Jessica Hamilton, dietetics alumna Jessica Hamilton, MS, RDN credits the knowledge and hands-on skills that she learned at IUP to give her the confidence to pursue a successful career as a registered dietitian.

Steps to Becoming a Registered Dietitian

Registered dietitians (RDs) are food and nutrition experts who have met the following criteria and earned the RD credential:

Option 1: 

Option 2: 

  • Successfully completed a bachelor’s degree and coursework through an Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND)-accredited Didactic Program in Dietetics or Coordinated Program in Dietetics at a regionally accredited university or college.
  • Completed a supervised practice program or dietetic internship (a minimum of 1,200 hours) through an ACEND-accredited program.
  • Passed the national registration exam administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration.


Effective January 1, 2024, the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) will require a minimum of a master's degree to be eligible to take the credentialing exam to become a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN). In order to be approved for registration examination eligibility with a bachelor's degree, an individual must meet all eligibility requirements and be submitted into CDR's Registration Eligibility Processing System (REPS) before 12:00 midnight Central Time, December 31, 2023. For more information about this requirement, visit CDR's website. In addition, CDR requires that individuals complete coursework and supervised practice in program(s) accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND).

The IUP Master of Science in Food and Nutrition, Dietitian-Nutritionist Program (DNP) is a supervised practice program that is accredited by ACEND. This intensive, two-year program combines coursework with supervised practice and is open to graduates of the dietetics track and graduates of other related majors who meet the admission requirements of the DNP program. 

Graduates of the dietetics track may apply for IUP's DNP program or they may choose a dietetic internship. Either pathway will allow graduates to become eligible to apply to take the CDR credentialing exam prior to become an RDN. In most states, graduate must also obtain licensure or certification to practice. More information about state licensure requirements. More information about educational pathways to become a RDN.

Registered dietitians work in a variety of settings, including health care, community and public health, industry, government, private practice, food service management, education, and research.

According to the US Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook, the job outlook for dietitians and nutritionists is expected to increase by 16 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than average for all occupations. According to the 2017 survey of salaries of registered dietitians, the median, full-time salary was approximately $63,340 per year.

Planning for a Supervised Practice Program or a Dietetic Internship

Completion of the degree in dietetics or culinary dietetics does not guarantee acceptance to a supervised practice program, which is very competitive and requires hard work and planning by the student. To achieve success in obtaining an internship:

  • Maintain a GPA of 3.5 or above: Most internships require a minimum GPA of 3.0, but give preference to applicants with a GPA of 3.5 and above.
  • Gain dietetics-related work and volunteer experiences. Consider hospitals, long-term care facilities, and public health clinics. If they can't pay you, volunteer your time and get as much experience as possible with a registered dietitian. The more experience and the more diverse the experience, the better.
  • Make a positive impression with professors and work supervisors who will serve as references for your application.
  • Get involved: Develop leadership building skills through school- and work-related activities. Become a member of the Student Association for Nutrition and Dietetics, the Pennsylvania Dietetic Association, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and become an advocate for the profession.
  • Research supervised practice programs and internships of interest: Know what each program expects in an applicant, specific application materials required, and application deadlines. Many programs have open house events and/or live webinars where interested applicants can learn more about the program and ask any questions.

Almost all dietetic internship programs are using the Dietetic Internship Centralized Application System (DICAS) for the application process. Components of the online application include coursework, personal statements, résumé, references, transcripts, and computer matching.

The IUP Department of Food and Nutrition faculty are focused on helping students plan for their careers from the beginning of their freshman year. Coursework (such as FDNT 110 Careers in Nutrition, FDNT 430 Professional Topics in Nutrition), academic advising, and meetings throughout their undergraduate years help to guide students through this process. In addition, the students may elect a credit-bearing undergraduate internship so that work or volunteer experience appears on their transcript. While these credits do not replace the accredited dietetic internship required to become a registered dietitian, they benefit applicants who apply for a post-graduate supervised practice or dietetic internship.

For more information about dietetic internships, please visit:

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' Student Guidance Document and Computer Matching Policy and Procedures, including a DICAS instructional video.