How Long Does Dietitian School Take?

Dietitians make meal plans for their clients to ensure that they are eating a nutritious and balanced diet. They teach patients how to make the right eating choices to support their quest for a healthier lifestyle. They may work with patients who have heart diseases and counsel them on how to prepare meals that will not aggravate their medical condition. When working in schools, prisons or hospitals, they are in charge of the food that will be served to the students, inmates and sick patients. They also see to it that the meals provide the necessary nutrient requirements for the population they serve even as they have to follow a strict budget in terms of the ingredients that they will buy.

The work of dietitians requires expert knowledge about food and nutrition that they need to obtain the necessary training for it. As far as educational preparation is concerned, the entry point towards this career is usually a bachelor’s degree in dietetics, food and nutrition or a related field. This normally takes four years to complete. There are some schools that offer an associate’s degree in dietetics which can be completed in a span of two years. A two-year program is good especially if your plan is to get a job right after graduation. However, if you intend to become a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN), a bachelor’s degree is the better choice since this is the minimum requirement to get this credential in addition to undertaking a Dietetic Internship Program.

While becoming a RDN is not a mandatory requirement, many dietitians opt to earn this credential because it is often preferred by employers. Students must enroll in a dietitian school accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) so that they can qualify for the RDN credential. In addition to graduating from an ACEND-accredited program, they should also undertake an internship where they will have to complete the required 1200 hours of supervised practice. This can last anywhere from six months to one year and can be done in clinical setting, community facility or a public health setting.

There are basically two kinds of programs that are accredited by ACEND which aspiring dietitians can enroll in. The first type is referred to as Didactic Programs in Dietetics where the students first have to graduate from the program before applying for an internship. The second type is known as Coordinated Programs in Dietetics. In this program both the foundation knowledge and internship are completed before the student can graduate.

Dietitians who have already completed their bachelor’s degree can proceed to earn a master’s degree in the field. Postgraduate studies would enable them to advance to positions of greater responsibility, do research or teach at the college level or act as an educator in community programs. The master’s of science in nutrition and dietetics with a concentration in clinical nutrition of New York University Steinhardt is a 40-credit course which can be completed in two to three years for fulltime students and four to six years for those studying part-time.

Career Spotlight: Dietitian

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