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:
- Complete a minimum of bachelor's degree in nutrition from an accredited dietetics program
- Complete a dietetic internship
- 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.”
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)
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.