What It Takes To Become A Registered Dietitian

Registered dietitians, including dietitian entrepreneurs, have a rewarding career where they are able to change and improve lives through nutrition! What people don’t realize is that it takes quite some time to become an “RD,” which is why I have explained the whole process to make things crystal clear for you if you’re thinking about choosing this career path! Additionally, I’ve also included some information on industry trends, salary, and areas of employment. Additionally, if you’re interested in becoming a dietitian entrepreneur, make sure you read to the end of this blog to learn more about me, Tony Stephan, and the resources I have for not only RDs looking to become dietitian entrepreneurs but RDs who are already on their entrepreneurial journey. If you’re an RD or RD to be, make sure to keep reading to learn some valuable information about this field.


If you’re expecting to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in dietetics and immediately find a job as an RD, you’re sadly mistaken. There is much more that you’ll need to do in order to get that RD credential next to your name. Once you DO graduate with your bachelor’s from a Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD), you will receive a verification statement which makes you eligible to apply for an ACEND (Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics) accredited dietetic internship. Yes, you will have to complete a 1,200-hour internship. I also do want to note right here that starting January 1, 2024, you will need a Master’s degree in order to be eligible for this internship, so keep that in mind!


As mentioned above, after you graduate you will receive your verification statement, making you eligible for the 1,200-hour dietetic internship (DI) you need to complete in order to become eligible to take the Registration Exam for Dietitians. Yes, you also need to pass a difficult exam, but once you pass you’re officially an RD! Before we get ahead of ourselves, let me explain the internship in a bit more detail so you understand just what it entails. 

All internships last between 8-24 months, can be done full-time or part-time, and are most often UNPAID. So you need to make sure you have the funds to pay for the internship, which can cost upwards of $12k and higher (there are cheaper options, but they are usually more difficult to get into!). The great thing about DI’s is that you can choose an internship based on what your interests are, for instance, there are DI’s that focus on medical nutrition therapy, entrepreneurship, community nutrition, leadership, and more! 

So, how do you apply to these internships? Most DI’s require you to apply through the Dietetic Internship Centralized Application Services also known as DICAS. Through DICAS you’ll choose the DI’s you want to apply to, write a personal statement, ask for references, upload important documents, etc. It’s a long and stressful process for most, and even after clicking “submit” you still have around 2 months to see if you matched to a program or not! This might seem a bit scary with the way I’m explaining this process, and it is; I don’t want to sugar coat anything about this because I don’t want you to expect that becoming an RD is easy! It takes a lot of grit and determination, but it is 100% worth it in the end, and I can promise you that!

RD Exam

Once you complete the 1,200-hour internship, you are then eligible to take the RD exam! The LAST step toward becoming an RD. The exam covers 4 domains, principles of dietetics, nutrition care for individuals and groups, management of food and nutrition programs and services, and food service systems. Each individual taking the test will have a minimum of 125 questions, and you must receive a score of 25 on a scale of 1 to 50 in order to pass. Many interns take a month or more to study and prepare for the test after completing their internship by using studying materials such as Jean Inman, EatRight Prep, and Visual Veggies just to name a few. Once you pass, you’re officially an RD! Don’t forget to apply for licensure if your state requires it too! 

As you can see becoming an RD is quite a long process, but if you ask any registered dietitian if it’s worth it, they’ll say yes! This is such a rewarding career and it’s growing! Keep reading to find out more about salary, trends within dietetics, and employment opportunities that RD’s have!


The average salary for a clinical registered dietitian is around $61,858 per year, however, the range typically falls between $56,307 to $67,937. Salary is obviously dependent on location, skills, education, and experience, so a new RD will probably start out on the lower end of the scale while a more experienced RD will often be making more money. 

Higher salaries are often seen in corporate wellness, sports dietetics, and private practice. Many members of the I Believe Mastermind make over 100k per year with their online nutrition coaching businesses. 

Nutrition Trends

There are new nutrition trends popping up all of the time, in 2020 you should expect to see more of these: 

  • Personalized health! Prescribing nutrition according to an individual’s genes. 
  • Gut health: probiotics, low FODMAP diet, gluten-free, other “free-from “ foods, fermented foods are all increasing in popularity due to the desire of consumers to reduce GI symptoms 
  • Food Transparency! People are becoming more aware of their food choices. They want to know how and where their food is grown and processed, and more people are looking at food labels to make purchasing decisions. 
  • Non-diet/intuitive eating approach/HAES approach with nutrition coaching
  • Food Sensitivities: LEAP, low-FODMAP, elimination diet, etc. 
  • Sport nutrition  
  • Plant-based diets
  • Fad diets (Keto, Whole30, paleo, etc)
  • Food and drink infused with CBD
  • Collagen powders and bone broth

Industry Trends

The nutrition industry is exploding and will continue to do so, so take some notes! 

First and foremost, this industry is moving to more digital technologies to personalize and increase access to health care. Telemedicine and health coaching, especially through health and fitness apps, are growing rapidly, so RDs should become more technologically literate if they are not already! Smartphone and computer users can log in to health apps and websites and get easily set up with a dietitian, due to this, RD’s would greatly benefit from additional certifications, such as the Dietitian Nutrition Coaching Certification. Obtaining a certification for health coaching serves to affirm your knowledge and skillset in behavior change principles so you are able to better communicate with potential clients. 

Workplace wellness is also booming, and registered dietitians are the perfect health professional to help working individuals improve their health! “According to the US Department of Labor, about one-half of all US employers, small and large, offer wellness initiatives. That equates to plenty of potential opportunities—and need—for nutrition expertise.” This is a great job opportunity for RDs who do not want to work in a clinical setting. 

Lastly, many RDs are finding that entrepreneurship is the best choice for them, so this trend is increasing rapidly as well! As mentioned above, many coaching clients in the I Believe Mastermind (IBM) are making over 100k per year with my help as their mentor. Many RDs are fulfilling their dream of building their own nutrition coaching business and working for themselves by taking action on things like client attraction, social media marketing, goal setting, and much more, all of which I teach my students in the IBM. If owning your own online nutrition business is something you are interested in, the Dietitian Nutrition Coaching Certification is an invaluable resource that will help make you the BEST coach you can be for your clients. Through this certification you will learn how to create your initial coaching assessment, what a coaching session should look like, figuring out your ideal client, how to deal with difficult clients and much much more. 

Personally, I could not see myself doing anything other than owning my own business. At 18 years old I became a certified personal trainer, which I was paid 6 dollars an hour for. I decided I wanted to become a registered dietitian so I worked through college and graduated as an RD from the coordinated program at Wayne State University. Right out of college I worked a 100% commission job at Lifetime Fitness; money was not guaranteed but I worked hard and ended up being promoted to regional manager by 25! I realized that working a “9 to 5” job was not for me, I wanted to work for myself! I started my own company at 26, built success with that, and began mentoring other registered dietitian entrepreneurs at 27! I am blessed to be providing more impact and fulfillment that I ever would have made working in a hospital or any other setting, and serving dietitian entrepreneurs every day! I am living my dream, and you could be too! 

Are you a Registered Dietitian looking to take your online business to the next level? For more information about the I Believe Mastermind for Dietitians visit https://dietitianbusinesscoaching.com and tonystephandietitian.com