however, that you can meet to become a dietitian in most states.

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Education

In every state, you must complete a bachelor's degree in food science, nutrition or a related field before being able to practice as a dietitian. You should complete courses in general chemistry and biology, food science, nutrition, biochemistry and microbiology. Some states also require that you earn a master's degree in a food-related field. As of 2008, the American Dietetics Association (ADA) has accredited more than 200 bachelor's degree programs and almost 20 master's degree programs.

Licensure and Statutory Certification

Depending on your state, you may be required to have a license or a statutory certification in dietetics. Generally, you are required to pass a test administered by your state before obtaining a license or statutory certificate in dietetics. In states that offer statutory certification, dietitians who practice without a certificate are restricted in the titles they can use to refer to themselves. The requirements to obtain a license or certificate vary between states, so you should contact your state's licensing department or board of dietitians for specific requirements.

Registration

Some states require that you are registered before practicing as a dietitian. To become a registered dietitian, you pass the ADA's Dietitian Registration Exam and complete a dietetics internship. The internship can be completed by participating in one of 51 programs accredited by the ADA that offer four to five years of a combination of classroom instruction and dietetics practice. Another way to complete the internship is to complete 900 hours of dietetics practice. This option can last between six months and two years, depending on your schedule.

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