Sunday, January 22, 2012

Wanting To Become A RD? 10 Things Undergrads Need To Know.

After reading an interesting post made by an newly announced Dietitian, I've decided to share it forward. Deciding on a college major, for some, is a difficult venture; especially when you don't have a lot of insightful information from current/graduate students. I've decided to compile some helpful insights for becoming a RD. This list was put together with help from RD Exposed and my undergrad experiences. Let me know what you would add to the list and what you found to be helpful and surprising! Enjoy!

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

1. Know What You're Getting Into. As mentioned by the The Academy, Dietitians are expected to be the nutrition "expert" in food science, food service, community nutrition, and medical nutrition therapy. One thing that some students do not realize is that many patients, especially in a clinical setting, do not want to hear one word we have to say. Sometimes the word "Dietitian" is associated with "food nazi" and skinny women/men that absolutely cannot relate; which is absolutely untrue if you've taken a good psychology and Dietetic Communication course. I suggest shadowing several RDs to grasp a diverse understanding of what different types of dietitians do.

2. Consider If You Like Nutrition More As a Hobby Than a Job. Some people have a niche towards community nutrition, clinical nutrition, or dietetics administration, but some of these areas and there duties may surprise students. Not all positions are flexible and allow you to cover trends in nutrition and not all clients/patients want to hear about these rising trends and benefits. Shadowing several dietitians wills give you access to multiple types of nutrition work and will help you decide which area is best suited for you.

3. Are You a People Person? It's hard finding a dietitian that struggles with people skills because this is the root of being a dietitian. Dietitians need to be able to engage with any type of person they come in contact with and this is especially important for success. Gaining volunteer experiences during your undergrad will help advance these skills and definitely consider a leadership course or experience (this also looks great on your resume)!

4. Can You Keep Cool Under Pressure? Many patients/clients may become defensive when they do not believe they have a problem or even considering change, so being able to remain cool, calm and collected comes in handy. You'll need to be able to express reasoning in tense situations without stepping on toes. Any type of hospital or community nutrition experience would be great to work on this important trait.

5. Do You Have A Love/Hate Relationship with Science? Many people seem surprised by how much science is involved with a Dietetics degree. Get ready for some chemistry plus labs, biology plus lab, microbiology plus lab, and biochemistry. Not to mention statistics, accounting, microeconomics and management classes are needed as well.

6. Are You Wanting To Make A Ton of Money? Dietetics will set you up for a nice salary, but you're not going to be rolling in it. Dietetics can prepare you for professional schools such as denistry, physician assistant, physical therapy, pharmacy school and many more.

7. Are You Prepared For Getting Through Undergrad and Not Getting An Internship The First Time Around? It is true. Landing an internship is very challenging and there are more nutrition students than there are dietetic internships. Make yourself more marketable and diverse from the rest by having varied volunteer experiences - this will give you an edge over other students applying for internships.

8. Are You Prepared To Work For 10 Months Without Pay? During your internship you will be working full-time and paying tuition. The experiences that you gain are extremely worth the investment; not to mention, you need your internship to sit for your RD exam.

9. Are You Willing To Move/Commute? You may need to commute to get to your undergrad/masters program, internship sites, and place of employment. This along with the type of program you want is definitely something to consider.

10. Are You Okay With Working Weekends, Holidays, and Snow Days? Inpatient and some food service systems require dietitians to work these days. You must be flexible to work towards what you want.

Additional Tips
  • Start utilizing your advisers and professors to your advantage; make connections and create bonds. These are the professionals that will be writing your letters of recommendation when you apply for your internship.

  • Start volunteering as soon as possible. Your internship may require 100 plus hours, so beginning soon will be helpful. Try to get as many diverse experiences as possible.

  • During your undergrad you will receive many certifications (ServSafe, Manage First, etc.) - begin to organize and file these away, so they will be handy once it's time to begin your internship.

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