The Road to RD

Happy Registered Dietitian Day!

As part of National Nutrition Month, we actually get our own “day”. Not that this typically includes any sort of celebration, but it’s fun to mark on the calendar.

Now, the question I get often from students, adults in transition and friends – How do you become a Registered Dietitian? This field of work has garnered quite the amount of attention, and an increasing interest has a lot of people wondering what they need to do for those two letters after their name. So, here’s how I did it:

Fall, 2007: As I finished up my B.S. in Nutritional Science (graduated May 2008 from Penn State), many hours were spent looking up different programs, fine-tuning the list of pros/cons, and narrowing it down to those I wanted to apply for.

For those of you looking now, here is the current list of Dietetic Internships.

Tip for applying: Keep in mind that applications typically ask for three letters of recommendation – try to include one RD (and/or Nutrition Professor), one Food Service professor (if relevant and/or possible), and one Professional contact (Boss, Colleague, etc).

All applications and rankings* were due on the same day, February 15, and then? You wait! Program directors will contact you for interviews, submit their rankings*, and then the computer works some magic…

At the end of April, I logged on at 12 a.m. CST to find out where my life was going after graduation. I saw “University of Maryland, College Park and could not have been happier!

*Each applicant ranks the programs they apply for (“1” being the one they consider their best choice); each program ranks the applicants; a computer matches the two. You can only be accepted into one program, based on this matching system.

Graduation 024 Dean Wei with Dietetic interns at FNIC Conference Day

From August 2008 – June 2009, I was a “Dietetic Intern”. This means you “work” ~40 hour weeks in various areas of Dietetics (Clinical, Food Service, Community), complete weekly and/or monthly assignments, and study when you can. It means you are completing supervised practice hours, and prepping yourself for the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) certification exam.

Dining Services Employee Wellness program update by Courtney and Heather DSCN0426 4.27 003

Our program was specifically designed to include Information Technology training; we had the opportunity to work with FNIC (USDA) and IFIC, build our own professional web sites, and learn about various software available for presentations, webinars, picture editing, etc. Clearly this was something that captured my interest!

I then took my elective week to spend time shadowing a Sports Dietitian in DC; Rebecca became a colleague, mentor, and good friend.

After 9 months of the Intern life, graduation came & the job search began. I studied, moved to DC, got hired for my first job, studied more, and eventually took the CDR exam. I passed! Heather Calcote, RD.

a_ 6.26 010 wic-program-logo

Once those letters are yours, the world opens up. Traditional Dietitian jobs are not longer the only option, and our field continues to grow and create opportunities. My interests are always evolving – Social Media, Sports Nutrition, Writing/Educating, Food, Fitness – and I continue to learn what being an RD can really mean.

Edited to add:
Since closing a chapter at WIC, I’ve gone on to work for lululemon as an Educator, for Small Planet Foods in Marketing, and now for WCS as a Wellness Coach & Program Manager. Like I said, the world opens up…


For those of you reading this that are thinking about taking the road above, ask ANY questions you have & get all the help you need! We’ve all been through it, and we’re happy to help!



Filed under about me, DC, Dietitians, in the News, learning, Nutrition

30 responses to “The Road to RD

  1. My question is about the beginning part – I reviewed the internship site and that’s obviously the path to take once you have acquired a bachelor’s degree – right? So what did you get your bachelor’s IN? What is the best path to take prior to acquiring RD certification?

    • Heather C

      I graduated with a B.S. in Nutritional Sciences, but you don’t necessarily have to go that route. There are certain courses required, which are listed here 🙂 Hope that helps!

  2. Happy Registered Dietitian Day! Loved this post because I’ve always been interested in how you got in to the whole Dietitian thing.

  3. Simply amazing. SO proud of how HARD you worked to get where you are today. Amazing:)

  4. happy day! thanks for sharing a part of your history with us!

  5. I did a post similar to this today too Heather! Happy RD Day!!

  6. congrats sto you! Youre an amzing RD! I studied nutrition in college (my major) yet couldn’t even get through clinicals. YUCK!! SO I opted for the sports nutrition certification. Not nearly as cool as you. hehe!

    • Heather C

      Ha, no just as cool! As long as you’re happy with what you’re doing (I’m guessing “yes” on that one…) 😉

  7. This is awesome! Very informative! One of my good friends is in the middle of her 12-month (maybe that’s a Canadian thing that you have to do 12 months??) dietetic internship! After 4 years of university plus 1 year of interning I think she’s VERY excited to have RD after her name 🙂

    • Heather C

      Each program is different! At one point there were some that only lasted 6 months – crazy! That’s not an option anymore, as they increased the amount of supervised practice hours required.

  8. Happy RD Day to my favorite RD! I hope you do something fun to celebrate…you know, like cook amazing healthy food. 🙂

    I love reading about the road you took!

  9. Happy Registered Dietitian Day! (for some reason, I always want to spell it “dietician”)

    Fun to see a glimpse of your journey. I remember when you became RD! Awesomeness!!!

  10. Kaitlynn Fortunato

    Happy RD Day Heather! What a great post :). We are almost done with our year and hope to be as successful as your class! Hope to talk to you soon!

    • Heather C

      Thanks, Kaitlynn! It may not seem like it, but those months will go quickly with a busy spring schedule!! Good luck at all the Dietetic Assoc. meetings 🙂

  11. thanks for sharing. i have started gaining so much more interest in nutrition. i worked with someone who went through the institute of integrative nutrition. i was happy with the counseling i received. i realize it is not comparable to a full RD but what are your thoughts on it ?

    • Heather C

      I think that the Nutrition/RD experience is different for each person! Going the integrative nutrition route will open doors, no doubt, but there are still a lot of jobs that require the RD. It just depends on what you’re interested in doing with the certification…

  12. runyogarepeat

    Happy RD Day! I love all the info about applying for internships on RD blogs. It’s going to be so helpful next fall/winter when I’m applying. Did you consider a combined master’s/dietetic program when you were applying?

    • Heather C

      I did! But I wasn’t 100% sure where my interests were in Nutrition yet, and wanted to wait for a real passion to come along before signing on for a Master’s. It’s a great way to go, though, if you know what you want to do!

  13. oh, memories! great summary. i don’t think many know how much we go through to get those letters!

  14. Lee

    I didn’t know that you went to Maryland. My brother just got accepted into the Physics PHD program there.

  15. Mamacita

    So proud of you! Happy RD Day to my favorite RD!!!
    Love, Mamacita

  16. I graduated from Maryland with Kendra! Sometimes I wish I had gone the RD route…who knows!

  17. Matt H.

    Nice post!!! I applied to UMD, College Park this go round but I didn’t get contacted for an interview:( bummer. Maybe next year

  18. I got my BS in Nutrition from Penn State too! Great program

  19. Pingback: The One Where We Read Things That Already Happened | Dietitian on the Run

  20. Pingback: Calorie Conversations | Dietitian on the Run

  21. Pingback: How to Become A Certified Trainer - Blonde Ponytail

Let's Hear It!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s