How To Become A Dietitian

If you are interested in helping others to achieve a healthier lifestyle, dietetics is a career to look into. Within dietetics there are several different routes one can take: diet aide, dietitian technician registered, and a registered dietitian.A registered dietitian is the more prestigious pathway to chose, and is the only one that allows an individual to legally offer advice on nutrition and provide nutritional assessments of individuals. The route to becoming a registered dietitian is not an easy one, and requires much time, work, patience, and diligence, all adding up to a great amount of specialized education within the field of nutrition.A dietitian is a title given to those with formal education in the field of nutrition. These professionals must take a series of undergraduate classes that focus on different aspects of nutrition, not necessarily major in nutrition, more so, they focus on classes including biochemistry, molecular biology, anatomy, physiology, chemistry, biology, organic chemistry, calculus, computer science and technology, among a series of nutrition courses.So, why all these courses? Well, think about it. You wouldn’t want someone who is going to advise you on your health to not understand the way your body works. Organic chemistry, biochemistry, and molecular biology, deal with the small reactions that occur in your body that are triggered from the nutrients you eat and need. The student does not freely choose these courses.Students in dietetics follow a pre-approved course scheduled reviewed by the American Dietetic Association (ADA). The courses and content are approved by the ADA to ensure that the students will graduate their undergraduate schools with the knowledge required to succeed in a dietetic internship. This specific program is called a Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education (CADE)-accredited Didactic Program in Dietetics. Not all universities offer programs in dietetics, so it is important to research whether the universities you are applying to offer such a program.After completing a serious of undergraduate courses, a dietitian must take an internship where they overshadow a current dietitian. Here, just like a medical doctor during their internship, they learn the ins and outs of being a dietitian, how best to deal with patients, how best to become a support system for their patients.The internships are generally a year in length; however, some programs may have programs that are shorter and accelerated or even longer in length. Individuals must complete at least 1200 hours of supervised practice during their internship prior to qualifying to take the CDR exam for dietitians. These hours are done in a variety of “rotations.” Interns can spend anywhere from 1-6 weeks in each rotation, with specializations ranging from administration, foodservice, industry, community nutrition, and women & infants. The exposure to such a broad spectrum of areas within nutrition allows individuals to learn which area they would like to find employment.After a year internship, an exam must be taken, distributed by the state. If passed, and if the undergraduate program from which the student graduated from is accredited, an individual earns the title, Registered Dietitian (RD). The exam is expensive, at around $200.00, consisting of anywhere between 125 and 145 questions.There are five main components to the exam: Food and Nutrition Sciences (12%), Nutrition Care Process Model (40%), Counseling, Communication, Education, and Research (10%), Foodservice System (17%), and Management (21%). Scores range from 1-50 and a 25 is required to pass the exam.After successfully completing the exam and becoming an RD, an individual must take a licensing exam, and become a Licensed Dietitian (LD). Once someone becomes a LD, they must take Continuing Education (CE) courses, as well as a licensing exam every so many years to maintain licensure.The steps described are a basic overview on how to become a dietitian. If you are seriously interested, look up a university/college that has an approved program and try and speak with their Didactics Program Director (DPD). They will be able to provide you with a more in-depth description of the coursework required with their program and you can get started planning your career as a dietitian.

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