Hi there! I have had a couple people ask if I could talk about my journey to becoming a registered dietitian. In this post I am going to do a big overview of the whole process. Then, I will break it down into a couple more posts. It was a really interesting experience, and I love sharing it with future RDs. Please feel free to email/comment if you have any specific comments or questions!
Step 1: Getting your Nutrition Degree:
I started my education at Montana State University. I switched my major a few times before deciding on nutrition. Exercise science and education were the first two majors that I chose. I ended up completing my education requirements and my nutrition requirements at the same time. It only added one year to my college days—which I didn’t’ mind at all because I LOVED college! Anyways, once I took the basic human nutrition course I knew that nutrition was the right fit for me.
The best thing to do when starting any program in college is to meet with your advisor to make sure you are taking the right classes for your degree. It can be really confusing at first! Nutrition curriculums include a lot of chemistry classes—be prepared for organic chemistry, it’s not easy (or at least wasn’t for me). I will talk more about exact class requirements in a separate post.
One tip for your college days if you plan to apply to a dietetic internship and/or grad school—be very involved with everything related to nutrition! Most schools have clubs and volunteer opportunities for nutrition students. I was a member of the student dietetic association, worked as the school’s sanitation manager, volunteered to help graduate students with nutrition research projects and volunteered for numerous other events like Relay for Life. I enjoyed doing all of these things and honestly didn’t think of them as a way to get me into an internship—but I was told by my grad school program that these things are necessary for acceptance.
Step 2: Choosing your Internship Path:
The next step is deciding if you want to apply for an internship or a coordinated program. You have to complete a 1,200 hour dietetic internship prior to taking the RD exam. I chose the coordinated program. I will go into more detail of the program in a later post. But, the main reason I chose the program is because I knew I eventually wanted to get my master’s degree, and the internship is one year long and grad school only added one more year. To me, it just made the most sense. But, if you don’t want to go to grad school and do research, applying to an internship is also an option. Both are a huge commitment!
The application process has changed since I applied. I filled out separate applications to all of the schools/internships. Now, it’s a matching process, so you fill out one application and rank your choices. Your advisor or director of the nutrition program should be able to help you with this process. It’s really important to do a lot of research before making your choices!! Some programs will match your needs exactly and others are not what you were looking for. It’s amazing how different all of the programs are!
Step 3: After You Get Accepted!:
Once you find out you were accepted into a program, it’s time to CELEBRATE!! Becoming an RD is highly competitive, so getting into an internship program is a huge accomplishment. Take the opportunity seriously and soak up all of the information and experiences you can! I will share stories from my internship later! The best advice I got from my internship director is “don’t burn any bridges”. Basically treat every internship rotation as if it is your first day of a new job. You never know when one of your preceptors will be the person who decides if you get a job.
Step 4: Take the RD Exam and Apply for Licensure:
The internship process is a lot of work, and when you finish you will probably feel completely drained. But, make sure you save some motivation to study for your RD exam. It usually takes at least a month for the paperwork from your internship to be completed. So, this gives you time to study. I will share all of my RD exam experiences with you guys too!
Step 5: You’re Officially a Registered Dietitian:
Now it’s time to choose your career and start helping people live happier, healthier lives!! 🙂
Hope this post helps with the basics. Stay tuned for more specific info! Ask your questions in the comment section so I can address them in the next posts!!!