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How to become a Registered Dietitian

As I wait in anticipation for the start of my 10 month dietetic internship, I can’t help but to recollect my journey so far.  I started taking prerequisites in August 2010, got accepted into the graduate program in Spring 2012, applied for the internship in January 2013, and now here I am…so close to fulling my dream of becoming a Registered Dietitian!  I have one more semester left in my program after I finish the internship, which means (drum roll please…) I will be finished in December 2014!!  So yup 4 years total.  Most people finish in 2-3 years depending on the program, but I was a bit lost in the beginning and didn’t schedule my classes efficiently.  Not to mention all the extra courses I took, which I ended up not needing.

In case any of you are interested in becoming a Registered Dietitian, I want to share with you my experience and all that I’ve learned along the way.  You can also read a bit more in detail under the menu “RD To Be.”  Hopefully, you will find this helpful.  Personally, the beginning was the most intimidating part as I had to find all the resources on my own.  There was a ton of information out there, which made things very overwhelming and confusing.

In a nutshell, to be an RD, you must:

  1. Complete a minimum of bachelor’s degree in nutrition from an accredited dietetics program 
  2. Complete a dietetic internship
  3. Pass the National Registration Examination for Dietitians

There are many nutrition programs out there so make certain that it is accredited by the ACEND of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  Therefore, the first place you want to start looking is eatright.org.  Look under the section called “Becoming an RD/DTR.”

Becoming a RD

For me, I only had two choices for school as relocating was not an option.  While I got accepted to both, I chose my current program for various reasons: the faculty: student ratio and class size were a lot smaller, and I felt drawn to its greater emphasis on community rather than clinical nutrition.  You should def consider the various factors when choosing.

While you do not need to have a Masters degree, I thought why not since I’m going back to school anyway.  Since I had no nutrition background (my bachelors degree was in psychology), I had to complete the prerequisites first.

You should also be aware that some schools offer coordinated programs in which the internship is included, meaning you don’t have to apply separately. Unfortunately, my school did not have that option.  If you have the option of choosing a coordinated program, I would say take it!  This is not to say that one is superior to the other.  Just personally, internships are highly competitive so it would save you from having to fill out yet another application.  Not to mention all the time and stress.

I will be sharing my experiences during my internship so stay tuned if you are interested in that kind of stuff ;).

So to summarize:

To become an RD, you must:

1)   Acquire your bachelors or graduate degree in Nutrition.  Eatright.org will have all the accredited programs listed by state.

2)   Apply for, gain acceptance into, and complete the dietetic internship.  The application process is highly competitive so be sure to maintain a high GPA (at least 3.0, but the higher the better); keep a portfolio of all your projects, research papers, etc; seek relevant work or volunteer activities; and get to know your professors, not just attend classes.  They will support, encourage, and guide you…while making you cry from time to time.  Such is the life of a student.

3)   Upon completion, sign up for and take the National Registration Examination for Dietitians as soon as possible.  Be sure to save all your notes from undergraduate courses as well as from the internship.  If you pass, then CONGRATULATIONS!  You are officially an RD! ;).

If you are pursuing a graduate degree:

  • Consider looking into an accredited coordinated program as you will not have to apply separately for the internship once you get accepted.
  • Take the GRE.
  • If your bacelors degree is not in nutrition, then you must complete the prerequisites.  However, you can certainly apply to programs prior to completion as long as you will be done by the time the program starts.  The deadlines for applications are normally around December-February.
    • I took most of the science prerequisites at a community college and the other nutrition-related classes at the bachelor’s level at the school I’m currently attending.
    • These are the prerequisites I had to complete: (they may differ slightly depending on the program but not by much)

nutrition slide

This may sound daunting and yes, I’ve felt like I’m going to be a poor student forever.  Since 2010, I’ve had to go through the application process 3 times!  However, going back to school was the best decision I’ve made.  I fervently believe you are never too young or too old to follow your passion.  Just take it one step at a time and the road you trod on will become much easier, not to mention all the hidden paths that will start opening up unexpectedly.  

About Min

Thank you so much for stopping by! I am Min, a Registered Dietitian, a Christ follower, a wife, and a mom to our two miracle babies! Currently, I’m having a ton of fun feeding their tummies and sharing our baby led weaning journey! Follow me on Instagram if interested in seeing daily menu as well as tips and tricks.

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12 Comments

  1. Okay so I guess you can say I am stalking thr blog right now and reading up on your past posts, specifically these about your journey to becoming an RD! This is me procrastinating studying anatamoy/physiology lol
    Anwyas I just wanted to say these posts are so interesting for me to read as a nutrition undergraduate student! I debated all summer wether I wanted to take th RD route or med school and i think we both know where my passion lies 🙂 Reading about your journey just continues to inspire me and while I am SO nervous about the application process of getting into a Dietetic internship, I am really excited to be working towards it! I am also planning to get my masters too and looking at coordinated programs, since everything is SO competitive! Which dietetic internship did you go through? Did you enjoy it?

    1. Haha I, too, am procrastinating. I’m in my last semester of grad school, and it’s just so hard to focus after becoming an RD!! You can understand, right? ;). I know exactly how you must be feeling right now. Why is the internship so darn competitive? But I have no doubt that you’ll be accepted wherever you apply. The whole process is a bit tedious though. I actually did the internship through my program at Texas State University. It’s not a coordinated program, per se, but I was able to get 9 credits to count towards masters. We met for classes on Monday and rotations tues-fri. It was a 10 month program. I def liked certain rotations better than others. For instance, I didn’t think that I’d like clinicals AT ALL but I actually enjoyed that more than the others (my program was divided into clinicals, business/management, and community). The commute and going to different places every other week was a bit challenging. Good luck, and I can’t wait to follow you on you journey, Selena! You’ll do awesome!

  2. Min,

    How did you space out your pre-reqs? I’m trying to plan it all out, and I think the most daunting of it all is how long it’ll take to complete all the required courses before applying.

    I decided about a year and a half ago that I wanted to definitely pursue this career track.

    1. Hi Chardae! It took me about a year to complete all my prerequisites. I worked really closely with my advisor, and took about 16 hours each semester, including summer. It is quite a daunting task, I know. But hang in there! You’ll be well on your way to being an RD before you know it ;).

  3. Good for you for going back! I totally agree w/ following your dreams, I just ran my first Half Marathon in March after wanting to, but being ‘scared’ for several years. Now, doing another on this fall {crazy runners!} I wish I had gotten my degree in nutrition {looking back}. Good luck!!~ Don’t forget us bloggy friends!

    1. Thank you, Paula! Yes, I hear that running marathons can become quite addicting. Good for you! I hope to run for a marathon in the near future as well. Good luck this fall! And of course I won’t forget you guys ;).

  4. I’m so excited for you to be so close to finishing Min! I know what a long road it can be to get the qualifications you need / want, but I am sure you’ll be a fantastic RD when you’re registered and make a big difference with your passion and skills.

    1. Thank you so much, Kari!! It sure is an exciting time for me, and as much as I want to be done with school, I can’t wait for the internship to start.

  5. Ah, u dear thing. Good luck to you. The field of dietetics is vast and ever changing. People don’t like to be told we are nutrition experts since everyone eats. You have bosses outside the field that may feel we are just cooks in the kitchen, or wait staff.
    Income is better than when I completed my internship in 92.
    Good luck God bless.
    Amy

    1. Hi Amy! I hear you..everyone seems to be an expert these days. But with the obesity epidemic the way it is, I hope that people will start to realize what a valuable resource we can be! Thank you for the encouragement.

  6. Min I’m so excited for you!! I’m applying for my DI right now and I’m freaking out! Haha it’s definitely stressful (not to mention financially stressful!) but I’m hoping it’s all going to pay off. Best of luck, Min!

    1. Aww Anna. I can totally relate with what you are going through. That was me this past December. Good luck to you!! We got this 😉