There are a lot of things I wish I knew before pursing my career path, the first being what the process itself entails.
The 5 steps to becoming a registered dietitian
1) Obtain a bachelor’s degree from an academy accredited undergraduate program in dietetic education. There are coordinated program, foreign or international dietitian education programs, future graduate programs, and didactic program in dietetics.
Start building your resume and application early. Get involved in your nutrition club at school, volunteer at a nursing home, gain hours as a diet tech at a hospital, initiate a program in your community, start a food blog, all with the goal of showing your strengths and what makes you unique. Good grades will grab the programs attention, but what will set you apart and make you unique is the experience and what you will offer to the program is important.
2) Apply for a dietetic internship which is where you will receive 1,2000 hours of supervised practice.
The internship has a required amount of hours in community, clinical, and foodservice settings. This is standard among all internships but some will has a heavier focus on a particular area. The program I completed was community-focused through Simmons in Boston and was the perfect fit for me. I worked at Shriner’s hospital counseling pediatric burn patients, I worked in long-term care facilities with geriatric patients, and I had a diverse range of experience working with underserved communities in the Boston area. The choice week is the last week of the internship which allows you to choose a placement that you are interested in. I was able to fly down to Orlando and work with the dietitian for the Orlando Magic basketball team, as I wanted more experience shadowing sports dietitian.
Pick a program that truly interest you. Don’t go for what will look good on paper. Pick 3-4 programs and don’t go crazy applying to multiple ones as a safety. Remember, you have to pay for every program you apply (if you haven’t realized already, this is not a career path that guarantees debt-free). In addition to building your experience, start your personal statement early. This is the personal statement you are going to be submitting to all of the programs you apply to. Have your friends, family, and teachers review it. Revise it over and over again until it feels right. This is another opportunity to humanize yourself.
Keep an open mind during the internship and get the most out of every rotation. If you hate foodservice or could never see yourself working in a clinical setting, show up with the eagerness to learn regardless. Working hard at something that you don’t love will teach you lessons on it’s own that will improve your character and make you a better dietitian down the road. Establish good relationships with your preceptors. The dietetics world is VERY small. Do not burn bridges and remember that these are the people who will eventually be your colleagues and are the people you might need to go to for references or support down the road.
3) Pass the registration exam.
I used the Jean Innman resource which was offered through my program as soon as the internship was over. There were all of these apps out there that my fellow students used, and I found this to be more overwhelming. I focused on just doing the Innman practice tests, listened to the CDs and referred to old course material when necessary. It’s most important to get used to the way the questions are asked by doing the practice tests, this was the most helpful for me.
This exam is stressful and you will feel like you are failing the entire time. Stay cool as a cucumber and don’t let the stress get to you, you WILL pass. If you don’t pass the first time around, you can take it again in 45 days.
4) Gain licensure in your state of practice if applicable
Basically just another check to write. Check your state requirements to see if this is necessary. In some states you cannot practice as a dietitian without this licensure.
5) Maintain continuing education
So far I have had no trouble racking up my continuing education credits. I have attended FNCE two years in a row and this is not only a great way to network, but it is a great way to check off those credits. There are always free credits offered and easy credits that can be found in the Food and Nutrition Magazine.
Do you need a Master’s Degree?
Beginning on January 1, 2024, the CDR is requiring dietitians to hold a Master’s or Doctoral degree to be considered eligible to sit for the registration exam. I decided to pursue my Master’s degree in congestion with my undergrad because I figured it would enhance my knowledge and it was convenient at the time. I also knew it would look better on my application process. The interesting thing is that the Master’s degree doesn’t have to be nutrition-related, although I did decide to obtain an MS in nutrition.
I am a dietitian, now what?
The advice I was given after completing the internship was to gain clinical experience before going into private practice. Although I truly see the value in this, I felt ready to jump right in. I had started growing my business when I was completing my Master’s degree. I was and still am contracting with two companies (Wellness in Motion and Malibu Hills Treatment Center) which provided me with a support team, a source of referrals, and insight into how a business operates. I am the sports dietitian through Wellness In Motion and I see clients recovering from dug and alcohol addition through Malibu Hills. This provides me with a great balance of clinical challenge and use of an electronic medical record, as well as sports nutrition counseling at an elite level. On top of this, I officially established as an Nutrition Rewired, LLC 3 months after completing my exam and specialize in gut health.
There are so many things you can do as a registered dietitian. The beauty of the internship is that you are exposed to many of the carrier routes including foodservice, clinical, community, and a choice week to explore an area of particular interest.
All of this information is my opinion and personal experience, and yours will likely look different. My best advice is to chase your passion, not a salary, and know that you are never stuck doing anything you don’t love.
Visit eatrightpro.org for excellent resources on this information. And to sign up for my mentorship program please book a discovery call with me.