Becoming a Registered Dietitian: Part One

Join Julie at RDelicious Kitchen as she shares the steps in order to become a Registered Dietitian and her journey to becoming a RD.
National Nutrition Month - Becoming a Registered Dietitian via RDelicious Kitchen @rdkitchen

Happy National Nutrition Month. In case you missed it, stop over to my blog post earlier this week to learn about what National Nutrition Month is and the difference between a Registered Dietitian and a Nutritionist.

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So, how to you become a Registered Dietitian?
Every Registered Dietitian needs to complete the following in order to get those little RD credential letters after your name.
[Step One] Complete a set of course accredited by the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics (AND).
[Step Two] Complete a dietetic internship, also accredited by the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics.
[Step Three] Study, study, study, and pass the RD exam!
[Step Four] Continue to learn and keep up with the latest research with continuing education credits.

Becoming a Dietitian: Part One - College courses and dietetic internships via RDelicious Kitchen @rdkitchen

Today, we are going to learn a little more about steps 1 & 2.
Step One: Complete a set of course approved by the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics (AND). 
In order to move on to step two of completing a dietetic internship, you must complete at least a bachelor’s degree and ACEND-accredited coursework requirements (Didactic Program in Dietetics).
Now, where some colleges have nutrition courses, they may not be accredited by AND or cover the required materials to move on to completing a dietetic internship. Be sure to research schools before applying.
Find accredited nutrition programs here:
Didactic Programs in Dietetics

Step Two: Complete a dietetic internship, also accredited by the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics.

After you complete all of the undergraduate course work, the next step is to apply to a dietetic internship, and get accepted!

AND provides another portal for you to see the various internship programs here:

AND - Dietetic Internship Programs

Dietetic Internship programs are very competitive, so it is important to keep your GPA up during undergraduate course work and be involved in various activities and volunteer experiences as much as possible.

There is a common application called DICAS (Dietetic Internship Central Application Services) to upload all of your prerequisite course, resume, volunteer experience, etc.

You are able to apply to as many programs as you choose, but then you are ranked according to your application and matched to one of the internships that you applied to. For a better understanding of the matching system click here.

Often schools will also hold interviews for the applicants they are interested in.

Currently all DIs must provide at least 1200 hours of supervised practice. This is usually completed in 8-24 months depending on the availability of a part-time schedule or requirement of graduate credit. Individuals completing the program who are verified by the program director are eligible to write the CDR registration examination for dietitians. Read in more detail of the coursework completed during a dietetic internship here.

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“When you grow up, what do you want to be?” How many times were you asked that when you were younger. I don’t think many children really raise their hand and say Registered Dietitian, myself included.
I remember being a senior in high school with so many different ideas of what I wanted to do for a career. I just remember feeling so stressed with the feeling at 17 years old deciding what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
I actually started at Cabrini College with a major in Health Promotion. Honestly, part of my interest there was that I could play field hockey, but as I was attending Cabrini, I realized that this school and this major was not for me. I still wanted to be in the health field, but unsure where.

Cabrini Field Hockey team photo

Cabrini Field Hockey team photo

Step One: 
The next year, I transferred to Johnson & Wales University where I can say it was one of the best decisions of my life. For work, I recently spoke to a high school about going to culinary school and then how to become a Registered Dietitian after. I was reminiscing of all of the amazing classes and opportunities I had there that really made me grow in the profession as a Registered Dietitian.
Johnson & Wales - Culinary School with accredited DPD nutrition courses
Going to culinary school is not as the traditional route of undergraduate course studies that many nutrition students take in order to become a Registered Dietitian.
At Johnson & Wales you must complete an Associate’s Degree in Culinary Arts before going into the Bachelor’s Degree of Culinary Nutrition that contains the accredited DPD classes.

Becoming a RD with a culinary school track

My first day at Johnson & Wales!

The Associate’s Degree in Culinary Arts really covered all the basics of cooking skills, techniques, various cuisines, and cooking methods with classes like:

  • Knife Skills
  • Stocks, Sauces, and Soups
  • Skill of Meat Cutting
  • Intro to Baking and Pastry
  • International Cuisine
    (see more here)

Then you have to apply to the Bachelor’s Degree for Culinary Nutrition at Johnson & Wales where you continue to take culinary classes, but with a heavy nutrition focus and cover all the academic nutrition courses accredited by AND as well.

(^ that was actually one of my Chefs when I was attending JWU!)
Some of the Culinary Nutrition classes include:

  • Vegetarian Cuisine
  • Athletic Performance Cuisine
  • Spa Cuisine
  • Food Science
  • Nutrition Assessment
  • Medical Nutrition Therapy
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Anatomy and Physiology
    (see more here)

These classes were so valuable. I use so much of the material I learned from JWU today. With a degree in Culinary Nutrition, it really opens up so many doors for different careers in nutrition.
After completing JWU, I actually didn’t go on right away into a dietetic internship program. During the application process during my senior year at JWU, I ended up needing surgery and took a full trimester off from classes. I then had to finish my courses during the that summer after graduation.

I feel like taking the year off before applying was actually a blessing in disguise. It gave me time to really research and figure out that I definitely wanted to take the next steps to become a Registered Dietitian. I worked to save money and really improved my resume with more volunteer hours and various experiences to strengthen my application. Without that extra oomph, would I have gotten in if I applied right out of JWU?.. We will never know!
Step Two:
I was accepted to the College of Saint Elizabeth for my dietetic internship!
CSE dietetic internship
By completing my dietetic internship at the College of Saint Elizabeth, I completed 1200 + hours of supervised practice in many different areas including: food service management, medical surgical inpatient care, enteral/parenteral nutrition, developmental care, school food service, diabetes outpatient care, renal outpatient care, community nutrition, long term care, and corporate wellness.
Becoming a Registered Dietitian via RDelicious Kitchen @rdkitchen
The 3 dietetic coordinators at CSE were absolutely amazing. They all had different areas of specialties which I really felt like brought the whole program full circle in helping prepare the students for success.
Becoming a Registered Dietitian via RDelicious Kitchen @rdkitchen
With covering so many hours of the dietetic internship, I was able to experience so many setting of where a dietitian can work and what dietitians do in these various settings. I learned a SO much more than what a text book could ever provide. I am a much better learner hands-on and this is exactly what the dietetic internship is.
Becoming a Registered Dietitian via RDelicious Kitchen @rdkitchen
With being exposed to so many setting of what a dietitian can do, also helped me figure out what I wanted for my career as a Registered Dietitian. Personally, for me I knew clinical wasn’t the setting that I was looking for long term. As I found it rewarding, I just think being in hospitals myself for various reasons, I wasn’t particularly fond of the environment.
While the dietetic internship prepared me a lot .. there was still A LOT of studying needed to be done before taking the RD exam. So stay tuned!
Coming up: 
Becoming a Registered Dietitian: Part Two – Study tools and materials for the RD exam
Becoming a Registered Dietitian: Part Three – My experience as a Registered Dietitian
RDelicious KitchenDisclosure: I received permission by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for use of NNM logo.