What exactly is a RD?

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What exactly is a RD?

Posted on 11th Jan 2019


While most people recognize the meaning of a MD or RN, many are puzzled by what a RD is. Who are these people and what do their titles mean? RD's are registered dietitians who work within the field of dietetics, the science of applying food and nutrition to health.


Registered Dietitian is a legally protected title that can only be used by dietetic practitioners who are currently authorized to use the credential by the Commission on Dietetic Registration of the American Dietetic Association (CDR-ADA). Often, you may hear "RD" and "nutritionist" used interchangeably, but the definition and requirements do vary. In fact, some states have licensure laws that define the scope of practice for someone using the term “nutritionist.” All registered dietitians are nutritionists but not all nutritionists are registered dietitians.


Dietitians study a variety of subjects, ranging from science courses such as chemistry, anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, and microbiology to food and nutrition sciences, foodservice management, economics and sociology. RD’s can also have certifications in specialized areas of practice such as diabetes education, nutrition support and pediatric or renal nutrition.


Registered Dietitians must meet the following criteria to earn their RD credential:

  • Complete specific coursework for a bachelor’s degree at an accredited university or college.
  • Complete a supervised practice program at a healthcare facility, food service corporation, community agency or undergraduate/ graduate school.
  • Successfully pass a national registration exam.
  • Continue professional educational requirements to maintain the certification.


Registered dietitians work in a number of employment settings including health care, public health, education, business, private practice and research.

  1. In hospitals or other healthcare facilities, RD’s educate patients about nutrition and administer medical nutrition therapy as part of the healthcare team.
  2. In universities and medical centers, dietitians teach physicians, nurses, dietetics students and others the science of food and nutrition.
  3. In community and public health settings, RD’s teach and advise the public to improve their quality of life through healthy eating habits.
  4. Dietitians may work in sports nutrition and corporate wellness programs, educating clients about the connection between food, fitness, and health.
  5. Research areas in food and pharmaceutical companies employ dietitian’s to direct and conduct experiments to find answers for critical nutrition questions, find alternative foods or nutrition recommendations for the public.
  6. RD's may work in private practice or nutrition-related businesses in areas such as communications, marketing, consumer affairs, or product development.


Eating right in order to live a healthier lifestyle and prevent health complications is an important part of everyday life. If you need nutritional advice, it is wise to contact an RD so that you can get the most accurate and reliable information that best suits your needs.


Food Fitness First founders Pam Thompson (RDN) and Nancy Walker (RD) have years of experience helping empower people to be healthier. Their hope is that the FFF program can change the health, and therefore the lives, of countless people across the country and the world.

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