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What is a Registered Dietitian (RD)?

According to the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a registered dietitian (RD) is an expert in food and nutrition who:

  • has earned a bachelor's degrees
  • has earned a bachelor's degree
  • has completed an accredited didactic program in dietetics (the Distance Dietetic Program (DDP) at UNC is an accredited didactic program in dietetics)
  • completed a supervised dietetic internship or professional experience
  • taking an exam administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
  • participates in continuing education

In addition to receiving your bachelor’s in dietetics at UNC, the faculty will also provide advising to enhance your opportunities for obtaining a dietetic internship. The internship program is not part of the DDP coursework and has a separate application process, however UNC offers a distance-based dietetic internship and selection preference is given to UNC graduates. Because the internship application process is nationally competitive, we cannot guarantee that you will be matched with a dietetic internship. Your success depends a great deal on the quality of your application including your GPA, your experience (both volunteer and paid), your initiative, and your interests.

Professions in Dietetics

Registered Dietitians work in a wide variety of employment settings, including health care, business and industry, public health, education, research and private practice. Many work environments, particularly those in medical and health care settings, require that an individual be credentialed as a Registered Dietitian.

Work environments include:

  • Hospitals, HMOs, or other health care facilities, educating patients about nutrition and administering medical nutrition therapy as part of the health care team. They may also manage the foodservice organizations in these settings, as well as in schools, day-care centers, and correctional facilities, overseeing everything from food purchasing and preparation to managing staff.
  • Sports nutrition and corporate wellness programs, educating clients about the connection between food, fitness and health.
  • Food and nutrition-related businesses and industries, working in communications, consumer affairs, public relations, marketing or product development.
  • Private practice, working under contract with health care or food companies, or in their own business. Registered Dietitians may provide services to foodservice or restaurant managers, food vendors and distributors, athletes, nursing home residents, or company employees.
  • Community and public health settings, teaching, monitoring, and advising the public, and helping to improve their quality of life through healthy eating habits.
  • Universities and medical centers, teaching physicians, nurses, dietetics students, and others the sophisticated science of foods and nutrition.
  • Research areas in food and pharmaceutical companies, universities and hospitals, directing or conducting experiments to answer critical nutrition questions and find alternative foods or nutrition recommendations for the public.