Howdy and Happy Thursday!!! I’m excited to be kicking off my weekend a day early today because we have a family wedding on Saturday. I’m taking part of today off and my older brother is flying into Charlotte this afternoon to stay with me. I feel like I only mention my sister here since she lives a lot closer to me, but I’m excited to spend some quality time with my brother (and my whole family) this weekend!
But before I head out of town, I wanted to drop in with another dietitian-related post.
RD Q& A
A few weeks ago, I got an email from a reader asking me about becoming a dietitian. It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these so here are her questions with my responses:
1. Would you say that the amount of years you spend working towards becoming a dietician was really worth it? Is there a shorter time spam to becoming an RD?
You can really become an RD within a normal period of undergraduate schooling (4-5 years), so I would say yes. You can complete a didactic program in dietetics (4 years- bachelor’s degree) and then a dietetic internship (1200 hours / ~1 school year) to be able to sit for the RD exam. It’s really no different than completing another degree program. What takes longer is if you have a career in something else and then decide to go back to school to be an RD.
A way to shorten that is to look into coordinated programs. Those combine your coursework/degree program with the dietetic internship. So you would be eligible to sit for the RD exam right when you graduate instead of completing an internship separately. This takes 4 years and saves you that extra year of completing the dietetic internship separately.
2. What is the difference between working at a hospital or maybe a school/private practice?
Well, there are so many differences between all of the different types of RDs that I don’t even know where to start! I began my career working in schools and continued to do so after I became an RD. In the schools, I planned the menus, selected food products, and worked with special diets like food allergies. Schools were very focused in food service management.
I now work in a hospital in an inpatient setting. This means I see patients who are admitted to the hospital when they are sick. You can read my Day in the Life of a Clinical RD here to get an idea of a typical day. I really do not do anything with food service at my current job except notify the diet office of a patient’s food preference. My job is focused on medical nutrition therapy. This includes performing nutrition assessments, managing nutrition support (tube feedings, TPN/PPNs) and providing nutrition education.
There are many different specialties within the dietetics practice. A private practice dietitian could specialize in just 1 thing, like athletic performance or diabetes management. Even in a clinical setting, there are different areas or specialties. For example, there are renal dietitians who only work with patients on dialysis.
The great thing about the dietetic internship is that you have to do rotations in all of the different areas, so you can see first-hand what you like and don’t like.
Since you do work at a hospital, what is your favorite thing about it?
Well, above all else, I leave many days feeling like I have helped someone. That is a great feeling!
I really like that I do the same thing everyday. I have the same routine and generally know what my day is going to be like. But then things stay interesting because my patients change, so I never get bored.
3. Is it possible to get your doctorate in nutrition while being a RD? If so, what would really be the difference between the two?
Your RD is a registration that you get after you have your bachelor’s degree. To become an RD you have to meet 4 criteria: hold a bachelor’s degree, complete accredited dietetics coursework, complete a 1200hr internship and pass your RD exam.
Getting your doctorate is basically just getting an additional degree, so that is an option for you after you have your bachelor’s degree. I’m not familiar with PhD programs in nutrition but I don’t even know if it’s a requirement to be an RD to get your PhD in nutrition. I don’t think there is.
I think you should go for whatever makes you feel fulfilled personally and professionally, but I’m not sure how useful a PhD in nutrition would be unless you are going to be doing research and/or teaching at a university. It is definitely not necessary in any of the jobs where I’ve worked. One thing that IS beneficial is condering getting an MBA if you want to step into a management role. Just a thought
4. I am not looking for a job that is based solely on money, I want to be happy with my job and not dread it when I wake up in the morning although I also want to be financially stable. Would you say that the salary of a RD is enough to accommodate your financial needs?
The good thing about being a dietitian is that you have SO many career options. Just like any job, you will start out making less and increase your salary based on your experience and level of responsibility. You could start out as an entry-level dietitian making $35,000 per year and work your way up to running a food service management company making 6 figures. It’s up to you and what you want to do. You will probably not get rich being a regular dietitian, but there are opportunities for increases in salaries if you are willing to take on a supervisory role within your field.
Just from my personal experience, there tends to be higher pay and more room for job growth in food service management. But the difference in pay is negligible if you are happier in another area.
The good thing about RDs is that we really are the experts when it comes to nutrition. You will find there are many opportunities for consulting and paid speaking engagements. Maybe a running store is looking for an RD to speak about nutrition and athletic performance, or a school system is looking to outsource their menu nutrient analysis. For these types of things, people will usually be looking for a registered dietitian, not just a ‘nutritionist’.
Hope that answers all of your questions!!!
Have a great Thursday