Written by: Ava Elliott, MS, RD & Anna Jacobs, Dietetic Student & Marketing Intern
What is a Registered Dietitian? An RD or RDN is a credentialed healthcare professional that is an expert in all things nutrition-related. They provide the highest quality of care using evidence-based science and research. To become an RD, one must complete the school requirements, obtain a master’s degree (in 2024 it will be required), complete a dietetic internship with at least 1000 supervised hours of experiential learning, and pass the national examination.
I graduated in April from the University of Pittsburgh’s Dietitian Nutritionist Program with my master’s degree in Nutrition and Dietetics. I took my RD exam earlier this month and I am officially an RD!
My tips while going through school are to stay organized and show yourself grace and compassion. There is a lot you will be learning, and using pretty colored pens and highlighters for your planner, notes, post-its, etc. is the key to success. Once everything is organized you can focus on learning! I entered Pitt’s program as a sophomore in college and learned so much through classes like nutrient metabolism, pathophysiology, ethics, medical nutrition therapy, functional nutrition, and so many more! I recommend being a teaching assistant (TA) for a class if you can, to gain perspective from the professor’s point of view and sharpen your own leadership skills. Additionally, take any and every opportunity related to nutrition to gain experience and start to figure out your interest areas. During your dietetic internship, keep an open mind and remain curious. Sometimes you will feel slightly stressed because you will have a lot on your plate, but that is where you can show yourself compassion and take one day at a time, doing the best you can each day with productive work. During the year of your internship, you will learn SO much and even some things you dislike. All the opportunities are important to gain perspective and grow as a future professional.
When it comes to studying for the RD exam I recommend remaining organized and practicing self-compassion. I used Jean Innman’s study materials and made a schedule for myself to study six out of seven days a week for a month. I also kept a study log to keep myself accountable and track how many hours I studied during the month. Take care of yourself, allow yourself breaks, and find a way to be your own cheerleader. During the actual exam, I recommend staying confident and reading each question carefully. Trust in your knowledge and critical thinking skills! You spend a lot of time learning about nutrition before even taking the exam and you will know more than you think!
Hi! I’m Anna. I am currently studying to become an RDN! I will be a senior in college this fall, entering my 2nd year of Pitt’s Dietitian Nutritionist Program. Being one year into the program has already taught me so much about not only nutrition, but healthcare in general. No two classes are the same, even though they are all (mostly) nutrition-based! You are always learning something new!
If I had to give advice to any prospective dietetic students I would say believe in yourself! If you have a passion for this topic then you will have a great time learning about it. You and your peers will all go through it together and while it may be challenging it will also be incredibly fascinating! You’ll learn more than ever before and you’ll quickly find out how fun it is to implement into your everyday life. Additionally, don’t be afraid to ask questions! If you are entering a program you will be surrounded by tons of knowledgeable faculty. They will be more than willing to share their experiences and contacts with you! If there is an area of the field you’d like to learn more about, or a place you’d like to shadow, just ask! More times than not they want you to gain that experience and learn more about what you like and dislike in the field. You can do it!
By far, my favorite part of the program has to be the people. Most of my classes are with the same group of my peers. We’ve all become good friends and really enjoy learning together. There is always someone to study with, to ask questions, and to hang out with at the end of a long day! Additionally, the professors have all been wonderful. Each of them has great stories to share and expertise that you only get from a career in dietetics! I feel really lucky!
If you’re a prospective dietetic student and would like to chat, join us on Wednesday, August 2 for a Q&A on our Instagram!
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