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Important things to consider:

  • Are you able or willing to complete the RDN pathway pieces as a full-time student or does studying part-time work better for you?

  • Are you able or willing to relocate to a different geographic location for an in-person program or does an online program work better for you?  


The path to becoming a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)


There are five steps to earning an RDN credential: 

  1. Complete a bachelor’s degree 

  1. Complete all required coursework to gain the Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD) verification statement  

  1. Complete a master’s degree 

  1. Complete a minimum of 1000 hours of supervised practice (dietetic internship

  1. Pass the RD Exam 



You can complete the steps above in different ways. It depends on what degree(s) you have completed already or if you’re considering this path from its starting point. 


Your path will look something like this*:

RDN Pathway flowchart showing five steps

*There are more pathway variations, but this resource focuses on the one shown, for now. See the Other RDN Pathways page to learn about different pathways to gaining an RDN credential.  



 Common questions

What is the DPD verification statement? 

Answer: The “DPD verification” means a required set of university courses that are typically tied to either a bachelor’s or a master’s degree in Dietetics (or in Nutritional Sciences). A DPD verification statement is a certificate you receive once you’ve successfully completed all of the required courses. 

  • The set of required university courses can only be offered by an accredited program. On our Bachelor’s Degree and DPD page, we list schools that offer accredited DPD verification programs in combination with a bachelor’s degree. If you haven’t completed a bachelor’s degree prior, it can save time and money to complete these two requirements at the same time.  
  • If you already completed a bachelor’s degree, many schools who run a bachelor’s level DPD program also offer a post-baccalaureate DPD option. We’ve listed these schools toward the bottom of the Bachelor’s Degree and DPD Programs page.  
  • Some schools offer DPD programs combined with a master's degree and the dietetic internship. These programs are typically in-person, full-time programs. We’ve listed the ones offered in Washington State on the Master’s Degree and Dietetic Internship page.   
What is the dietetic internship?  

Answer: Dietetic Internships (DIs) provide at least 1000 hours supervised practice needed in order for interns to be able to sit for the RDN exam. These programs are 8-24 months long, and some are offered on a part-time schedule. Most DIs participate in the D&D Digital Computer Matching Process. After all of the DI program requirements are met, individuals can sit for the RDN Exam. [Source]  

What is the RD exam?

Answer: The RD exam is the last step on your journey to becoming an RDN. The exam is also known as the CDR exam or the Registration Examination for Dietitians. The exam tests the applicant’s knowledge of nutrition and dietetics. Passing it allows you the use of the RD credential, or RDN credential, depending on your choice. Learn more about the RD exam in the CDR webpages.  

Passing the exam also allows you to apply for the state-issued dietitian and nutritionist certification. Depending on your WIC agency’s scope of practice, you may or may not need this step.  

Can I complete an Associate degree of Arts (AA) or Associate degree of Science (AS) at my community college and transfer into a bachelor’s degree/DPD program?

Answer: Absolutely. This is a great way to work toward your bachelor’s degree and pre-requisites for the DPD program. Please make sure to reach out to your school of interest well ahead of time, so they can help you prepare a long-term study plan.   

Can I complete a bachelor’s degree in any field of study and become an RDN? 

Answer: Yes. However, depending on the field of study you choose, you may need to take more pre-requisite courses to be able to then complete a post-baccalaureate DPD program. Or you can choose to attend a master's degree program that also offers the DPD program at the same time.

So, while it’s possible and can be very beneficial to have knowledge in other areas of study beyond dietetics, please note that it may end up costing more and/or take longer to complete the requirements.  

  • Most DPD programs that are tied to a bachelor’s degree will result in a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics or in Nutritional Science.  
Can I complete a master’s degree in any field of study and become an RDN? 

Answer: Yes. However, if you haven’t completed your DPD program prior to applying to your master’s degree, you will need to complete that requirement prior to being able to apply for your dietetic internship.  

  • Most DPD programs that are tied to a master’s degree will result in a Master of Science in Dietetics or in Nutritional Science. 
Do I have to quit my position at WIC to study to become an RDN? 

Answer: Not necessarily. We geared our resources toward providing as many options as possible to suit part-time, online study, so that continued full-time work at your local WIC agency is possible to the greatest extend.  

  • Bachelor’s degree/DPD pathway university choices within these webpages include available in-person options within Washington State and online university options that also offer part-time tracks.  
  • Master’s degree and Dietetic internship choices we highlight include available in-person options within Washington State and some part-time, online university options.    
  • Some dietetic internship programs are offered as “remote” or as “distance” programs. For those, the intern helps find internship locations near their place of living themselves. Whether you get accepted to an in-person, remote, or distance internship program, at minimum the clinical rotation will need to be completed full-time and you can expect the need to take that time off work. 
Is there a difference between an RDN and an RD?

Answer: No there isn’t a difference. Some people prefer to call themselves a Registered Dietitian (RD) and some prefer the title Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). This is something you get to choose once you’ve passed the RD Exam.