Becoming a Registered Dietitian in California

The California Academy ofCalifornia Nutrition and Dietetics is a non-profit membership association of roughly 6500 Registered Dietitian Nutritionists/Registered Dietitians, Nutrition Dietetic Technicians Registered (NDTRs) and students in the state. Although, in California, registered dietitians are not licensed, they must be registered through the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) of the American Dietetic Association (ADA). Additionally, the state protects the titles “registered dietitian,” “certified dietitian,” and “dietitian,” meaning that only those who qualify may use these titles. 

If you are interested in becoming a registered dietitian (also referred to as a registered dietitian nutritionist) in California, read on. We will detail the steps that you must take in order to legally practice dietetics in the state of California. 

What Schooling and Practical Experience Must Registered Dietitians Have in California?

The CDR mandates that all who wish to work as a registered dietitian in California must complete an educational program that is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND).  Programs in California that qualify may be found here (link to Registered Dietitian Schools page). There is a new rule on the horizon: by January 1, 2024, the CDR will require all registered dietitians to have a master’s degree, at minimum. This is important to remember when you are selecting a program from which to obtain your registered dietitian education and experience. 

When you search for registered dietitian programs in California, you will come across the following categories:

  • Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD), providing just the dietetic coursework. A Dietetic Internship (DI) that is, at minimum, 1000 hours long, is taken following completion of a DPD.
  • Coordinated Program in Dietetics (CP), which providesstudents with dietetic coursework as well as supervised practice experience of 1000 hours at least. 
  • Graduate Program (GP), providing coursework and experience at the end of which, you will have a graduate degree.

What Exam Must I Pass to Become a Registered Dietitian in California?

No matter which category of program you select above, upon completing the program, you will receive information from one of your program’s representatives about registering to take the CDR’s Registration Examination for Dietitians. The Registration Examination for Dietitians Handbook for Candidates provides much valuable information on the examination process.  

The test will be administered at a Pearson VUE testing center. It costs $200, payable online when you register to take the test. Test centers in California are located in: 

  • Fresno
  • Visalia
  • Santa Maria
  • San Jose
  • Sacramento
  • San Francisco
  • Oakland
  • Roseville
  • San Mateo
  • Pasadena
  • Los Angeles
  • Daly City
  • Fairfield

The test will cover material that you have learned during your registered dietitian education and supervised experience program. You will learn your score as soon as you finish the test. Once you have received your CDR card by mail, you will legally be able to practice as a registered dietitian in the state of California. 

What Will I Earn as a Registered Dietitian in California?

U.S. News and World Report says that, in 2022, dietitian and nutritionist jobs rank 21st among the best health care jobs in the nation. This ranking comes from the salary of the job, job market, future growth, stress, and work-life balance.

The state of California has the highest employment level for registered dietitians and nutritionists, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). As of May 2021, there are 7690 dietitians and nutritionists working in the state. Additionally, California is also the highest-paying state in which dietitians and nutritionists work, with an annual mean wage of $82,380 as of May 2021.  

Registered dietitians working across the state earn even higher salaries in certain metropolitan areas, with registered dietitians in the San Jose/Sunnyvale/Santa Clara area earning $103,240 as an annual mean wage; those in San Francisco/Oakland/Hayward earning $97,490; dietitians in Vallejo/Fairfield earning $97,270; those in Santa Rosa earning $87,950; and dietitians in Santa Cruz/Watsonville earning an annual mean wage of $86,110. 

What Types of Registered Dietitians Work in California?

Once you have become a registered dietitian in California, you may choose to specialize in a certain area, or work within a certain field. Among registered dietitians are the following types:

  • Clinical dietitian – This type of registered dietitian provides nutritional services to patients in medical institutions. They assess a patient’s nutritional needs, develop and implement nutrition programs, and evaluate results. They may communicate with a patient’s other health care providers about the patient’s progress.
  • Community dietitian- This type of registered dietitian works to prevent disease and promote health within the community. They may work in public health clinics health maintenance organizations, and home health clinics. They work with individuals and groups in meeting dietary needs.
  • Management dietitian – This type of registered dietitian supervises staff and oversees food programs in health care facilities, companies, cafeterias and the like. They may hire, train and supervise other dietitians and food service workers, as well as budget for food and plan meals
  • Consultant dietitian- This type of registered dietitian contracts with health care facilities or works in private practice with clients. They perform nutrition screenings for clients, counsel clients on diet-related concerns, and may work for wellness programs, sports teams, and nutrition-related businesses. 

What Jobs are Available for Registered Dietitians in California?

Another way to examine salaries for registered dietitians in California is to see what current job openings are advertising as annual pay.  In June 2022, the following jobs were available for registered dietitians in the state of California:

  • Dietitian, Lemon Grove Care & Rehabilitation Center – Lemon Grove, CA
    • Salary: $50,000 to $85,000 per year
    • RD required
  • Registered Dietitian I/II/III, Per Diem, Bilingual, County of Ventura- Thousand Oaks, CA
    • Salary: $48,357 to $86,162 per year
    • RD required
    • Bilingual incentive
  • Dietitian Advanced Practice, U.S. Veterans Health Administration – San Diego, CA
    • Salary: $89,383 to $116,202 per year
    • RD required
  • Dietitian, Madera Community Hospital – Madera, CA
    • Salary: $53,700 to $67,900 per year
    • RD required
  • Clinical Dietitian, Community Memorial Health System – Ventura, CA
    • Salary: $73,700 to $93,300 per year
    • RD required
    • Two years of clinical dietetics experience in an acute care hospital preferred