How to Become a Dietitian

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn how to become a dietitian, including the necessary educational requirements, supervised training, certifications and licensing, and credentials that can boost your career.

[Featured Image]: A dietitian stands in a hospital and talks to a patient.

As a dietitian, you’ll help your clients with meal planning and preparation and educate them on the foods they should eat or avoid to optimize their health. To get started on your path to becoming a dietitian, you'll pursue your bachelor’s degree, complete a period of supervised practical training, register with a regulatory body, and obtain optional membership in the professional organization, Dieticians of Canada. 

Once you’re a registered dietician, you have various career paths and work settings to choose from.

Meet educational requirements 

To work as a dietician, you must have a bachelor's or master’s degree in human nutrition and dietetics, nutrition, or a related field. Choose a degree program accredited by the Partnership for Dietetic Education and Practice (PDEP). You'll need to graduate from an accredited program to be eligible to take the national licensing exam. 

After earning your degree and completing your practicum experience, most provinces require you to write the Canadian Dietetic Registration Examination (CDRE) which is managed by the regulatory body in each province. 

Consider advanced degrees 

Though not required, you may pursue a graduate degree in food science, human dietetics, nutrition, or a related field. You are eligible to earn an advanced degree after you have obtained your undergraduate degree. If you haven’t met the supervised practical training requirements to practise as a dietician, you can complete the training while earning an advanced degree. 

Complete supervised practical training 

Dietitians must undergo at least 1,250 hours of supervised practical training, referred to as the dietetic internship or practicum. Some universities offer coordinated dietetics programs that allow you to complete supervised training as part of your undergraduate- or graduate-level coursework. There are also postgraduate practicum experience options. 

Your internship will include practicums to give you experience in various areas while supervised by a registered dietitian (RD). These include clinical nutrition, ambulatory care, food service, and research. Many internships are 35 hours per week and may require more hours for assignments, presentations, or projects. 

Prospective dieticians have three ways to complete a practical training internship: 

  • Integrated program with an undergraduate degree. You complete your internship as part of your undergraduate coursework while you work on earning your degree. This option typically takes five years to complete. Some universities also offer partially integrated or non-integrated internships wherein you complete a post-degree or master’s practicum after earning your undergraduate degree. 

  • Combined master’s practicum program.  Earn your master’s degree and complete your internship experience with this option. The average duration to complete this practicum is about two years. 

  • Post-graduate or post-degree practicum program. You will complete your internship experience in a hospital or other health care environment. This internship lasts 35 to 40 weeks. To apply for this type of experience, you must complete an application with proof of your undergraduate degree and coursework, along with references from the university. 

You must log your internship hours to verify you have completed at least 1,250 hours of supervised training. Meeting all these internship requirements makes you eligible to take the Canadian Dietetic Registration Exam (CDRE). This exam is required in all provinces except for Quebec.  

Meet program requirements

All programs must be PDEP-accredited; the organization provides a directory of all eligible programs on its website. 

You’ll undergo a background check and drug testing as part of the internship or coordinated program application process. As an intern, you must update your immunizations and perform health checks.

Undergo employer training

Because dietitians work in various settings, your employer training will vary. Dietitians can work in schools, hospitals, clinics, non-profits, gyms, or other food services. 

On-the-job training resembles duties performed during an internship or supervised training. If you plan to work for yourself, you might need training in business administrative tasks. Some self-employed dietitians outsource business and marketing tasks to focus solely on their client base.

Obtain licensure through a provincial dietetics organization

After completing the educational requirements necessary to become a dietician, register with a provincial dietetics organization in the area, you want to practice to obtain licensure.  Registered dietitian requirements vary by province, and some provinces also require you to become a member of the Dieticians of Canada to work as a practicing dietician.  

Keep up with any required ongoing education to maintain your license or credentialing. 

Career pathways for dietitians 

You can also pursue various career paths with your training as a dietician. These include:

Health educator

Personal chef

Personal trainer

Registered dietician (RD)

Dietetic technician registered (DTR)

Clinical dietician

Health coach

Community dietician

Diet counsellor

Food service dietician

Pediatric dietician

Public health dietician

Research dietician


Skills needed to work as a dietitian 

Dietitians work with clients or patients and must have strong communication and listening skills. You’ll also need empathy and compassion, as you’ll work with people who sometimes face tough challenges. You should also have solid problem-solving and organizational skills to find treatment solutions while keeping track of patient paperwork and other administrative tasks. Additionally, you’ll need analytical and math skills to interpret scientific data and translate that into patient treatment and guidance. 

You’ll use your teaching and coaching skills when pursuing leadership positions. You’ll also likely have to supervise interns. Dietitians may, at times, present in front of community members on issues related to nutrition.

Work environment and industries where dieticians work 

Dietitians work in hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, cafeterias, research entities, governments, gyms, and private companies. Most dietitians work in a health care setting. In hospitals, registered dietitians may guide patients on nutrition and treat them with nutrition therapy as part of the medical team. Registered dieticians (RDs) may also manage the food-service operations in health care settings. RDs can also work in schools, daycare centers, and correctional facilities. The responsibilities can range from food purchasing and preparation to managing staff in these facilities. 

Dietitians can work for private companies, including those in pharmaceuticals, running wellness programs for employees. They can offer guidance in developing nutritional products for businesses. Dietitians may hold public affairs, communications, marketing, or research and development positions in these companies. 

Some dietitians choose to open their own practices and would either work with patients or contract with health care or food organizations for food service and other nutrition-related work. Dietitians may work in public health or at non-profits, where they would work to educate the community on healthy eating habits and how food and fitness are related.

Dietitians can go into teaching positions at universities, medical centers, and other venues, teaching physicians, nurses, students, and others about foods and nutrition.

Average salary and job outlook for dietitians 

According to Glassdoor, the median annual salary for dietitians practicing in Canada is $42,843 [1]. The national average hourly rate for a dietitian is $40.00 an hour, as reported by the Job Bank [2].  You may earn more than this average if you work in roles within the field, like a clinical dietitian. The dietician job outlook is good through 2025 in most provinces throughout Canada. 

Getting started

Get started on your path to being a dietitian by learning more about the field through an online course, such as Stanford University’s Stanford Introduction to Food and Health. If you’re ready to pursue a degree to become a dietician, consult the PDEP directory of accredited schools to find one close to you.

Article sources


Glassdoor. “Salary: Dietician Salaries in Canada,,9.htm?clickSource=searchBtn.” Accessed June 11, 2024. 

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