I’ve noticed that a lot of blogging dietitians have this page on their blog where they explain how they went through the process of becoming a registered dietitian and I am so grateful for them! Through reading about other’s experiences and having questions answered at school, I have a handle on the road I have ahead of me.
I can remember being newly out of college and working at one of my first quality control jobs thinking about how I liked food and working out, so I wondered if I had the qualifications to work as a dietitian with my biology degree from Heidelberg. I did not. That was the first time I saw that you needed a specific nutrition and dietetics degree, verification statement basically saying that you have completed all required nutrition classes, and completed an internship with an accredited school. I quickly left that idea behind because I had just recently graduated with my pretty non-specific degree, and assumed that I would move forward building on that. It had to be good for something!
It certainly was! I wouldn’t trade my time at Heidelberg for anything and that biology degree that I like to beat up on has provided me with the job I have now that so wonderfully allows me to go to school and keep up with my demanding post-student life.
Two years later I was training for my third marathon, and I realized that I still really liked food and working out and by this time in life, I needed a little more career wise to keep me going. So I decided to send some emails and find out just how practical it would be for me to return to school and essentially get a second bachelors degree before I could more forward. I am very lucky to have landed in Akron right down the street from the university because they not only have a nutrition and dietetics program, but two different routes that I could potentially take.
Akron’s two different programs are the coordinated program and the didactic program. Remember that internship I mentioned having to complete? This is the difference in the programs.
The coordinated program is completing the internship along with completing your courses for the verification statement. This program is more time consuming and intense because you of cramming three years into two.
The didactic program is completing your courses, getting your verification statement, and applying for an internship on your own. This has a 51% match rate. Yikes!
If you are a traditional undergraduate student, you take general education classes and the prerequisites needed for the programs your first two years and apply to either in the spring of your second year. For me, there were some prerequisites that I needed to take because I had never at Heidelberg and science classes that I had to retake because it had been five years since I had originally. I started taking classes in June of 2014 and continued through fall semester of 2014 and spring of 2015 before I applied to the didactic program.
My decision to apply to this program was because I am not a traditional student and I would have a hard time trying to find the time to fit in the volunteering and shadowing hours required to get into the program, let alone the demanding schedule during the program while trying to work as much as needed to keep up with life! I was accepted into the didactic program in May of 2015 and started again with classes this past September.
It was the first day of intro to medical nutrition therapy that I started thinking about the 51% match rate for applying to internships after graduation. I didn’t like those odds so I starting calculating and plotting to fit in those shadowing and volunteer hours so I could apply to the coordinated program this February. I think it’s far more worth it to have some discomfort being extremely busy and stressed if it means coming out on the other side of graduation ready to take the RD exam and begin working! This is where I am very lucky again, not all schools have the option of the coordinated program. Somewhere else I would have to take my chances in that matching pool for an internship.
I’m happy to report that I was able to complete all the necessary shadowing hours, get a few volunteer hours in, apply, and get accepted! I’m officially a dietetics student in the coordinated program.
It was such a relief to know that even thought the next two years would be tough with a complicated schedule and little time for myself. Once it’s all said and done, I’ll be a dietitian and on my way to new career goals!
Once I decided to do it and go back to school even though it was a lateral move, I’ve never doubted that being a dietitian and doing work where I could help others and provide a service is what I wanted to do. Looking back to that year where I was taking the prerequisites, I was so excited to get into the program and start the nutrition classes and once I did, again it was everything that I wanted to do! It was also very refreshing to learn in class, and then shadow other dietitians where they were applying exactly what I was learning. So neat 🙂
Being a registered dietitian is not a job you can just get after graduating with some sort of a degree, it’s a process! I’m very grateful I had to push the jump right in and figure some of the little details out as I went.
For anyone considering this career, I would be so happy to answer any questions and provide encouragement!