Becoming a Registered Dietitian in Pennsylvania

The Centers for Disease ControlPennsylvania and Prevention (CDC) noted in 2020 that over 31 percent of adults in Pennsylvania reported being obese. That statistic had risen from 28.6 percent in 2010. A greater percentage of Black Pennsylvanians (41.8 percent) reported being obese, followed by Latino Pennsylvanians, at 32.9 percent. White Pennsylvanians’ self-reported obesity rate was 31.3 percent.

These numbers are troubling to health care practitioners, public health officials, and others concerned with the overall health of Pennsylvanians. Registered dietitians are one group of health professionals who are likely interested in improving these percentages. Registered dietitians must fulfill strict mandates regarding education, experience and examination before they may become licensed to work in Pennsylvania. To learn more about becoming a registered, licensed dietitian in Pennsylvania, please keep reading.

Education and Experience for Pennsylvania’s Registered Dietitians

Pennsylvania’s law says that, in order to become licensed as a dietitian-nutritionist in the state, you must either have Registered Dietitian Nutrition (RDN) credentials from the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR), or Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) credentials from the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists (BCNS). As we cover the CNS certification process in Becoming a Licensed or Non-Licensed Nutritionist in Pennsylvania (link to that article), here, we will detail the process of becoming a RDN through the CDR.

The CDR mandates that RDN candidates complete education from a degree program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). Although as of this writing, a bachelor’s degree is sufficient to become an RDN, by Jan. 1, 2024, you will need a master’s degree. Types of programs in Pennsylvania include:

Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD)– the state of Pennsylvania currently offers 10 approved DPDs. These programs, being didactic in nature, provide solely the education that you need in order to become an RDN (without the supervised experience). 

If you take a DPD, a Dietetic Internship (DI) must follow— consisting of at least 1000 hours’ supervised experience. Pennsylvania currently offers 9 DIs.

Pennsylvania also offers Coordinated Programs in Dietetics (CPs), which are programs that combine the didactic coursework with the necessary supervised dietary practice experience. Pennsylvania presently houses 2 CPs.

Or you could opt for one of the newer Graduate Programs (GPs), which are coordinated programs at the graduate level. There are presently 10 GPs in Pennsylvania.

Obtaining Necessary Credentials for Pennsylvania’s Registered Dietitians

The next step in getting your RDN credentials with the CDR and becoming licensed in Pennsylvania is to pass the CDR’s Registration Examination for Dietitians. The Registration Examination for Dietitians Handbook for Candidates will provide you with valuable information on registering for and taking (and passing) the test.

Pearson VUE, the examination company that handles testing for the CDR test, will instruct you to register online and remit the testing fee of $200. Pennsylvania is rich with testing centers, located statewide in places such as Harrisburg, Scranton, Lancaster, Allentown, Warrington, Blue Bell, and King of Prussia.

When you finish the test, your score will flash on screen. If you pass, you can expect to receive your CDR RDN card by mail within a month.

The Licensing Process for Pennsylvania’s Registered Dietitians 

Before applying for Pennsylvania licensure, the state has mandated that all licensed dietitian-nutritionist prospects must take three hours of child abuse recognition and reporting instruction approved by the Board. When you have accomplished that, and have received your RDN card from the CDR, you may file for licensure as a dietitian-nutritionist in Pennsylvania. This is done online, and you will also pay the initial licensing fee of $95 online.

Your LDN license in PA is renewable biennially, at a current renewal fee of $71. You must fulfill 30 hours’ continuing education every other year, including child abuse recognition and reporting (two hours minimum).

Salaries for Pennsylvania’s Registered Dietitians

Pennsylvania has the fifth-highest employment level of dietitians and nutritionists in the state, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) (circa May 2021), with 3360 total. The annual mean wage for dietitians in Pennsylvania is $63,180. Dietitians working in the Philadelphia metropolitan area earn the highest annual mean wages in the state, at $69,290. Other areas in which dietitians earn yearly wages higher than the commonwealth’s average include the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton area, at $66,910; and Lebanon, at $64,210.

Jobs for Pennsylvania’s Registered Dietitians

You can also find out what RDNs in Pennsylvania are earning by checking the classified advertisements for jobs available. Some examples of open registered dietitian positions in the state as of October 2022 include:

  • Dietitian – US Veterans Health Administration, York
    • Salary: $67,183 to $87,333 annually
    • Must be an RDN through the CDR
    • Must be an LDN through PA
  • Clinical Dietitian – Southwestern Veterans’ Center, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Allegheny County
    • Salary: $47,472 to $72,176 annually
    • Must be an RDN through the CDR
    • Must be an LDN through PA
  • Registered Dietitian – Klasik Fit, LLC, Bellefonte
    • Salary: $68,800 to $87,200 annually
    • Must be an RDN through the CDR
    • Must be an LDN through PA
    • Must have 12 months of clinical dietary experience
  • Registered Dietician, Pediatric Specialty Care – St. Luke’s University Health Network, Center Valley
    • Salary: $73,900 to $93,500 annually
    • Must have a bachelor’s degree (master’s degree preferred)
    • Must be an RDN through the CDR
    • Must be an LDN through PA
    • Must have five years of clinical experience in a clinical setting
  • Registered Dietitian – Dialysis Clinic, Inc., Beaver Falls
    • Salary: $56,160 to $75,483 annually
    • Must be an RDN through the CDR
    • Must be an LDN through PA
    • Must have 12 months of professional RDN work experience
    • Previous renal care experience preferred