Arizona Nutrition Degree Programs, Online Included

Arizona has a number of different options for nutrition degree programs at all levels. There are online nutrition degrees available in Arizona, as well as ACEND accredited nutrition programs and multiple exercise science degrees.

School Program Admissions
Arizona State University Online Master of Science in Nutritional Science – Dietetics
Select from topics including sports nutrition, pediatric nutrition and obesity prevention to tailor your degree to your professional interests.
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Are there online nutrition programs in Arizona?

Yes, there are multiple options for online nutrition degrees in Arizona. The two public state universities have multiple options: Arizona State University has online programs related to nutrition and exercise at undergraduate and graduate levels, including the online M.S. in Nutritional Science (Dietetics), and the University of Arizona has an online Bachelors in Nutritional Sciences.

Online nutrition degrees in Arizona

University Degree Program Accreditation Format

Arizona State University

M.S. in Nutritional Science (Dietetics) Online

Central Arizona College

AAS in Dietetic Technician Program ACEND Online available

Grand Canyon University

Bachelor of Science (BS) in Nutritional Sciences ACEND Online available

Grand Canyon University

Online Masters (MS) in Nutrition and Dietetics ACEND Online available

University of Arizona

Online B.S. in Nutritional Sciences ACEND Online available

Are there ACEND accredited nutrition and dietetics degrees in Arizona?

Yes. There are six ACEND-accredited degree programs in Arizona. Three Bachelor of Science programs in dietetics and nutrition and three masters programs are available in Arizona.

The University of Arizona offers one of the only four ACEND-accredited Bachelor of Science programs fully online. Both the University of Arizona and Arizona State University have ACEND-accredited graduate (Master's level) dietetic programs but not all of the undergraduate training options are available online. ASU does not offer an ACEND-accredited undergraduate program online (only on campus in Phoenix), but you can apply for their Master's program, and advance to sitting for the CDR exam once all the undergraduate ACEND requirements are met. Grand Canyon University offers an online Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics, and they have filed for accreditation with ACEND, meaning the are a candidate for accreditation by ACEND.

There are also ACEND-accredited options for the credential of dietetic technician, registered (DTR or NDTR), some of which are offered as online programs. DTRs work in a variety of settings that navigate between food service and clinical nutrition care. The DTR can be a stair-step credential toward the RDN designation, and can be earned in a 2-year, or 4-year program after passing the CDR exam for the credential.

Arizona State University Online Master of Science in Nutritional Science – Dietetics

Arizona State University offers both undergraduate and master's degrees through ASU Online. ASU Online offers 4 degrees in the areas of nutrition science and nutrition entrepreneurship (more info below), but its Master of Science in Nutritional Science degree is the only ACEND-accredited program online. ASU's nutrition programs prepare students for careers in a variety of health care settings in hospitals, health care agencies, government organizations, food industries, restaurants, schools and private practice.

ASU's online master's degree program in nutritional science with a concentration in Dietetics is ACEND-accredited and geared toward people who have already completed an accredited didactic program in dietetics, or are already a registered dietician nutritionist who seeks advanced training in evidence-based nutrition science. The coursework focuses on helping students master in-depth research related to nutrition science, which is a critical need for dietitians and medical professionals in the healthcare field. ASU's master of dietetics online prides itself on providing its student's with the latest developments in nutrition science research.

Students interested in the online Master of Nutritional Science-Dietetics will first need to complete an undergraduate program like ASU’s Bachelor of Science in Dietetics which is ACEND-accredited and offered only on campus. The Dietetics concentration supports the curation of broadly applicable analytical and problem-solving skills. Coursework in key nutrition science topics include:

  • Research Methods
  • Statistics in Research
  • Chronic Inflammation and Metabolic Syndrome
  • Evidence Based Nutrition
  • Nutrigenomics
  • Geriatric Nutrition
  • Applied Project

Students who have completed an accredited Didactic Program in Dietetics may also elect to apply to the ASU dietetic internship program in order to meet the requirements to become a registered dietitian nutritionist.

University of Arizona - Bachelor of Science in Nutritional Sciences, focus in Dietetics or Nutrition Online (or on campus)

UofA offers an ACEND-accredited online program with a pathway toward earning an RDN credential. It is one of four online programs accredited by ACEND across the U.S. For students entering as undergraduates, University of Arizona has a didactic program in dietetics (DPD) leading to a BS in Nutritional Science, Dietetics. This track prepares students to first sit for the NDTR exam and obtain DPD verification required to apply for a dietetic internship. Upon completion of the 1,000 hour internship, candidates can apply and sit for the CDR exam leading to the RDN credential. Starting in 2024, students entering this program will not be able to sit for the CDR exam until they have earned a Masters. But the UofA has you covered since they also offer an online Masters if you choose to continue studying dietetics in a graduate program online. The University of Arizona uses the D2L (Desire To Learn) online learning management platform.

University of Arizona - Master of Applied Nutrition Professional Science (PSM) - Dietetics Online or on campus

Starting January 1, 2024, the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) will require a minimum of a master's degree to be eligible to take the credentialing exam to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). The University of Arizona offers full coursework online leading to a degree that enables its graduates to apply for the 1,000-hour supervised experiential internship, and sit for the credentialing exam in 2024. The ACEND-accredited internship however cannot be done online. It is an onsite opportunity to gain on-the-job experience, usually spread over 3 different types of learning scenarios that include working in hospitals, clinical settings and food service.

The University of Arizona PSM in Applied Nutrition Dietetics Emphasis prepares students for employment as a RDN's in environments such as:

  • Fitness Centers & Athletic Organizations
  • Corporate Wellness Programs
  • Consumer Food & Beverage Corporations
  • Hospitals & Other Clinical Settings
  • Community Public Health Centers & Nonprofit Organizations
  • Universities and School Settings
  • US Department of Defense, US Department of Agriculture, and Other Government or State Agencies
  • Private Practice

Central Arizona College - Dietetic Technician Program (online or on campus

The Dietetic Education Program at Central Arizona College in Coolidge, AZ offers a Nutrition & Dietetic Technician Associate of Applied Science degree (AAS). This degree emphasizes medical nutrition therapy, education, wellness, and food service management. It is a 2-year ACEND-accredited program and prepares students for eligibility to take the NDTR registration exam from the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR).

Central Arizona's AAS program can be done fully online, and is designed to help students acquire the knowledge and skills to work in dietetics by taking abbreviated didactic coursework for a 2-year period, and completing a minimum of 450 supervised hours of experience. NDTRs work independently or in collaboration with RDN's in a variety of employment settings, including health care, community, public health, foodservice and research. The AAS degree, experiential hours and a passing score on the CDR exam for NDTR's is required to be eligible to become a Nutrition and Dietetic Technician, Registered (NDTR).

In depth review of top online nutrition degrees in Arizona

Arizona State University - online nutrition degrees

ASU's College of Health Solutions is a popular choice for 4-year accredited nutrition education programs online. It is a large and distributed campus. ASU distinguishes itself from other programs by providing online students access the same faculty and curriculum as the on-campus courses. It uses the popular Canvas online learning platform and supports asynchronous and flexible learning styles. It is recognized for innovation in online teaching and education, recently ranked no. 1 for innovation for the eighth time in U.S. News & World Report's annual Best Colleges rankings. Students can choose dietetic degree paths leading to a Master's, with an option to apply for the RDN credential, or follow a nutrition science or culinary and food service path. Whatever your goals, ASU offers five degree programs available online:

  • Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) in Food and Nutrition Entrepreneurship
  • Bachelor of Science (BS) in Food and Nutrition Entrepreneurship
  • Bachelor of Science (BS) in Nutrition with a concentration in Food and Nutrition Management or Nutrition Communication
  • Master of Science (MS) Medical Nutrition
  • Master of Science (MS) Nutritional Science - Dietetics (ACEND-accredited)

ASU offers both a BS and Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) in Food and Nutrition Entrepreneurship. The Food and Nutrition Entrepreneurship program focuses more on food service management and the food business rather than nutrition science. The BAS degree curriculum covers a broad range of topics ranging from human health, leadership, management and marketing, to agriculture, food and nutrition.

Of the two programs, the BAS track is an applied program, meaning it prepares students with some experience in culinary or food jobs for food service manager or head chef positions. Students learn business planning capabilities that can help them gain skills like launching a food or nutrition-related startup. The BS track of the same program is not applied, but instead prepares students for a wider range of careers from marketing and management to research and development. Students in the BS program learn more about food science and theory and can apply their knowledge to broader pursuits like school nutrition, community nutrition or sustainability. The applied program is more practical and hands-on for students who wish to gain business acumen in food service management or who want to advance skills in culinary expertise.

ASU's Online Master of Science in Medical Nutrition prepares students for careers in health promotion and disease prevention. Students in the medical nutrition program take intensive, clinically-oriented nutrition courses covering a wide range of topics like cardiovascular, metabolic/endocrine and gastrointestinal systems, gut microbiome, nutrigenomics, and nutritional and botanical supplements. This program is ideal for students who want to become practitioners of personalized nutrition.

The MS in Nutrition Science-Dietetics degree prepares students to analyze evidence-based nutrition information into practice to promote wellness. Building on the scientific foundations of nutrition, students focus on developing strong writing skills along with analytical and interpretive acumen. This is the only ACEND-accredited program available online at ASU. To apply for this program, you must already have the RDN credential or have completed an accredited didactic program in dietetics at ASU, or transfer from another institution.

The University of Arizona - campus and online nutrition science programs

The University of Arizona's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has a Nutritional Science program with an emphasis either in dietetics or nutrition science. Based in Tucson, UofA is a large, tier 1 education institution ranked in the top 10 by US News & World Report for Best Online Bachelors programs. It is ranked #1 in Arizona based on number of bachelors degrees for nutrition science.

It offers a BS in Nutritional Sciences with two paths, dietetics or nutrition science. The Dietetics emphasis provides is the first step toward gaining the RDN credential or the nutrition and dietetics technician, registered (NDTR) credential. The dietetics program is rooted in the sciences and students take a variety of food and nutrition courses that prepare them for work in chronic disease prevention and management, community health, counseling, food science and the food industry. Students choosing the dietetics pathway can go on to apply for a dietetic internship upon graduation, and apply to sit for the CDR exam, which is the final step to earn a RDN credential.

The BS in Nutrition Science emphasis incorporates coursework in medicine, food chemistry, nutritional genetics, cell biology and biochemistry with a focus on nutrition and foods. It prepares students for careers in the food and health industries or to move on to focus on research or graduate studies. The nutrition option has many of the same science and core nutrition course requirements as the dietetics option, but offers more flexibility for students who want to continue advanced medical degrees or follow a non-dietetics career path by allowing students to choose specific courses to customize their degree program.

Both the Nutrition Science and Dietetics degree program can be done online or on campus in Tucson, or at UofA's Yuma campus. Applying to the program at UofA requires a $50 application fee, an optional but recommended 500-word personal statement and high school or previous college transcripts. UofA currently does not require SAT scores.

Sonoran University of Health Sciences - naturopathic focus

Sonoran University, formerly called the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine & Health Sciences (SCNM) is an accredited natural health and research-focused institution based in Tempe, Arizona that is well known for training naturopathic doctors. Sonoran's state-of-the art facilities house a teaching kitchen for nutrition students, a community health clinic and a medicinary. The online MS in Clinical Nutrition degree provides clinical and scientific knowledge needed to become an advanced nutrition professional, and prepares its students to qualify to take the Certified Nutrition Specialist® (CNS) examination. Students receive training in how nutrition impacts human health with a focus on personalized nutrition, botanical support and nutrigenomics. They also get hands-on virtual clinic experience that simulates working one-to-one with nutrition clients. Sonoran is not an ACEND-accredited school. The program has coursework in human physiology, biochemistry, and nutrition throughout the lifecycle.

Sonoran's MSCN program online is designed for working professionals and can be done fully at home in 21 months, even if you have a full time job. It meets the Board for Certified Nutrition Specialists’(BCNS) requirements, with a rigorous curriculum designed prepare graduates to sit for the BCNS Certified Nutrition Specialist® exam.

Acceptance to Sonoran's MSCN program requires a GPA of 2.75 or higher, $50 application fee, resume and a personal statement. You will also need transcripts from an accredited undergraduate college. Sonoran does not require a GRE or GMAT score to apply for the MSCN program.

Grand Canyon University - campus and online nutrition and dietetics degrees

Grand Canyon University (GCU) is a private, for-profit university based in Phoenix, AZ. GCU offers an online Master’s in Nutrition and Dietetics degree and is currently a candidate for ACEND accreditation. Once approved GCU will be Arizona's fourth ACEND-accredited program offered online in Arizona. The MS program at GCU combined with an approved supervisory experience is a pathway to apply and sit for the CDR exam. GCU also offers a Bachelor of Science in the Nutritional Sciences from its College of Science, Engineering and Technology, which is not ACEND-accredited, but provides some of the coursework required to prepare to apply for the online Master of Nutrition and Dietetics. The Master of Nutrition and Dietetics is offered through the College of Science, Engineering and Technology. Acceptance into the program requires a bachelor’s degree in nutrition or dietetics, or a bachelor’s degree in any field and at least a 2.8 GPA to apply for the Master's program.

GCU's MS program provides opportunities to apply practices learned in undergraduate nutrition science, and once approved, will prepare its graduates to practice as entry-level RDN's once they complete an external dietetic internship and pass the CDR exam. The degree program is 30 total credit hours, plus completion of 1,000 hours of experiential learning. GCU's online degree in nutrition and dietetics consists of eight 8-week classes and a Capstone project. This program takes about 2 years to complete if enrolled full time.

GCU utilizes its own custom learning management system called Halo which it developed based on student and faculty input. Some of the courses in the program include:

  • Introduction to Graduate Studies in Dietetics
  • Behavioral Science and Counseling
  • Advanced Medical Nutrition Therapy
  • Applied Medical Nutrition Therapy
  • Food and Nutrition Management
  • Community Nutrition and Advocacy
  • Leadership in Nutrition and Dietetics

Campus-based and online dietetics and nutrition degrees in Arizona

University Degree Program Accreditation Format

Arizona State University

M.S. in Nutritional Science (Dietetics) Online

Arizona State University

MS in Dietetic Internship ACEND Campus

Arizona State University

BS in Didactic Program in Dietetics ACEND Campus

Arizona State University

BS in Dietetics Campus

Arizona State University

BS in Nutritional Science Campus

Central Arizona College

AAS in Dietetic Technician Program ACEND Online available

Grand Canyon University

Bachelor of Science (BS) in Nutritional Sciences ACEND Online available

Grand Canyon University

Online Masters (MS) in Nutrition and Dietetics ACEND Online available

Northern Arizona University

BS in Didactic Program in Dietetics ACEND Campus

Northern Arizona University

MPH ACEND Campus

Paradise Valley Community College

AAS in Dietetic Technician Program ACEND Campus

Prescott College

M.S. in Sustainable Food Systems Campus

Southern Arizona VA Healthcare System

MS in Dietetic Internship ACEND Campus

University of Arizona

B.S. in Nutritional Sciences Campus

University of Arizona

B.S. in Precision Nutrition and Wellness Campus

University of Arizona

BS in Didactic Program in Dietetics ACEND Campus

University of Arizona

MPS ACEND Campus

University of Arizona

Online B.S. in Nutritional Sciences ACEND Online available

In depth review of top campus based nutrition programs in Arizona

Arizona currently has 3 ACEND-accredited on-campus programs. The top public university institutions offering ACEND-accredited programs onsite are at Arizona State University (ASU) and University of Arizona. Both of these institutions also offer online degree options for both ACEND-accredited programs, and for nutrition science programs that are not ACEND accredited.

The University of Arizona – Bachelor of Science in Dietetics or Nutrition on campus

The University of Arizona is a highly acclaimed public university for on-campus education and has extensive research facilities due to its affiliations with Banner University Medical Center Tucson, and University Medical Center in Phoenix. The UofA is often a top choice for those seeking a quality nutrition program with a path to earning the RDN credential because of its access to resources for experiential learning. The UofA also offers international study abroad opportunities dedicated to studying the Mediterranean diet in Italy. There are more than six nutrition degree programs at the UofA, and their Bachelor of Science in Dietetics is one of four undergraduate degrees in the U.S. accredited by ACEND offered both on campus in Tucson or Yuma, AZ, and fully online.

Arizona State University – Bachelor of Science, Dietetics (Downtown Phoenix campus)

ASU has a plethora of options for studying nutrition– both on campus and online. Whether you want to become a registered dietitian nutritionist, start a food and nutrition company or perform nutrition science research, there are pathways to fulfill your goals at ASU.

ASU’s BS in Dietetics is offered only at its downtown Phoenix campus. Undergraduate coursework prepares students for a career pathway into dietetics, and eligibility to apply for a dietetic internship at a location in downtown Phoenix. The internship is 1,000 hours of supervised experiential work which is required to sit for the CDR exam to become a registered dietitian. Students complete core nutrition and dietetics courses, along with a broad range of science, management and communication classes.

ASU’s BS in Dietetics program is unique since there are options both to study abroad and to choose an advanced education path where students can apply to obtain both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in as little as five years. During junior year, students can work with an advisor to apply for an accelerated bachelor’s (Dietetics) and master’s degree in Nutritional Science.

Northern Arizona University – Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Foods

Northern Arizona University’s (NAU) Nutrition and Foods program has undergone recent changes that enable graduates to complete an ACEND accredited Bachelor of Science program with an emphasis on culinary skills acquisition and fieldwork experience. These programs are only offered on campus. Students who choose the dietetics option earn a Didactic Program in Dietetics verification statement (DPD) which enables them to apply for dietetic internships (not coordinated with the school), and continue on to apply for graduate programs to prepare for the CDR credentialing exam to become a RDN. Graduates who earn this DPD verification statement are also eligible to sit for the credentialing exam for nutrition and dietetics technicians, registered (NDTR). The DPD pathway at NAU can effectively prepare students for supervised practice leading to eligibility to sit for the CDR credentialing exam to become a RDN.

NAU’s Nutrition and Foods program can also be a pre-health professional pathway for students interested in applying for medical school, or for a physician assistant or nurse practitioner program.

Typical online nutrition coursework at universities in Arizona

  • Lifecycle Nutrition – Study special nutritional needs and health concerns of individuals throughout the lifecycle, from infants to elementary children to elderly and advanced ages. Learn how to implement nutritional strategies to support women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Foundations in Medical Nutrition Therapy – Learn how to assess an individual who is nutritionally at risk and develop dietary interventions to treat nutrition issues.
  • Nutrition Education and Counseling – Write a few sentences describing the course.

What to know about becoming a Registered Dietitian in Arizona

Arizona is like many other states when it comes to licensure. It licenses dietitians at the state level to work in hospitals and provide nutrition counseling that can be reimbursed by insurance companies as part of medical nutrition therapy. House bill 2558 in Arizona includes legislation for people holding an RDN credential to be licensed in the state as Licensed Dietitian Nutritionists (LDNs). The current statue of this bill allows hospitals and state care institutions in Arizona to give registered dietitians ordering abilities for diets, enteral feeding, nutritional supplementation or parenteral nutrition if authorized by medical staff. State licensure for LDN’s in Arizona is granted only to those holding the RDN credential.

It is also legal in Arizona for dietitians and nutritionists to perform individualized nutrition counseling. Arizona is one of a handful of states that does not have specific regulatory mandates for people who want to provide basic nutrition education or advice outside of hospital or long-term care settings. This means that some people provide nutrition education and advice with some minimal training. Most academic and professional institutions require a Registered Dietitian credential and/or state license. Given Arizona’s more relaxed regulatory environment, obtaining an accredited education and gaining certification as a registered dietitian or certified nutritionist will provide the broadest options for career advancement as a credentialed nutrition professional in Arizona, as well as in most other states.

Becoming a registered dietitian in any state is a 3-step process. It requires completion of an ACEND-accredited didactic program (undergraduate or graduate), completion of 1,000 hours of supervised experience and passing the CDR credentialing exam. ACEND offers two pathways to satisfy the requirements:

  • Coordinated Programs in Dietetics (CP) – These programs combine coursework and an internship and fulfill all of the CDR’s mandates to become a Registered Dietitian. Unfortunately, there are currently no CP programs in Arizona.
  • Didactic Programs in Dietetics (DPD) – These programs provide coursework that lead to an undergraduate or graduate degree. Once the DPD is completed, you must successfully complete a supervised 1,000-hour practice internship to apply for, and sit for the CDR credentialing exam.
  • Passing the CDR exam and earning the RDN credential requires the following education and professional requirements:

    • Complete a minimum of a bachelor’s degree at a regionally accredited university or college with coursework accredited by ACEND. Effective January 1, 2024, the Commission on Dietetic Registration will require a minimum of a master’s degree in any subject to be eligible to take the exam. For example, starting on January 1, 2024, you will need to have completed a didactic program in nutrition, undergraduate or graduate– accredited by ACEND, or complete an undergraduate didactic program and ACEND curriculum, plus hold a Masters degree.
    • Complete an ACEND-accredited supervised practice program at a health-care facility, community agency, or a food service corporation. This may be separate from your Master’s program, meaning you will need to apply for internships in your area, or complete a coordinated ACEND-accredited graduate program that includes supervised internship hours. Typically, the supervised practice program runs six to 12 months in length and must be ACEND-accredited internships. Depending on where you live, it can be difficult to gain acceptance into dietetic internships due to demand. In the Phoenix metro area for example, the Maricopa.gov website provides a list of potential ACEND-accredited dietetic internships.
    • Pass the national exam administered by the CDR. After you have successfully completed the didactic education and internship requirements, you can apply for candidacy with the CDR. Once validated, you become eligible to take the registration examination for dietitians. Eligible candidates are emailed information on scheduling their examination by CDR’s testing vendor Pearson VUE. Candidates are also required to read the RD Handbook for Candidates. The exam consists of 125 multiple choice questions covering four domains, and takes an average of 2-3 hours to complete.
    • Maintain and renew your registration by taking continued professional educational requirements (CE’s) approved by CDR and ACEND. In order to maintain the RDN credential, all RD (and DTRs) must pay a yearly registration maintenance fee of $70. DTR’s pay $60. They must also complete continuing education credits (CE’s) pursuant to their credential requirements. The CDR maintains an updated list of accredited CE providers on their website.

    A note about RDN state licensure

    In addition to earning the RDN credential, graduates may need to seek additional state licensure where they intend to practice. Many states have regulatory laws for dietitians and nutrition practitioners, and requirements vary from one state to the next. There are a wide range of licensure and certification types. Licensing specifically for dietitians, which is a nationally recognized and legally protected title, may differ in the state where you live. Some states like Arizona for example, do not require dietitians or nutritionists to be licensed to work in the state, but to become an RDN you are still required to complete advanced education, supervisory hours and pass the CDR exam. It is important to check the laws specific to the state where you live and intend to practice. The CDR maintains an updated list of state requirements and links to state agencies here: CDR state licensure.

    Organizations to know for nutrition in Arizona

    Dietitians in Arizona often network with other industry professionals that advocate for community health through proper diet and nutrition. The Arizona Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the local affiliate of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). It is a good place to start for new RDN’s.

    The School Nutrition Association of Arizona is an alliance of school food service employees and supporters. This state affiliate to the School Nutrition Association works to promote high quality child nutrition programs in Arizona public schools.

    Other local organizations to follow or connect with include:

    • Arizona Department of Health Services AZ Dept of Health Services
    • Maricopa County Department of Public Health Maricopa.gov
    • Maricopa County website with ACEND registered dietitian requirements Maricopa Dietitian Requirements
    • Arizona Public Health Association – advocacy, professional development and networking AZ Public Health
    • AZ Healthzone- local resources for healthy food and classes on nutrition AZ Healthzone
    • Association of Arizona Food Banks AZ Foodbanks
    • American Society for Nutrition- accredited continuing ed classes ACN
    • The Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) website has a list of accredited programs that you can search by state, degree level, and program type.
    • Nutritionist career options in Arizona

      Arizona is one of the geographic metro regions employing the highest number of dietitians and nutritionists with an average salary of $62,720, with a median hourly compensation of $30.16, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2021 report (the May 2022 report is released April 25, 2023- may want to update this data). The BLM also estimates the number of nutritionists in Arizona to increase 26% during the ten-year period leading up to 2028, which is above the national projected national growth rate of 11% through 2030.

      There are multiple career options for dietitians and nutritionists in Arizona. Many work in hospital food services or schools planning nutritional programs to support the promotion of health and control of disease. Dietitians and nutritionists often supervise activities in those departments, or work in private practice counseling individuals to support health and wellness or control of chronic health problems. Many go on to earn advanced education and teach or perform research at the major institutions and universities. University of Arizona Healthcare in Tucson and Banner Health in Phoenix are examples of larger institutions employing dietitians in supervisory roles, medical nutrition therapy, in research or academia. Some decide to pursue entrepreneurial efforts and work exclusively from home by performing telehealth consults and creating online courses and content for people to consume online. Others work in culinary nutrition and teach cooking courses or write books. One thing is for sure, the field of nutrition offers a wide variety of careers paths for people pursuing education in the nutrition and dietetic fields.

      Dietitians and Nutritionists? What is the difference?

      Many people often use the terms nutritionist and dietitian interchangeably, but there are some notable differences and similarities to be aware of. Not all nutritionists are dietitians, and not all dietitians are nutritionists. The nuance lies in the RD/RDN credential that is specific to dietetics, and created by the CDR with supporting education programs accredited by ACEND. The term registered dietitian is a legally protected term (much like Doctor or Dr), it refers to a person who is a credentialed registered dietitian nutritionist (RD or RDN) with the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR).

      The term nutritionist is not legally protected, nor is not nationally recognized like the RD or RDN. Most anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, as it encompasses a broad group of people with differing levels of education. A person calling themselves a nutrition specialist generally refers to a licensed, credentialed practitioner called a Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS). CNS’s have similar education pathways to an RDN. CNS’s are also credentialed practitioners by a governing body, and must complete 1,000 hours of practice and take a rigorous exam. The credentialing organization for certified nutrition specialists (CNS) is the American Nutrition Association. They specialize in personalized or functional nutrition. The CNS credential requires completion of a regional or nationally accredited program leading to a masters degree in nutrition. The CNS credential is granted by the American Nutrition Association’s Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists (BCNS). The BCNS exam, like the CDR credentialing exam, is also rigorous and can take up to 3-4 hours to complete at a licensed testing center.

      Both ACEND and the BCNS require 1,000 hours of supervised practice after or during completion of course requirements. The CDR recently lowered supervised practice hours from 1,200 to 1,000 hours, and starting in January of 2024 adds the requirement for its candidates to have a masters degree (in any field) before they can sit for the CDR exam. The CNS credential requires a master of science in nutrition to sit for its CNS exam. The biggest difference between the two credentials is that the RDN credential is widely recognized at both the federal and state level. The BCNS is making headway at the state level however, as many states now accept the CNS credential as well as the RDN and allow both to become licensed at the state level as LDNs (licensed dietitian nutritionists) or LD’s (licensed dietitians).

      Both credentials outline the importance of evidence-based approaches and standardized nutrition care practices for helping people reduce chronic disease risks that can to lead healthier lives.