Becoming an RD
One of the most common questions I get is about the path that I am on to becoming a registered dietitian. My undergraduate degree was not in nutrition- it was in health and exercise science, which at my school was kind of a pre-health track. It dove into many different aspects of health and issues that are prevalent in healthcare, with an emphasis on kinesiology.
Once I took my first nutrition class in undergrad, it became clear that this was what I wanted to do. I think that for a while, I knew it, but tried to push it back/ deny it. I think that I was scared to want to go after a career centered around the thing (well, lack of the thing) that almost killed me. BUT I came to the realization that I have a special perspective that not everyone can say they have. I know what it’s like to be in the lowest of low relationships with food, and I used food to save me and to gain my life back. I want to be able to share this with people who are under the grasps of disorder and believe that food is the enemy.
Once I made up my mind, I was lost. There is such a lack of information out there about how to become an RD, and it didn’t help that I decided I wanted to take this route in the midst of changes in the system. That’s why I’m putting it all down here- for those who are lost as I was.
Enough about why I chose nutrition though, and more about what you came here for.
What do you need in order to become a registered dietitian?
1. a bachelor’s degree from a 4-year institution
2. a verification statement (obtained upon completion of DPD classes from an ACEND-accredited program. More on this in a bit)
3. a master’s degree (by 2024)
4. completion of an ACEND-accredited dietetic internship or supervised practice
5. to pass the Registered Dietitian Exam
6. appropriate licensure
Now I’m going to break it down just a little bit more.
Your degree does not have to be in nutrition, however, it is easier and quicker to complete DPD classes (Didactic Program in Dietetics) if it is. This set of classes includes a ton of sciences (chem, orgo, bio, anatomy, physiology, etc), nutrition science classes i.e. metabolism, food science classes, other nutrition classes (focusing on policy, education, life cycle, etc), counseling, professionalism, etc. etc. etc.
ACEND-accredited institutions will make it possible to complete the DPD classes and obtain the verification statement through completion of a nutrition and dietetics major. If your major if not nutrition though, it’s on you to make sure you are getting all of the DPD classes.
My undergraduate university did not have a nutrition department, but it did offer nutrition classes. Through completing my major, I was able to knock out a good amount of DPD classes without even trying. My graduate school (which I am in now) can count these classes (since they transferred over) in my DPD classes and they go towards my verification statement.
(Hi. Hopefully I haven’t lost you)
A master’s degree will be needed in order to become an RD by 2024. This is one of the reasons I am knocking mine out now (that, and the fact that I’m taking classes/ in school. Might as well make it a master’s).
My school is one that allows for DPD classes to be completed simultaneously with the master’s in nutrition, but not every school is like that. It’s so important to call schools and gather as much information as possible about the programs you’re considering before committing to one if you are someone who did not major in dietetics and is choosing this path post grad.
Once you’ve both graduated college (or grad school if you’re knocking it out now before 2024 like I am) and obtained a verification statement, it’s dietetic internship (DI) time. Typically people apply to these via DICAS (an online matching system) during their last semester of school.
I do not yet have experience with DICAS, as I am still getting my master’s and am not applying for DI yet, but basically you apply to and rank programs, and they rank you as well. You match with a program (or don’t match), similarly to medical students matching to residencies.
DI/ supervised practice is typically around 10 months long, and you learn the ins and outs of being an RD, completing clinical rotations and serving in the community.
FINALLY, after all that, you take the RD exam. This is a standardized exam and once you pass it (and pay some fees and obtain licensure), then you’re an RD!
@thewellnecessities and @emilieeats on Instagram both also have blog posts on how to become an RD that may help. Sometimes reading more than one perspective helps me to understand. Or maybe you just read this and are still lost and might understand the way Lisa or Emilie write better than the way I do LOL.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is also a great resource and you can find them at eatrightpro.org
Hope this helps!