Plus Additional info on deciphering if your “Nutritionist” is
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:
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.
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.
a national examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic
continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration.
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
*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
As of January 2012, the ADA will
Academy of Nutrition and
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
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
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.