I started college with my sights set on becoming a nurse. In the midst of completing my prerequisite classes in order to apply for the nursing program at Georgia State University (GSU), I stumbled upon an elective introductory nutrition class that was taught by a registered dietitian, Lauren Lorenzo.
I honestly didn’t even know what a registered dietitian was at the time; however, the class sparked an interest that burned a hole big enough for me to climb out of my nursing dream and jump to an entirely different one! It wasn’t just the material that attracted me to the nutrition field. Lorenzo inspired me to make the switch – she never even knew it! Her work with Strong4Life and passion for nutrition was incredible. Before I could even finish the class, I changed my major to nutrition.
Making the commitment was definitely nerve-wracking , especially since I had used up more than half of my Hope scholarship hours. Thankfully, the prerequisites for nursing and nutrition were almost identical. I only had to take a few extra classes to meet the requirements to apply for the Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD) that GSU offered.
The GSU DPD application was self-managed. I first made sure I met their eligibility requirements, and then I proceeded to completing the application packet. They give you a checklist to keep track of everything they need turned into them in order to be considered that helped keep me organized.
I think the biggest challenge for me was writing my statement of professional goals. They gave a maximum of two pages. The thought of planning out my professional goals for someone to read in two pages was initially daunting. It then turned out to be too little the deeper I got into writing. So I went with being short and to the point. I made sure that they knew I had the experiences, skills, and drive to take on a challenging two years of rigorous coursework to complete the program. I guess it worked, because I got in!
After starting the program, I quickly realized that getting in was just the beginning. Unlike nursing, the supervised practice wasn’t integrated into the DPD. Both the completion of the coursework and a supervised practice are required to sit for the national registration examination for dietitians. A few months before completing the DPD, I had to submit an application so I could get matched to a supervised practice program similar to what medical students have to do in order to get matched to a residency, internship, or fellowship.
Juggling my work, school, volunteer, and personal life was intense to say the least, but it did pay off. I was matched to Southern Regional Medical Center, and I start as a dietetic intern in August 10, 2015! Then I just have to pass the exam to become registered. Whew… Two more boulders to shatter, and I’ll be an RDN! On a side note, RD and RDN is the same thing.
PLEASE do remember this: all dietitians are nutritionist, but not all nutritionists are dietitians!
In the state of Georgia, you have to be a licensed dietitian (LD) to practice as an RD. State laws vary in this case. Some states will allow you to practice just as an RD. Others will require both RD and LD credentials. Examinations also differ in states as far as attaining the LD credential. Some use the same exam as the CDR, but other states may use a different one (in which case you’ll have to take two different exams to be an RD and LD).
EEK! Fortunately, Georgia uses the CDR exam to get the LD credential. This calls for another whew!
Here are a few links that may be helpful in exploring this field:
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
- Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics
- Commission on Dietetic Registration\
Check out the basics of what it takes to become an RDN below.
Please share it with anyone who may be interested in becoming an RDN or if you’re just plain tired of explaining what it is to be an RDN to your friends, family, and even acquaintances.