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.
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.
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.
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!