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Ten steps to practicing as a registered dietitian in the USA

LCheadshot.jpgLuke Corey is a performance dietitian at EXOS – Athletes’ Performance Institute in Rochester, Minnesota. He moved to the United States in March 2014, after working for four years as a private practice dietitian in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He wrote and passed the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) exam soon after moving to the USA. You can reach Luke at or on Twitter @LukeCoreyRD.


Moving to another country can be a daunting process. Worrying about whether your designation as a registered dietitian is recognized and how you go about ensuring you can legally practice makes it even more unsettling. The time and effort you put into achieving this career – including many years of school and an unpaid internship – may all be for not if the country you are moving to doesn’t recognize your designation. Could you imagine having to start all over again?
This was the feeling I was experiencing, just over a year ago, when I was presented with an opportunity to move to the United States to work with the world’s leading performance training company. I did not have the slightest clue of how to go about transferring my designation from Canada to the USA. Luckily, I was able to figure it out – but not without a few bumps along the way. I hope to make this process smoother for anyone thinking about pursuing opportunities in the USA.

The first thing to know is that Dietitians of Canada (DC) has a reciprocity agreement with the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR), the credentialing agency for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). What this means is that the CDR recognizes your academic degree and accredited dietetic internship program. However, surprisingly enough, it does not recognize the Canadian Dietetics Registration Exam (CDRE). I was a little shocked to find out that I had to re-write an entry-level registration exam. It had been close to five years since I passed the CDRE and I had owned and operated a private practice focusing mainly on sports nutrition in that time. My knowledge of other areas, such as food service and clinical nutrition, were certainly not as sharp as when I originally wrote the CDRE. Once my panic settled, I knew I had to take the time to refresh myself in the areas that needed it most.
CDR provides a “Handbook for Candidates,” which describes the areas that are tested and the percentage of the exam questions that relate to that area. I quickly recognized the areas that I was strongest in and the areas that required some refreshing. I dug out my old internship files and resources, and began studying the material that I was weakest in. CDR also recommends purchasing the “Study Guide for the Registration Examination for Dietitians,” which costs US$65 and includes a sample 125-question practice exam. While this resource did help, I found it still wasn’t enough to fully prepare me. I sought out additional study guides and resources and found a great app called RD Prep (US$20) and an exam prep quiz on Quizlet. These tools helped improve my proficiency in the areas that needed it the most.

Here is a step-by-step breakdown of the Canada to U.S. transfer process:

Step 1 – Visit to review the application process and requirements as described by the CDR.
This will provide you with all of the information you need to start and finish this process. Look closely at the information pertaining to reciprocity. 
Step 2 – Contact DC to request a membership verification letter.
You must be a member of DC in order to qualify to write the CDR exam. If you are not a member, you will have to apply and pay the fees to become one. DC will mail you a verification letter that indicates that you are a member, and you will need to include this letter as part of your CDR application.
Step 3 – Contact the CDR directly and request the Registration Eligibility Application Form.
They will send you a package with a number of forms that you must complete. You will return your application, along with the DC membership verification letter, to the CDR. It takes about 8–10 days for the CDR to process your application.
Step 4 – If your application is approved, you will receive a CDR ID#.
This makes you eligible to write the CDR Registration Exam for Dietitians.
Step 5 – Book an appointment to write the CDR Registration Exam for Dietitians.
You must complete this computerized exam at a pre-approved third-party testing site. They usually offer multiple dates, times and locations throughout the week to take the exam. The cost to register for the exam is US$200.

Step 6 – Complete the CDR Registration Exam for Dietitians.
This is a 125-question multiple-choice online exam that must be completed in 2.5 hours. If you do not have a passing grade by the 125th question up to 40 additional questions will be provided to help you achieve a passing grade, if time permits.
 Step 7 – Pick up your exam score.
Immediately upon completing the exam, you will be provided with a printed record of your score, indicating whether you passed or failed. If you fail, you must wait 45 days before you are eligible to re-write the exam. If you pass, you are now a credentialed practitioner and able to use the designation registered dietitian (RD) and/or registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) in the United States.
Step 8 – Complete the CDR registration process.
It takes another 8–10 days for the CDR to process your exam results and send you an email with details on how to complete your registration. A fee of US$60 is required to maintain your CDR registration for the year.
Step 9 - Apply to your State Board of Dietetics and Nutrition.
Once registered with the CDR, you are now eligible to apply to your specific State Board of Dietetics and Nutrition. You can fill out an online application and submit the membership fee, which varies from state to state.
Step 10 – Start practicing as a registered dietitian and/or registered dietitian nutritionist. 
You did it! You can now officially practice in the United States!

Everyone will have a different experience with this process. In my situation, I had already moved to the U.S. to complete my training and settle down in my new city. From there, I completed the process listed above and I am now practicing as a performance dietitian with EXOS – Athletes’ Performance Institute at Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center!
Editor’s note: This process can seem very intimidating when starting out. Thanks to Luke for laying it out in a way that seems manageable! If you have any questions for Luke, he is happy to help – including questions around applying for a work visa.
Are you a dietitian looking to practice in Canada? Check out this page for more information: Internship/practicum program options for dietitians educated outside Canada.
Have you transferred your dietitian credentials to another country? Are you thinking about doing it? Please share your experience, comments or questions below.
  1. Great work !
    Can i ask for also some resources for the Canadian Dietetic Registration Examination as well ?
  2. Great article, I wish I read this before completing the process myself. Do you have any advice on obtaining a work visa in the US for working as a private practice dietitian?
  3. I am now working in the USA as a dietitian. The process was often confusing and from this I started my blog, , to help others navigate similar experiences.

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