Licensure and Professional Regulation of Dietitians

Enacting licensure laws in states that do not have a law remains a high priority of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Many will say that in an era of less government, fewer licensure laws are necessary and that government should be getting out of this arena. The Academy strongly rejects this notion. State legislatures are charged with protecting the health and safety of the public. Accordingly, every state regulates occupations and professions that have an impact on the public's health and safety.

Licensure topics on this page:


Importance of Licensing

Licensing dietitians and nutritionists assures the public that individuals disseminating nutrition advice have the appropriate education and experience. Individuals seeking nutrition advice who are medically compromised deserve the assurance that the individual treating them has the requisite education and experience. Licensure laws protect the public from unscrupulous and unqualified individuals who would portray themselves as nutrition experts.

As educated and qualified health care practitioners, dietitians and nutritionists have the primary obligation to promote public health. The rationale behind licensure is consistent with this obligation. Licensure laws are not intended to restrict freedom of speech or to monopolize any business. The same arguments opposing licensure laws could be used against licensure of physicians, nurses and other health care professionals, but legislatures in every state have recognized that the protection of the public health justifies regulation. The same argument should prevail when discussing the licensure of dietitians and nutritionists.

Unfortunately, until relatively recently, the vital link between nutrition and good health had not been fully recognized. As the public has become aware of the importance of good nutrition, many entrepreneurs have taken advantage of the newly recognized market. While many of these products and services may be worthwhile when used in the context of an overall good nutrition regimen, some are simply capitalizing on an uniformed public that is eager for information.

Licensure provides the public, health insurance companies, and state and federal governments with the assurance that practitioners meet standards of professional competence in order to be reimbursed for providing nutrition care services. In states without licensure, nutrition professionals may be reimbursed despite meeting only some of the qualifications required to become a registered dietitian nutritionist.

State Licensure Overview

State governments play a vital role in creating and implementing policies that serve and protect the public. In the areas of food, nutrition and health, states may inspect or certify some food and food products, administer programs that provide food assistance and nutrition education to individuals and families, establish educational standards for schools, administer public health programs, regulate nursing homes, oversee insurance programs and help provide coverage for many. States also license health care and other service providers, including dietetics professionals, to assure the public that individuals providing health and personal services have met education, experience and examination requirements.

The majority of states have enacted laws that regulate the practice of dietetics. State licensure and state certification are entirely separate and distinct from registration or certification by the Commission on Dietetic Registration. For state regulation purposes, the terms licensure, statutory certification and registration are defined as the following:

  • Licensing: Statutes that include an explicitly defined scope of practice, and performance of the profession is illegal without first obtaining a license from the state.
  • Statutory Certification: Limits use of particular titles to persons meeting predetermined requirements, while persons not certified can still practice the occupation or profession.
  • Registration: The least restrictive form of state regulation. As with certification, unregistered persons are permitted to practice the profession. Typically, exams are not given and enforcement of the registration requirement is minimal.

Dietetics practitioners are licensed by states to ensure that only qualified, trained professional provide nutrition services or advice to individuals requiring or seeking nutrition care or information. Only state-licensed dietetics professionals can provide nutrition counseling. Nonlicensed practitioners may be subject to prosecution for practicing without a license.

State Licensure Agencies and Statutes by State

The table below is a quick reference of each state's statutory provision (if applicable) regarding professional regulation of dietitians and/or nutritionists as of November 2013. For more information about licensure in individual states, visit CDR's page listing contact information for state licensure agencies. The Academy also provides alist of state licensure provisions and and directory of state registers for tracking regulations.

State

Nature of Statute

Alabama Licensure of dietitian, nutritionist
Alaska Licensure of dietitian, nutritionist
Arizona No statute
Arkansas Licensure of dietitian
California Title protection for dietitian, RD, and NDTR
Colorado No statute except deceptive advertising
Connecticut Certification of dietitian
Delaware Licensure of dietitian, nutritionist
District of Columbia Licensure of dietitian, nutritionist
Florida Licensure of dietitian, nutritionist, nutrition counselor
Georgia Licensure of dietitian
Hawaii Licensure of dietitian
Idaho Licensure of dietitian
Illinois Licensure of dietitian nutritionist
Indiana Certification of dietitian
Iowa Licensure of dietitian
Kansas Licensure of dietitian
Kentucky Licensure of dietitian; Certification of nutritionist
Louisiana Licensure of dietitian
Maine Licensure of dietitian, NDTR
Maryland Licensure of dietitian, nutritionist
Massachusetts Licensure of dietitian, nutritionist
Michigan Pending status: Licensure of dietitian, nutritionist approved by state leg., 2008; regulations & licensure board administration still pending
Minnesota Licensure of dietitian, nutritionist
Mississippi Licensure of dietitian; Title protection for nutritionist
Missouri Licensing of dietitian
Montana Licensure of nutritionist; Title protection for dietitian
Nebraska Licensure of medical nutrition therapist
Nevada Licensure for dietitian, LD, and RD
New Hampshire Licensure of dietitian
New Jersey No statute
New Mexico Licensure of dietitian, nutritionist, nutrition associate
New York Certification of dietitian, nutritionist
North Carolina Licensure of dietitian, nutritionist
North Dakota Licensure of dietitian, nutritionist, RD
Ohio Licensure of dietitian
Oklahoma Licensure of dietitian
Oregon Licensure of dietitian
Pennsylvania Licensure of dietitian-nutritionist
Puerto Rico Licensure of dietitian, nutritionist
Rhode Island Licensure of dietitian, nutritionist
South Carolina Licensure of dietitian
South Dakota Licensure of dietitian, nutritionist
Tennessee Licensure of dietitian, nutritionist
Texas Title protection for dietitian
Utah Certification of dietitian
Vermont Certification of dietitian
Virginia Title protection for dietitian, nutritionist
Washington Certification of dietitian, nutritionist
West Virginia Licensure of dietitian
Wisconsin Certification of dietitian
Wyoming Licensure of dietitian