How to Become a Certified Dietary Manager

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A certified dietary manager typically oversees large food operations in hospitals, nursing homes, prison facilities and schools. The CDM manages the entire food operation from menu creation to food purchasing, meal planning and preparation. A CDM is responsible for documenting and reporting nutritional values, ensuring food safety and supervising cooking and kitchen staffs.

Establish eligibility to take the CDM exam by earning a 2- or 4-year related degree or by an alternate path. Acceptable majors for your degree include food-service management, culinary arts, nutrition or hotel-restaurant management. Alternately, substitute a certificate in dietary manager training approved by the Association of Nutrition & Foodservice Professionals, including 120 hours or coursework plus 150 hours of field work. You also qualify if you graduate from a 90-hour class in food service approved by your state and complete two years of management experience in institutional food service. Finally, you qualify if you've completed approved dietary management training in the military and reached grade E-5. In every case, you must provide transcripts or other documentation of your training or experience with your application.

Apply to take the CDM test by the deadline. The DMA requires time to check credentials and degrees and to set up various testing locations. The CDM test is typically given twice a year in the spring and fall. Applications are due about 3 months prior to the exam.

Study for the exam by registering with one of the many study seminars, courses and online programs available. In addition to the questions taken from two DMA textbooks, the exam covers FDA safety questions. The FDA "Food Codebook" is available free through the FDA website. The exam topics include communication and professional interaction skills, food nutrition knowledge, supervisory qualifications and management of supplies.

Take the test and earn the CDM certification. Maintain your designation by earning at least 45 hours of continuing education hours every 3 years. Membership in the Dietary Managers Association provides a number of opportunities to attend seminars and other events, read published materials and participate in online programs to maintain certification.