When people ask me why I became a dietitian, my response is usually “because I love eating well and exercising and I wanted my career to be something I loved doing”. As a dietitian, I get to help others, apply my nutrition knowledge to my every day life and work with patients on a daily basis to help them lead healthier, happier lives. I love what I do and I love sharing information about healthy, wholesome food with the world!
For Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day, I wanted to share some information with you all about how to become a dietitian AND share my personal story as well!
There are two different pathways to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist:
- Enroll in a Coordinated Program
- These programs combine classroom and supervised practical experience
- These programs are bachelor’s or graduate level
- Enroll in a Didactic Program in Dietetics and obtain a Bachelor’s degree
- These programs are dietitian coursework only
- These programs are bachelor’s or graduate level
- Complete a Dietetic Internship
- Pass the RD Exam!
For more information about specific programs and coursework needed visit The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website where they provide you with information about programs in each state.
My Journey to Become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
I started my journey as an undecided, confused freshman at Providence College. I took a few different classes, but nothing stood out as something I would truly enjoy. After a semester at Providence, I began looking into different schools and majors. I remembered when I visited the University of Delaware in high school, I attended a presentation for their College of Health Sciences. It fascinated me at the time, so I decided to look more into it. After a bit of research, I decided Dietetics was the major for me and applied to the University of Delaware. I was accepted (woo!) and started my sophomore year as Dietetics major.
Sophomore year was a whirlwind of science classes and introductory nutrition courses. It was hard work, but a lot of fun! My junior year, I applied for an administrative assistant position for a weight management program at a nearby hospital, Christiana Care Health System (CCHS). I landed the job and my time in the world of community health began! Senior year, I worked hard to complete my senior level nutrition classes and was fortunate enough to take a sports nutrition class, which I loved. After 3 years, a large amount of schoolwork, and countless amazing memories, I graduated from the University of Delaware with my Bachelor of Science in Dietetics.
I applied for a Dietetic Internship during my senior year, but did not get matched. The summer following my graduation, I continued to work for CCHS and added more skills and experience to my resume. I took part in a sodium study run by CCHS and the University of Delaware by cooking meals for the participants of the study, as they had to eat specific meals to track their sodium intake. I also taught nutrition to preschoolers as a part of our Get Fresh Club program. I applied to Dietetic Internships again in the Fall and once again, did not match. I have to admit that at this point I was feeling a bit discouraged, but I did not give up! In November, I was promoted and became a Health Coach where I worked with uninsured individuals in Delaware to connect them to health care resources. January arrived, and I applied for early decision to University of Delaware’s Dietetic Internship and finally I matched!! What an awesome feeling that was!
I continued working full time for CCHS until the start of my internship. At this time, I switched from a full time employee to what is known as a casual employee and worked part time while completing the internship. As a casual employee, I assisted with rewriting the nutrition curriculum for the Cardiovascular Outreach Prevention Program, a program about heart health for teens and significant adults in their lives. My first rotation was community, at the Food Bank of Delaware. Here, I increased my community health knowledge and I learned how to counsel patients. My second rotation was food service at the Wilmington Veterans Affairs Medical Center. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen learning the ins and outs of food service, cooking with the chefs, and gaining management skills. This is also where my passion for cooking began. My third rotation was clinical, also at the Wilmington Veterans Affairs Medical Center. I admit, I was very nervous about this rotation, but I did very well and learned a lot! Finally, my fourth rotation was at A.I. Dupont Children’s Hospital where I gained experience in pediatric nutrition.
The summer following my internship, I increased my hours at my job, and taught the curriculum I helped re-write, and cooked lunch and dinner for the teens at Camp Fresh, an educational urban garden summer program for teens. After a couple of months of intense study, I took the RD exam in July and passed!!! I was so excited, I hugged the man who gave me my results at the testing center and then spent the whole weekend celebrating.
The best advice I can give to students is to never give up. I am in a career that I absolutely love and I enjoy making a difference in the lives of others. This would never have happened if I gave up after my first rejection.
If you are thinking of becoming a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and have questions, feel free to reach out to me through the contact me page.