How to Become a Registered Dietitian in Virginia

How to Become a Registered Dietitian in Virginia

Posted on Mar 12, 2024

Becoming a dietitian is a great option for people interested in holistic wellness through food! Not only is dietetics (the study of nutrition) a large field that spans healthcare, research, and food services, but it also offers a diverse range of career paths and excellent work-life balance.

This blog will explore how to become a registered dietitian nutritionist in Virginia, including an overview of:

• What Does a Dietitian Do?

• Dietitian Education Requirements

• Dietitian Salary in Virginia

• The 4 Types of Dietitians

Ready to take the leap? Use On Board Virginia’s Education Page to find an accredited dietitian program and start your career!

What Does a Dietitian Do?

A registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) is a healthcare professional specializing in the human diet. By leveraging their knowledge of nutrition, they develop targeted meal plans to help patients achieve their goals. That includes nutritional support to address acute conditions such as post-surgery patients and long-term counseling for chronic conditions like diabetes.

Dietitians often work in conjunction with other healthcare and medical staff to treat:

• Malnourishment

• Eating disorders

• Patients undergoing specific treatments (e.g., cancer, post-surgery)

• Chronic illnesses such as diabetes or kidney disease

The Difference Between a Dietitian vs Nutritionist

The terms “dietitian” and “nutritionist” are often used interchangeably because of their comparable training. However, the term “nutritionist” is less regulated, and licensure laws vary between states.

Virginia does not have licensure laws for nutritionists, but nutritionists can opt to become Certified Nutrition Specialists (CNS) through the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists.

As for dietitians, the most common term is a registered dietitian (RD), which has recently been updated to registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) to encompass the role nutrition plays in preventing and treating conditions. RDNs are allowed to practice in Virginia if they’ve completed the required education, training, and Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) exam.

Dietitian Education Requirements

As of January 1, 2024, you’ll need to hold a graduate degree from a didactic program in dietetics accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). You may choose to complete a bachelor’s degree in dietetics followed by an accredited graduate program or pursue an accelerated Coordinated Program, which integrates your graduate-level dietetics course and internship.

The coursework may vary between institutions but will typically focus on:

• Dietetics

• Clinical Nutrition

• Public Health Nutrition

• Food Service Systems

• More

After obtaining a master’s degree in dietetics (or a related field), you’ll need to complete a dietetic internship, which involves 1,200 hours of hands-on clinical experience under supervision by a licensed professional. This can be through a traditional dietetic internship, a Coordinated Program, an ACEND-accredited graduate program that integrates at least 1,000 hours of experiential learning, or an individualized supervised practice pathway (ISPP).

Completing a dietetic internship allows you to take the CDR exam, a nationally recognized test that prepares prospective dietitians for entry-level work. You’ll need to pass the CDR exam to legally practice as a registered dietitian nutritionist in Virginia.

Virginia does not have state licenses for RDNs at this time. However, you cannot legally advertise yourself as an RDN without completing the required education, supervised clinical experience, and CDR exam.

Passing the CDR exam will register you with the CDR, which will allow you to practice in Virginia as an RDN. Remember to maintain and renew your credentials every 5 years by meeting continued learning requirements. RDNs may pursue additional specialties and certifications in:

• Oncology Nutrition

• Sports Dietetics

• Pediatric Nutrition

• Obesity and Weight Nutrition

• More

How Much Does a Dietitian Make in Virginia?

On average, a dietitian’s salary can range between $62,000–$66,000 per year in Virginia, though the salaries may vary based on location, education, specialty, experience, and local cost of living.

Based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, dietitian and nutritionist jobs are expected to grow by 7% between 2022–2032, which is faster than average compared to other occupations.

The 4 Types of Dietitians

Dietitians can leverage their expertise in a variety of settings, such as healthcare facilities, food management, and even consulting functions. Becoming an RDN can open several career paths that you might not have considered before!

1. Clinical Dietitian

Clinical dietitians work in hospitals and other healthcare facilities, coordinating with medical staff to develop specialized meal plans to support recovery treatments and educate patients on their nutrition needs.

Inpatient Dietitian – Treats patients admitted to the hospital, typically for acute conditions or chronic illness.

Outpatient Dietitian – Treats patients referred through a physician or provider, focusing on nutrition counseling. They often provide medical nutrition therapy and can even help athletes develop optimized nutrition plans to improve physical performance.

Long-Term Care Dietitian – Works in long-term care facilities or nursing and rehab centers to treat elderly residents or patients with chronic needs.

2. Food Service Management Dietitian

Food service management dietitians work in cafeterias, hospitals, schools, prisons, and other large organizations to develop menus that meet nutrition goals. That often involves understanding the demographic the organization caters to and their specific needs.

Implementing the menu will also involve management and training tasks, such as budgeting and creating food preparation processes. After training the kitchen staff on proper procedures, they’re responsible for enforcing processes.

3. Community Dietitian

Community dietitians develop nutritional programs specific to certain demographics within a community rather than individuals. They advocate for people through public health agencies, government agencies, nonprofits, and corporate wellness.

4. Research Dietitian

Research dietitians work on research studies, focusing on food and nutrition-related interventions. They often work in research hospitals, universities, and other research organizations. Research dietitians work under a primary investigator to design studies and analyze collected data.

Pursue a Career in Dietetics

Becoming a registered dietitian can be the starting point for a diverse career path, whether you prefer the on-the-go energy of a hospital or the pace of running your own practice! RDN consultants are key players in improving nutrition wherever needed, including athlete training, specialized menus, and public health.

Use On Board Virginia’s job board to explore dietitian and nutritionist jobs in healthcare facilities across Virginia!