The American Dietetic Association (ADA), the worlds' largest and oldest organizations for food and nutrition professionals with more than 72,000 members, has made a progressive shift in creating a new name.
The ADA is THE organization committed to improving the nations health and advancing the fields of dietetics and nutrition through research, education and advocacy. It is the only organization that has a long history of educating collegiate degree levels professionals in the nutrition field. Approximately 72% of the ADA's members are registered dietitians and about 2% are dietetic technicians, registered. The remainder of ADA's membership includes researchers, educators, students, nurses, physicians, pharmacists, clinical and community dietetics professionals, consultants and food service managers.
In terms of educational requirements and life-long professional training, becoming a registered dietitian is highly competitive. I want to provide a brief outline of educational requirements in order to enter the field since there are no requirements to be a "Nutritionist". First, one must be accepted into a four-year undergrad program at a university setting that has a program accredited by the ADA. Second, a student accepted into these programs must maintain a specific "significant" average throughout, as well as gain field experience in order to be a competitive candidate for the 5th year internship. When an RD candidate applies to an internship program, they are applying at acceptance into a much more competitive program than that of their undergraduate bachelor degree. Upon completion of the internship, the intern applies to sit for the RD examination. If a candidate has met all qualifications in order to take the exam, they complete the exam, and upon passing, enter into the nutrition field. Once in the field, an RD must maintain their credentials, which includes completing ongoing professional education units, approved by the ADA. This requirement is due every 5 years.
In Summary, to become a RD, Nutritionists, one must at a minimal:
- Earn a bachelor's degree with course work approved by ADA's Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education. Coursework typically includes food and nutrition sciences, foodservice systems management, business, economics, computer science, sociology, advanced biochemistry, advanced physiology, microbiology and chemistry. Some science classes are the same that a medical student takes; such as organic chemistry I & II.
- Complete an accredited, supervised practice program at a health-care facility, community agency or foodservice corporation in usually in the form of an "Internship Program" and may have graduate level class credits included.
- Pass a national examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration. *
- Complete continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration.
- Many RDs acquire advanced certifications in order to become specialized in a specific area of the nutritional science field.
Examples of additional certifications in specialized areas of practice are pediatric, renal nutrition, nutrition support, Functional Medicine and diabetes education. Approximately 50% of RDs hold advanced degrees.
In my specialty field of Functional Medicine, it is estimated that 1% of RDs are practicing in this field.
*ADA's Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education (CADE) is recognized by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation and the United States Department of Education as the accrediting agency for education programs that prepare dietetics and nutrition professionals. CADE accredits and approves more than 600 undergraduate and graduate didactic, dietetic technician and supervised practice programs.
On September 24, 2011, the ADA changed the course of their organization by changing their name - in their almost 100 year tradition. The new name for the organization better describes the forward-thinking mission and vision: a name that addresses prevention and wellness as well as therapy. A name that resonates immediately with it's members, the public, the media and a name that reflects the science-based expertise of the ADA.
As of January 2012, the ADA will be the...
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
This fully complements the focus of the former ADA, which is highly focused on the nutritional well-being of the American public. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics promotes the strong science background and expertise of it's members, primarily registered dietitians. Nutrition science underpins wellness, prevention and treatment.
An academy is "a society of learned persons organized to advance science." This term describes our organization and immediately emphasizes the educational strength of our advice and expertise. By adding nutrition to our name, we communicate our capacity for translating nutrition science into healthier lifestyles for everyone. Keeping dietetics supports our history as a food and science-based profession.
Whether planning nutritious meals for children in day-care centers or schools, teaching individuals with diabetes about managing their blood sugar, working in integrative medicine settings to help people resolve chronic conditions and "disease states" or saving lives with complex nutritional interventions after surgery, registered dietitians are the best-qualified providers. The name change communicates that we are the nutrition experts.
For further information on the ADA, go to www.eatright.org. The colorful Eat Right logo will stay a part of the organization's graphic identity.
My activity as a member of the ADA - for more than 25 years- has involved my work in two professional practice groups which has and continues to influence my career path:
1 Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine (DIFM)
www.integrativerd.org A group of nutrition professionals with special interests in integrative, functional and holistic medicine, nutritional genomics, whole foods, dietary supplements and natural healing modalities.
2 Hunger and Environmental Nutritionists (HEN)
www.hendpg.org A group of Dietitians and other members whom provide the most valued source of nutrition services to promote access to nutritious food and clean water from a secure and sustainable environment.
I hope this article better helps you understand qualifications of nutritionists (none) and those dietitian/nutritionist that have and continue to maintain the Registered Dietitian (RD) credential.