Registered Dietitian Degree Program Summaries

Oct 14, 2019

Two types of programs exist for students who want a dietitian degree. Bachelor's degree programs instruct and train students on how to become registered dietitians, while a master's program focuses on research.

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Essential Information

In dietetics bachelor's program, courses cover dietetics research, food science and biomedical ethics. After the successful completion of an internship or similar supervised practice program, students are eligible to take the Registration Examination for Dietitians. A high school diploma or equivalent is required for entry to these programs. Dietitian programs have limited availability, and some schools only accept applicants once a year.

Master's programs are often available online or on-campus and can qualify graduates for certification as dietitians. In order to graduate, students must complete a thesis and internship. A bachelor's degree is required for admission, and some master's programs only admit experienced health care professionals.

Bachelor's Degree Programs in Dietetics

In the applied science field of dietetics, students are instructed about nutrition and food, and are taught professional communication and research skills to help people learn how to develop and maintain a healthy diet. While most schools accept freshmen into these programs, some prefer that students have taken prerequisite college courses prior to applying. Other qualifications include a high GPA, essay, and letters of recommendation.

Bachelor's programs in dietetics offer classes in food types, preparation, balance, and life cycle issues related to diet. A few programs offer an integrated internship opportunity, though many include preparatory coursework and may assist students in seeking a postgraduate intern position. Courses teach nutritional values of different foods, assessment and diagnosis of disorders and deficiencies, as well as dietary medical provisions. Some classes common to many of these programs include:

  • Food science and physiology
  • Nutrition and culinary principles
  • Biomedical ethics
  • Dietetics research methods
  • Professional, legal and social issues related to dietetics

Master's Degree Programs in Dietetics

Most dietetics master's programs are designed for healthcare professionals who seek to expand their knowledge of healthcare policies, theories and issues. The primary goal of these programs is to teach students how to research and improve healthcare procedures, work within an efficient team, and analyze performance data. Students may become licensed, registered or certified during the program, as soon as the qualifications have been met.

Coursework for master's degree programs in dietetics is often tailored to enhance undergraduate teaching. Students must typically pass a comprehensive skills test, complete a research thesis or participate in additional didactic learning. Students must often adequately prepare or be approved for internship participation for programs that include a supervised practicum. Examples of graduate classes include:

  • Planning and evaluating health care programs
  • Dietetic theories and research strategies
  • Fundamentals of community health programs
  • Finance and business in health care
  • Health care management concepts

Popular Careers

Common industries in which registered dietitians find employment tend to be general medical and surgical hospitals, outpatient care centers and nursing care facilities. Similar occupational fields, according to the BLS, can include:

  • Dietitian and nutritionist
  • Registered nurse
  • Food service manager
  • Health educator
  • Dietetic technicians

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted 11% job growth for dietitians and nutritionists between 2018 and 2028. The BLS estimated the annual median salary of dietitians and nutritionists was $60,370 in May 2018.

Certification and Licensure Information

Some states may mandate certification, licensure or registration. Professional certification through organizations such as the American Dietetic Association and the American Society for Nutrition requires a bachelor's degree and intern experience.

Students can pursue both a bachelor's and master's degree in dietetics. Both of these programs cover nutrition, research techniques and dietary principles, though master's programs are often more customizable according to students' interests. Both programs may include hands-on internship training as well.

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