My Journey to becoming a Registered Dietitian

Entrepreneurship

We all fail. And let’s just say if I gave up when I failed, I would never be where I am today.

I launched Dietitian Entrepreneur Academy (you can apply HERE) to help dietitians and RD-to-be’s start and grow an online business through authentic Instagram marketing and active and passive income offers. One one of my most frequently asked questions is about my path to becoming a registered dietitian (RD) so I thought a full post would be a helpful resource.

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The University of Pittsburgh was an easy choice for me when I looked at colleges. I knew I wanted to do something ‘medical’ and with so many hospitals around and a super urban campus, I fell in love.

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It was 6 hours from Rochester, Michigan (where I went to high school), which felt far enough away for me to ‘see the world’ and be independent but still be able to drive home for holidays. I started out as a pre-med and business major (a combined degree they had at Pitt) but quickly transitioned to focusing on science classes. I honestly didn’t know what people did with ‘business’ degrees at that point. I had seen a dietitian in high school and had also met with the dietitian at the University and I always looked up to those strong females who inspired me. I did some research on what it took to become an RD and found out about the School of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences and the BS in Clinical Dietetics and Nutrition at Pitt. I knew I didn’t want just a ‘biology degree’ as my parents urged me to find a degree that I could get a job I wanted outside of school. I had weighed what medical school would look like for me but I honestly had fallen in love with nutrition and health at that point. Organic chem and calculus kicked my butt but I worked hard to keep my GPA high so that I could apply into the school. I applied in my sophomore year as it was a 2-year program. I got in! I was ecstatic.

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Fast forward two years and I had completed both junior and senior years of coursework in order to become an RD. I vividly remember the moment my professor told me I needed to complete an ‘internship’ and that the two years of schooling wouldn’t be ‘enough’ to become a dietitian. I was baffled and a little upset. I would either have to apply and get matched to a year long un-paid (and costly) dietetic internship or apply to graduate programs. I was torn on my options to be honest. I was pretty set on getting into an internship. My parents urged me to apply to graduate programs as a ‘plan B’.

I remember hand-writing 6 or 7 essays (re-writing them over and over if I somehow messed up a letter) and applications for dietetic internships. I never visited the schools but applied to places in Colorado, Utah, California, etc (I’ve always had the travel bug!!). I also applied to Pitt’s Coordinated Masters Program in Dietetics. The awesome part about ‘coordinated’ programs is that in two years, you get your Master of Science degree AND complete your internship.Which means you can sit for the RD exam in just 2 years. Normal masters program do not mean that – you ALSO have to complete the internship. That would have meant 7 years of schooling for me total. Yeah. So that spring of my senior year I applied and applied. Match day was the most nerve-wracking day of my life. It’s basically the day the dietetic internships announce who is ‘matched’ to their internship and where you would be for the next year. I remember logging onto the portal and seeing: NO MATCH.

I was devastated. I thought my life was falling apart. I wanted this SO badly and I had failed. I cried for a while. I called my parents and broke the news. They talked me off a ledge. Let’s just say it was not a good day. I thought about all I did wrong. I had great experience as a diet aide in a well-known hospital and had volunteered in food service for years as well. I was the assistant for the food science lab (literally grocery shopped and stocked the kitchen for the labs) and I was even the president of the Student Dietetic Association (yes, overachiever here). I worked the 5 am shift in the hospital, wore hairnets and beige scrubs, and let’s just say, life is NOT glamorous to reach your goals. What I think I could have done to get me matched: I didn’t make any connections or go and see any of the schools. They didn’t know me – all they knew was my resume. A few days later, I received a letter from the University of Pittsburgh. I opened it: I was accepted into the Coordinated Masters Program at Pitt. My plan B was the best thing that ever happened to me. I was just so happy knowing I actually had a future as a dietitian. I had a path!

I accepted and started the grueling two years of school work and internship. Pitt’s program is clinically focused so we spent a full year in a hospital, along with approximately 3 months in a long-term care facility, 3 months in food service, 3 months in community nutrition, and several other weeks in corporate wellness, WIC (Women, Infants, and Children), retail (grocery stores), outpatient (diabetes, cancer, etc), a psych hospital (eating disorders), a dialysis center, burn unit, oncology, and a children’s hospital NICU.  We even spent a full week observing colonoscopies in the OR 🙂 In year 2, we would be in the hospital from 8-5 pm and then had classes from 6-8 pm. It was one of the toughest years of my life!

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I graduated in May 2012 with my Master of Science degree, spent 2 months studying to sit for the RD exam in July and passed!

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I used the Jean Inman course to study and I passed the first time so I would definitely recommend it. I started my first job outside of school in corporate wellness and then opened up my company (and started this blog!) in 2015. I liked learning clinical nutrition but never felt that it was the right decision for me career-wise and where I wanted to go. I can now truly say I LOVE what I do but it wasn’t with some failures along the way.

Thank you for reading along!

  1. Kiana Norris says:

    I love you journey to becomeing an RD. I am currently in my “dietary aide, hairnet wearing, 5am hospital shift” phase of my own RD journey so it was so inspiring and encouraging to read this. I love your passion for health, self-love, and nutrition. I’m glad to see all the hard work is worth it!

  2. Douglas S Wolfe says:

    Beautiful and inspiring to all that read this! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Liz says:

    I love that you shared your story! I had a “No Match” as well. It was one of the worst moments of my life…… but I’m now happy to say that I’m 10 weeks away from finishing my internship from my coordinated program! So for any RD2Be’s reading this…. keep going!!! Keep working hard!! It will all workout!

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