Licensed Dietitian-Nutritionists Requirements in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania dietitians and nutritionists are under the jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing. They are known as Licensed Dietitian-Nutritionists, or LDNs. The Center for Nutrition Advocacy, a national organization, has referred to Pennsylvania’s dietetic licensing law as licensure without exclusive scope of practice (http://nutritionadvocacy.org/pennsylvania).

The licensing process is dependent on completing both a nutrition-focused academic program and pre-professional practice experience and passing an examination. The Board accepts two different national examinations: one for dietitians, the other for nutritionists. Thus there are multiple pathways to licensure. Prospective LDNs should also be aware of the requirements of the two certification organizations through which they may pursue examination.

In order to be eligible to take the nutritionist examination, a person must have a degree at the master’s level. A person may take the dietetic examination with a degree at the bachelor’s level.

Select a Pennsylvania Licensed Dietitian-Nutritionist (LDN) Topic:

Educational Standards

The prospective LDN must earn a degree at at least the bachelor’s level. In order to meet academic prerequisites set by the approved testing organizations, the person will need considerable coursework in the natural sciences as well as coursework that is specifically focused on job roles.

According to state code, an educational program is to be Board-approved or equivalent, the latter being determined by approval by an accepted organization. State code references the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education (CADE) and the American College of Nutrition (ACN); CADE is now known as the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition & Dietetics (ACEND).

Generally, a person with education at the bachelor’s level should expect to earn a degree through an institution that has been accredited by ACEND. This may be a coordinated or didactic program. A student who opts for a didactic program should plan to meet pre-professional experience requirements after degree requirements have been met. A student who opts for a coordinated program will meet both sets of requirements concurrently.

The ACEND directory lists four accredited in-state coordinated programs. It lists 11 in-state didactic programs. While most program are taught at the bachelor’s level, there are master’s options.

Professionals who have already earned degrees may receive considerable credit for past academics. They may contact accredited programs about transcript evaluation.

A person who holds a graduate degree or is considering pursuing one may opt to meet the educational standards of the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists. The person will need to hold a graduate degree in healthcare or a nutrition-related discipline (http://www.nutritionspecialists.org/become-cns/cns-nutrition-and-health-professionals). The graduate will need to meet minimum coursework requirements in each of the following areas: biochemistry, physiology or anatomy and physiology, nutrition, and life sciences or clinical sciences.

Standards for Pre-Professional Experience

According to state regulation, the planned pre-professional experience must be at least 900 hours. It will likely be more.

Candidates who are seeking registration as Registered Dietitians through the Commission on Dietetic Registration complete 1,200 hours. Those who graduate from coordinated programs can expect to meet the requirement by the time they graduate; otherwise, they will meet the requirement afterward. The ACEND directory lists accredited internship programs from around the country. It currently lists ten Pennsylvania programs that are accredited or are candidates for accreditation. They boast various areas of emphasis, for example, emergent trends in dietetics and intervention and community education. Nationwide, community nutrition and medical nutrition therapy are common areas of emphasis. It is possible to enroll in an accredited distance internship. The ISPP is an additional CDR-qualifying option; it is designed for graduates who do not match to internships.

Some graduate-level nutrition professionals will want to meet certification requirements set by the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists. A prospective Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) will not necessarily complete an accredited internship. However, he or she will need to meet the Certification Board’s standards for pre-professional experience in order to achieve the credential.

The Examination Process

The candidate will need to pass an examination offered by either of two approved organizations: the Commission on Dietetic Registration or the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists.

Prospective LDNs can apply directly to their selected testing organization. They will need to establish eligibility. Candidates who take the Registered Dietitian examination do so after all other requirements have been met. Candidates who take the Certification Examination for Nutrition Specialists may do so before meeting supervised practice requirements, though the Certification Board recommends waiting.

The CDR examination covers four domains; among them are nutrition care for groups and individuals and management of programs and services. The program director can authorize examination. There is a $200 examination fee. Examinations are computer-delivered and are available at more than 200 sites.

The Certification Board examination covers five domains. The two that represent the greatest portion are 1) nutrients and human health and 2) clinical intervention and monitoring. Content outline and application materials are available online (http://nutritionspecialists.org/become-cns/forms-helpful-documents).The exam is administered twice a year in select U.S cities (http://nutritionspecialists.org/info-page/next-exam). The candidate will pay a total of $350 in fees; $50 is nonrefundable. Questions can be addressed to ‘Office at NutritionSpecialists.org’.

The Application Process

There is an online license application process. Prospective LDNs may visit the website of the State Board of Nursing for a link to the portal (http://www.dos.pa.gov/ProfessionalLicensing/BoardsCommissions/Nursing/Pages/Online-Licensing-Services.aspx).

Board regulations list a $45 application fee.

Renewal Requirements

Pennsylvania LDN licenses are renewed every two years. LDNs are expected to complete 30 hours of continuing professional education.

LDNs who wish to maintain concurrent national certifications will recertify periodically.

Additional Information

Dietetics licensure information (including laws and regulations) is available from the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing (http://www.dos.pa.gov/ProfessionalLicensing/BoardsCommissions/Nursing/Pages/default.aspx). The State Board can be reached by telephone at (717) 783-7142 or by email at ‘ST-NURSE at pa.gov’.

The Center for Nutrition Advocacy has also provided a page about Pennsylvania licensing standards (http://www.nutritionadvocacy.org/pennsylvania).

The Pennsylvania Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is an additional resource, particularly for those who follow the Registered Dietitian pathway (http://www.eatrightpa.org). The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics maintains close ties with the accreditation and examination organizations for professional dietitians. The Pennsylvania Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has included an online career center in their student section (http://www.eatrightpa.org/CareerCenter.cfm). The organization has also announced a mentoring program (http://www.eatrightpa.org/MentoringProgram.cfm).

The School Nutrition Association of Pennsylvania is a resource for nutrition professionals who work in schools and related settings (https://snapa.wildapricot.org).