Hi friends! Here are a few of your most frequently asked questions.
What is the difference between a Registered Dietitian and a Nutritionist?
A Registered Dietitian is a nutritionist (sometimes, you will see Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)), but a nutritionist is not a Registered Dietitian. Registered Dietitians must complete coursework approved by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (← what a mouthful.) Essentially, becoming a Registered Dietitian is an extensive process that requires a lot of education, over 1,200 hours of supervised practice, and passing of the Registration Examination for Dietitians.
How did you decide that you wanted to become a Registered Dietitian?
I answer that here!
Where did you take your prerequisite classes? And when?
In the Fall of 2013, I decided to take serious steps towards changing careers and becoming a Registered Dietitian. Because I received a B.S. in Economics, I needed to take a few extra prerequisite classes before I started my Masters of Public Health/Coordinated Dietetics program. Here is how I completed my prerequisites:
- Chem 101, Chem 102, Psychology 101, Anthropology 101 and Biology 101 (undergrad)
- Introduction to Nutrition (Fall 2013 – Northern Virginia Community College)
- Microbiology + Lab (Spring 2014 – Northern Virginia Community College)
- Organic Chemistry + Anatomy & Physiology I (Summer 2014 – Northern Virginia Community College)
- Introduction to Biochemistry (Spring 2015 – Northern Virginia Community College)
- Introduction to Food Science (Summer 2015 – University of Washington)
- Anatomy & Physiology II (Summer 2015 – Northern Virginia Community College)
What were you doing before you went back to school?
Prior to starting graduate school, I worked as a financial analyst for 5 years. I started my career at a Fortune 500 company before moving to a Chicago-based non-profit organization. I also taught spinning classes 3 days/week at Biker Barre, a local spinning/ballet barre studio in Capitol Hill.
Did you have any nutrition-related experience when you applied to schools?
The only relevant experience I had was volunteer work.
Where do you recommend taking Biochem? In-person vs. online?
I took an online course through Northern Virginia Community College. Biochem was by far the most difficult course that I took, and I don’t recommend taking it online. I also learn much better with hands-on activities, so the online environment just isn’t conducive to my learning style. It may suit you better!
I will say that I didn’t feel 100% comfortable in some of the harder sciences classes at UW because my biochem background wasn’t strong enough (I was able to catch up, but had to put in some extra effort). If I had to give you a recommendation, it would be to take an in-person biochem class with a great instructor. Biochem is going to be the foundation of some of your core classes at UW, so it’s really important that you learn the material.
I had a friend take biochem at Bastry University. It was expensive (I’m not sure how much, but she mentioned it wasn’t cheap), but she learned a ton and really rocked our core classes. I had a few people in my cohort take biochem at their state schools, and they seemed to have a better experience than the people who took classes through online programs or community colleges.
Questions about the application process
When did you hear back from UW?
I received an interview invitation in late January, and received my admissions decision via mail in early March. I received an email that I moved off the waiting list in late March.
What steps did you take to get accepted into graduate school?
Please visit this page for details!
Do you have any tips for prospective nutrition students?
Yes! You can see my tips for applying to coordinated dietetic programs here.
How should I prepare for an interview with my prospective program?
In terms of preparation, I would make sure you can articulate why your prospective program is your top choice. Be able to talk about specific aspects of the program that appeal to you.
If you can, I would try to incorporate ‘selling’ points into your answers – i.e. how will your prospective program benefit from having YOU in the program? Highlight your unique experiences and how you’ve worked well in teams and showed professionalism. As a dietetic intern, you are representing the school, and they want to make sure they are sending responsible and professional interns to their rotation sites that they’ve spent years building relationships with.
I would also focus on rehersing the typical interview questions, including having your ‘elevator speech’ nailed down. Other questions to consider: times when you’ve overcome a challenging team dynamic, examples of situations when you haven’t agreed with your manager and how you handled it, your greatest strengths, WHY you want to study nutrition, why your program specifically, etc.
I would also make sure you have a very strong close. They will likely ask you if you have any questions about the program at the end – make sure you have a few example questions that cannot be answered from their website. And then at the very end, reemphasize why you are interested in the program, thank them for the opportunity, and say that you really excited at the prospect of becoming a student (or something similar!)
Questions about the UW program
What are the main differences between the MPH and MS program?
I wanted to start off by saying that you can switch between the MS and MPH program after you are admitted to UW. There were a few people in my cohort who were on the fence when they started, so they decided to take the MPH classes just in case. One person decided to switch and one decided to stay, but the MS student who didn’t switch is really glad she took the classes! I believe the MPH program is slightly more expensive, but not by a lot.
In terms of coursework, the MPH degree requires an additional 4-5 classes (not sure exactly on the number) that are all public health focused. I found almost all of them incredibly valuable because I think it’s really important for all clinicians to understand that multiple factors contribute to health outcomes. Also, the MPH degree will not limit you to working in the public health field – many of us want to do clinical work after school and feel the MPH degree will be an asset when we apply for jobs. The MPH program at UW is also very well known (#6 in the country), so I wanted to make sure that I had it on my resume. Getting the MPH degree also leaves doors open if I do end up going into public health eventually…it’s much more difficult to compete for a public health role if you have an MS degree.
The major difference between the MS and MPH is the 7-8 week “concentration” rotation that you do in your second year. For MS students, it’s an MNT (Medical Nutrition Therapy) rotation that focuses on individual patient care (I believe most likely in the hospital.) For MPH students, it’s a population-focused rotation. You can see examples of past projects here. I don’t have mine organized yet, so I can’t give a good example of an MPH rotation. I may share it eventually on the blog if I get permission! 🙂
I considered switching to the MS given my current career goals, but decided against it for all of the reasons listed above. Even if I had to redo the program, I would still stick with the MPH!