I passed the RD exam on January 2, 2014 and that means I have officially been a registered dietitian for 1 full year! I can’t believe it has been that long… time flies when you’re having fun
I have an older post all about my journey to becoming a registered dietitian, but here is the abbreviated version: I got my degree in Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise in 2008 but initially didn’t complete a didactic program in dietetics (the accredited course load to be eligible to complete a dietetic internship). I worked as a school nutritionist until 2011, and then spent 3 years doing everything I needed to do to be able to sit for the RD exam. I still worked in the schools during that time so my life was crazy busy.
Steps to becoming an RD:
- Hold a bachelor’s degree
- Complete accredited dietetics program
- Complete a 1200-hour dietetic internship
- Pass the RD exam
So now that it has been a year, what are my thoughts on the entire process?
Becoming a registered dietitian was an important step in my career and I am absolutely 100% happy that I completed the process.
I learned a lot during my internship. I was honestly dreading completing my dietetic internship because I thought of the process as a formality for someone in my professional situation. I had initially planned on sticking with child nutrition and I felt like 5 years of work experience was much more valuable than 1200 hours interning.
While I definitely had a lot of knowledge about food service, completing my internship was humbling and showed me that you can never stop learning new things. I went from thinking the internship was a waste for me to feeling like no one should be able to practice nutrition without becoming a registered dietitian. And most importantly, by being exposed to other areas of nutrition, I realized mayyyyyyybe working in school food service was not the best fit for me.
I have easier/better access to research. This is mainly through also being a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. I like being able to read the most recent research and also follow plans for new research. This is definitely not something I paid as much attention to before I became an RD (because I was stuck in my child nutrition bubble).
I understand the nutrition code of ethics. Part of my dietetic internship stressed the ethical aspect of giving nutrition advice to others. This means, as an RD, we must give unbiased advice supported by nutritional research. This is something I always think about when I write nutrition-related blog posts. Sometimes I read blogs out there and just kind of scratch my head wondering where the poster got his/her information. I want my nutrition posts to say, “here are the facts: you should make your own decision.” I also learned that part of dietitians’ continue education units have to be related to ethics (which I need to work on, by the way!).
I have greater job options. I was limited professional by working in nutrition without actually being a registered dietitian. I had worked in school food service and had experience planning menus, but was obviously not considered to be as qualified to do menu planning and nutrition education when compared to others with the same work experience who also had their RD. I could have switched to working with WIC (not all of their nutritionists are required to have an RD) but would have been limited in my growth there as well. Becoming an RD has opened many doors for me
More professional connections! I love meeting other RDs and learning about their jobs. I also feel like sometimes we are kind of quirky in certain ways, and I like being around people who understand my quirks. I know other RDs out there will know what I mean by that!
I have more opportunities to help people. Something that I didn’t exactly love about being a school menu planner is that I felt like I wasn’t really making a difference to anyone. Now, I know this isn’t true because I was working with the free and reduced meal program, but it was easy to feel this way when I felt like all I ever did was field complains about the menu (too costly! too labor intensive! not healthy enough! too healthy, add more chicken nuggets!). I really love working in clinical where I have the opportunity to feel like I’m helping people every single day. It’s great
So, 1 year later, what piece of advice would I give to someone thinking about working in a nutrition-related field?
Definitely plan on getting your RD. You will not regret it!