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Licensure Protects the Public

Professional Licensing Protects Consumers

Our consumer protection efforts ensure that consumers are able to identify and access qualified professionals who demonstrate the knowledge, skill and competency necessary to provide safe and ethical nutrition therapy. As the public increasingly understands the importance of good nutrition, some individuals without any formal education, training or expertise in human nutrition or dietetics are exploiting this newly recognized market.

States' professional licensing laws help consumers identify who is a qualified practitioner to provide a particular set of specified services, known as the profession's scope of practice. Some individuals are not qualified for licensure because they lack the objective accredited education, experience and examination demonstrating their competency to provide services within the regulated profession's scope of practice. The Academy shares elected officials' interest in supporting licensure to prevent harm for our communities, workplaces, families and friends. This means protecting against unsafe or inaccurate nutrition counseling or interventions that may lead to poor or even dangerous health outcomes — and unnecessary, expensive products or services.

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

The Academy supports professional licensure for RDNs and other qualified nutrition professionals to protect the public by enforcing objective standards in education, work experience and exams. These standards ensure competency to provide complex care, such as medical nutrition therapy. Requirements to become a licensed dietitian nutritionist in most states are generally similar to those required to become a registered dietitian nutritionist.

Many states have adopted licensure laws and regulations specifying the minimum credentials required to (1) use various titles, such as "dietitian," "nutritionist," "licensed dietitian nutritionist" or "registered dietitian nutritionist" and (2) provide MNT or other dietetics and nutrition services. Other states take a less protective approach, such as regulating the practice of licensed RDNs and other nutrition service providers, and offering licensees the ability to use certain protected titles.

Academy members: For a quick call about whether you need a license—or if you have more in-depth questions about consumer protection and professional regulation issues—the Academy's staff experts on Consumer Protection and Licensure are here for you! Learn more.

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