Top 10 Registered Dietitian Certifications
This article provides an overview of the best certifications for registered dietitians, including requirements and benefits.
Published 18 min read
Certifications are an important component of a registered dietitian's job market employability. Certifications demonstrate that a dietitian has taken the extra step to enhance their knowledge and skills and has been certified as an expert in their field. Additionally, certifications can give a dietitian access to higher paying job opportunities, recognition from peers, and increased respect from clients. Finally, certifications can show potential employers that a dietitian is committed to staying up-to-date on the latest nutrition research and trends.
The purpose of the article is to provide an overview of the top certifications for Registered Dietitians and explain how they can contribute to a successful career in the field.
What are Registered Dietitian Certifications?
Registered Dietitian Certification is a professional credential given to individuals who have met the educational and professional criteria set by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR). To become certified, individuals must complete a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in nutrition or dietetics, complete an accredited supervised practice program and pass the national registration exam.
This certification can help individuals pursue careers as registered dietitians or nutritionists. Registered Dietitians are qualified to provide evidence-based medical nutrition therapy for the prevention and treatment of disease, as well as counseling for healthful eating habits. They also work with foodservice systems management to ensure healthful meal options are available in hospitals, nursing homes, schools and other institutions.
The certification also helps professionals stay informed on current scientific research regarding nutrition and health. This is important as new studies come out regularly that can affect how dietitians counsel their patients about healthy eating habits. Additionally, registered dietitian certification allows professionals to be more competitive in their job search when seeking employment opportunities.
Pro tip: Before pursuing a registered dietitian (RD) certification, make sure you have the necessary educational qualifications and experience. Most states require a minimum of a bachelor's degree in nutrition or dietetics, plus supervised practice hours and passing an exam. Additionally, becoming certified may require additional continuing education credits.
Related: What does a Registered Dietitian do?
Top 10 Registered Dietitian Certifications
Here’s our list of the best certifications available to Registered Dietitians today.
1. Certified Dietitian/Nutritionist (CDN)
A Certified Dietitian/Nutritionist (CDN) is a health professional who has completed an accredited program in nutrition and dietetics, passed a national registration exam, and met other requirements to become credentialed. CDNs are qualified to provide evidence-based nutrition advice, develop meal plans, and provide individualized nutrition counseling.
To become a CDN, you must complete an accredited Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD) from an accredited college or university. The DPD includes coursework in the sciences (anatomy & physiology, chemistry, biochemistry), food science & nutrition, medical nutrition therapy, food service systems management, and community nutrition. In addition to the DPD program requirements, students must also complete a period of supervised practice called an Accredited Supervised Practice Program (ASPP). This can be done through a variety of settings such as hospitals, long-term care facilities or outpatient clinics.
Once all educational and practice requirements have been met, individuals must then take the national registration exam administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR). Passing this exam will earn them the title of Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). To maintain their credentials they must meet continuing education requirements every 5 years.
The cost of becoming a CDN can vary depending on which school you attend and what type of supervised practice experience you choose. Tuition for the DPD program typically ranges between $5-10k per year while ASPP fees can range anywhere from $1-3k depending on the setting. The cost for taking the CDR exam is approximately $200 plus any additional fees for study materials or review courses.
2. Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS)
A Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) is a professional who has completed an advanced level of training in nutrition and dietetics. The CNS credential is awarded by the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists (CBNS), an independent, nonprofit organization that sets standards for nutrition professionals.
In order to become a CNS, individuals must have a master's degree in nutrition or a related field, as well as at least 1,000 hours of supervised practice experience in nutrition counseling and education. In addition, they must pass the CBNS certification exam. The exam consists of 200 multiple-choice questions and covers topics such as nutrition science, nutrition assessment, counseling techniques, food service management and public health issues.
The cost of becoming a CNS varies depending on the type of program chosen. Generally speaking, it can range from $2,500 to $4,000 for tuition and fees alone. Additional costs may include books and materials, travel expenses for attending conferences or workshops related to the field of nutrition, and any applicable registration fees.
The process typically takes two years or more to complete depending on the individual’s background and experience level. After completing all requirements for certification, individuals can apply to take the CBNS certification exam. Upon successful completion of the exam they will be awarded their Certified Nutrition Specialist credential.
3. Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)
A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) is a health professional who specializes in nutrition and dietetics. RDNs are trained to provide evidence-based advice on food, nutrition and overall health. They are experts in translating nutritional science into practical solutions for individuals, families and communities.
To become an RDN, you must complete a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in nutrition or dietetics from an accredited college or university program. After completing the degree, you must pass the national exam administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR). Once you have passed the exam, you will be eligible to apply for state licensure as an RDN.
The amount of time it takes to become an RDN varies depending on your educational background and other factors. Generally speaking, it can take anywhere from two to four years to complete all of the requirements necessary for certification and licensure as an RDN.
The cost of becoming an RDN also varies depending on your educational background and other factors such as test preparation materials and fees associated with taking the CDR exam. In general, expect to pay several hundred dollars for tuition and related expenses while pursuing your degree in nutrition or dietetics. Additionally, there is a fee associated with taking the CDR exam which typically ranges from $200-$400 USD.
4. Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD)
Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) is a specialized certification for registered dietitians who have advanced knowledge and experience in sports nutrition. The CSSD credential is the highest level of recognition available to sports dietitians and is recognized as the gold standard for providing evidence-based nutrition services to athletes.
To become a CSSD, you must be a Registered Dietitian (RD) or Dietetic Technician, Registered (DTR). You must also have at least two years of experience in the field of sports nutrition, complete 45 hours of continuing education related to sports nutrition, and pass an exam administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR).
It typically takes between one and two years to become board certified as a CSSD. During this time, you should focus on gaining experience in sports nutrition as well as completing the required continuing education courses.
In order to get your CSSD certification, you must first apply for eligibility through CDR. Once your eligibility has been approved, you will need to register for and take the exam. The cost of registration varies depending on when you register but typically ranges from $300-$400 USD.
5. Board Certified Specialist in Pediatric Nutrition (CSPN)
Board Certified Specialist in Pediatric Nutrition (CSPN) is a certification program offered by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It is designed to recognize dietitians who have achieved a high level of expertise in pediatric nutrition. The CSPN credential demonstrates that an individual has obtained advanced knowledge and skills in providing evidence-based nutrition care for infants, children, and adolescents.
To become a Board Certified Specialist in Pediatric Nutrition, individuals must meet certain eligibility requirements, including:
- Have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university with coursework in food and nutrition sciences, dietetics/nutrition or related field;
- Have completed at least 1,000 hours of supervised practice experience in pediatric nutrition;
- Have passed the registration examination for dietitians administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration;
- Be licensed or certified as a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist (RD/RDN) by the Commission on Dietetic Registration;
- Maintain active membership in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics;
- Complete continuing professional education (CPE) credits specific to pediatric nutrition every five years.
The process to become board certified typically takes two years from start to finish. Candidates must first meet all eligibility requirements listed above. Once these are met, they can apply for the CSPN exam through the Academy’s website. The exam consists of 150 multiple-choice questions that cover topics such as growth and development, nutritional assessment and counseling, medical nutrition therapy for common childhood conditions, public health nutrition policies and programs, food safety and sanitation, research methods and statistics related to pediatric nutrition. After passing the exam with a score of at least 75%, candidates will receive their CSPN certification.
The cost to apply for the CSPN exam is $425 USD ($525 USD if applying after April 30th). This fee covers both the application fee and exam fee. Additionally, there may be additional costs associated with obtaining required documents (e.g., transcripts or verification forms).
6. Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE)
A Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) is a healthcare professional who specializes in diabetes education and management. They are trained to provide individuals with the knowledge, skills, and support needed to manage their diabetes. CDEs are knowledgeable about the latest treatments, medications, and lifestyle modifications for people with diabetes.
To become a CDE, one must have a minimum of two years of experience in providing diabetes care and education. Additionally, applicants must pass a certification exam administered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). The exam consists of 200 multiple-choice questions covering topics such as nutrition therapy, pharmacology, psychosocial care, and medical nutrition therapy.
The cost of becoming a CDE varies depending on the type of program chosen. Most programs require an application fee as well as fees for taking the exam and renewing certification every five years. The total cost can range from $500-$1,000 or more depending on the program chosen.
7. Certified Clinical Nutritionist (CCN)
A Certified Clinical Nutritionist (CCN) is a professional who has completed advanced training in nutrition and health. They are qualified to assess, diagnose, and treat nutritional imbalances that can affect an individual’s health. CCNs use evidence-based research to develop personalized nutrition plans for their clients.
To become a CCN, you must first complete a bachelor's degree in nutrition or a related field. You then need to complete additional coursework in clinical nutrition and pass the Clinical Nutrition Certification Board (CNCB) exam. This exam covers topics such as anatomy and physiology, biochemistry, nutrition science, medical nutrition therapy, and more.
The CNCB exam costs $495 USD and takes approximately 4 hours to complete. After passing the exam, you will be awarded the CCN credential and can start practicing as a certified clinical nutritionist.
In addition to the CNCB exam fee, you may also have to pay for additional coursework or continuing education credits required by your state or country of residence.
8. Certified Food and Nutrition Professional (CFNP)
A Certified Food and Nutrition Professional (CFNP) is a credential awarded by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to professionals who demonstrate competency in food and nutrition. The CFNP credential is designed to recognize the expertise of registered dietitians, nutritionists, and other food and nutrition professionals who have met specific criteria for education, experience, and continuing professional development.
The CFNP credential requires a minimum of a bachelor's degree in nutrition or dietetics from an accredited university, as well as completion of at least 1,200 hours of supervised practice in a variety of settings. Additionally, applicants must pass a certification exam administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR).
The process to become a CFNP typically takes two years or more. During this time, applicants must complete their education requirements, gain experience through supervised practice, and pass the CDR certification exam.
The cost to become a CFNP varies depending on the applicant's educational background and experience level. Generally speaking, applicants can expect to pay fees associated with registration for the CDR certification exam as well as tuition costs for any additional courses needed to meet educational requirements.
9. Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES)
A Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) is a professional credential awarded by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc. (NCHEC). This certification is designed to recognize individuals who demonstrate mastery of the knowledge and skills required to provide competent health education services.
To become a CHES, an individual must have completed at least a bachelor's degree in health education or a related field, have at least two years of paid experience in health education, and pass the CHES exam. The exam consists of 150 multiple-choice questions that cover seven content areas: Planning, Implementation, Evaluation, Organization & Delivery of Health Education/Promotion Services; Social & Behavioral Sciences; Foundations of Health Education/Promotion; Biostatistics & Epidemiology; Environmental & Occupational Health; Health Policy & Management; and Professional Development & Responsibility.
The cost for taking the CHES exam varies depending on whether you are an NCHEC member or non-member. For members, it costs $225 for the first attempt and $150 for each subsequent attempt. For non-members, it costs $300 for the first attempt and $175 for each subsequent attempt.
It typically takes about 6 weeks from when you apply to take the exam until you receive your results.
10. Licensed Dietitian/Nutritionist (LDN or LD/N).
A Licensed Dietitian/Nutritionist (LDN or LD/N) is a professional who has completed specialized training in nutrition and dietetics. They provide evidence-based nutrition advice, counseling, and education to individuals, families, and groups. An LDN can help people make healthy dietary choices to prevent or manage chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and cancer.
In order to become an LDN, you must complete a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics from an accredited college or university. After graduation, you must then complete an accredited dietetic internship program that consists of supervised practice in a variety of settings including clinical care facilities, foodservice operations, public health agencies, community organizations, corporate wellness programs and research institutions. Once the internship is completed you will be eligible to take the national registration exam administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR). Upon passing the exam you will be granted the title of Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN).
The cost for becoming an RDN varies depending on your educational institution. Tuition for undergraduate degrees typically range from $5-20K per year while tuition for dietetic internships ranges from $2-4K per year. In addition to tuition costs there are also fees associated with taking the CDR exam which range from $200-250.
Overall it typically takes 4-5 years to become an RDN depending on how quickly you complete your degree and internship program.
Do You Really Need a Registered Dietitian Certificate?
Whether or not you need a Registered Dietitian Certificate depends on what your career goals are. If you plan to work in the field of nutrition, such as providing nutrition counseling or developing meal plans for clients, then obtaining a Registered Dietitian Certificate is likely necessary. A Registered Dietitian Certificate is granted by the Commission on Dietetic Registration and demonstrates that an individual has met the educational and experiential requirements to become a licensed dietitian.
Having a Registered Dietitian Certificate allows nutrition professionals to provide evidence-based care based on current scientific research and practice standards. It also provides credibility when working with clients, as they can be assured that they are receiving accurate information from someone who is knowledgeable in nutrition science.
If you don’t plan to work in the field of nutrition but would still like to learn more about nutrition and health, then a Registered Dietitian Certificate may not be necessary. There are many online courses and books available that can provide useful information about nutrition, although these resources may lack the same level of expertise and credibility as those with a Registered Dietitian Certificate.
Ultimately, it is up to you to decide if obtaining a Registered Dietitian Certificate is right for you based on your career goals and educational needs.
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FAQs About Registered Dietitian Certifications
1. What is a Registered Dietitian (RD)?
Answer: A Registered Dietitian is an individual who has completed an accredited program in nutrition and dietetics, passed a national exam, and has met the requirements of their state or provincial regulatory board to practice as a dietitian.
2. How do I become a Registered Dietitian?
Answer: To become a registered dietitian, you must complete an accredited program in nutrition and dietetics and pass the national exam administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR). You will also need to meet the requirements of your state or provincial regulatory board to practice as a dietitian.
3. What type of jobs can I get with a Registered Dietitian certification?
Answer: With a RD certification, you can work in various settings including hospitals, long-term care facilities, schools, private practice, public health departments, foodservice operations, research centers and more.
4. What is the difference between RD and RDN certifications?
Answer: The RD (Registered Dietitian) certification is offered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR), while the RDN (Registered Dietitian Nutritionist) certification is offered by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). Both certifications require successful completion of an accredited program in nutrition and dietetics, passing a national exam, meeting state or provincial regulatory board requirements to practice as a dietician.
5. Is there continuing education required for maintaining my RD/RDN certification?
Answer: Yes! To maintain active status as either an RD or RDN you must complete continuing education credits every 5 years to keep your credential current. These credits are provided through professional development activities such as attending conferences and webinars related to nutrition and dietetics topics.