RD Interview (for a high school career project)

Happy December! It’s hard to believe it is almost January and the start of a new year! I’m getting this post up a little late. But I wanted to share this interview I had with a current high school senior who is interested in a career in nutrition as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. For a project, she sent me these questions to answer for her. I love talking about why I went into nutrition and my career now to high school and college students because I was once that girl too just trying to figure out my passions and what I wanted to do with my life.
Hope it helps you too!
What made you want to become a dietitian nutritionist?
At the time I decided to become a dietitian when I was in my freshman year of college, nutrition was becoming a huge topic. I realized that many of the diseases that affected people and even my family could be prevented from lifestyle changes. I was a runner in high school and had always been interested in health (fitness and nutrition). I also knew I wanted a rewarding career that I would enjoy (by helping people), but also be able to afford to live.
What are your daily tasks and activities?
Today there are many different jobs dietitians can do. I work in community nutrition for Eat Smart NY, a SNAP-Ed nutrition education and childhood and adult obesity prevention program funded through the USDA. My position is unique in that most of the staff that work for Eat Smart NY, work mainly in the community educating children and adults on healthy eating in schools, public housing sites, food pantries, and other community organizations. Many of our educators are not Registered Dietitians, but have nutrition degrees. For my position, it really varies from day to day depending on whether I am working in the office or traveling. My tasks and activities include supervising staff, covering staff’s classes as needed, completing observations, working on lesson plans and special projects, coordinating and setting up programming with school staff and community contacts, collecting data for our reports, etc.
What is the most rewarding part of your profession?
For me, the most rewarding part of my profession is working with people and knowing you made a difference in their lives even if its just teaching them something they did not know before. I love working with people whether its teaching in groups or one on one to help them live a healthier life.
What is the most difficult part of your profession?
The most difficult part of the profession is expenses. Getting started was really hard because not only do you have to fund schooling and your internship (not to mention soon you will need a graduate degree), you also are required to be a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and fund the exam when you are qualified to take it (which you can take more than once). Once you pass the exam, you will be required to be licensed in the state you practice. And we are required to take continuing education credits to keep our credentials current (going to the Food & Nutrition Expo is a great way to do that and a great way to network!). I love to continue to learn especially because the science of nutrition continually changes, but it does get expensive.
What school did you attend?
I went to SUNY Oneonta. I transferred there in January of 2011 as a sophomore and completed my bachelor’s degree in May 2014. Then completed the online MS-DI graduate program 2014-2015.
How many years did you attend?
4.5 years including my graduate degree. (typically didactic programs are 4 years for a bachelor’s degree than 2 years for a master’s degree). Oneonta’s graduate program is a 1 year program.
What skills do you feel are necessary for this career?
It really depends on what you do as a dietitian. Clinical is very different from community. But I would say for the most part, you should be detailed oriented, have strong math skills, and really like people.
Would you take a different career path if you were able to?
I have thought about changing careers to nursing, physical therapy, chiropractic, or physician assistance since they make more money and still work with people to help them, but I really enjoy the field of nutrition and the expanding opportunities are exciting!
Are there any tips or advice you have for anyone going into this field?
My advice for anyone going into this field is to have an idea of where you want to work or what you want to do. The opportunities are definitely expanding which is super exciting, but I know many colleagues that I have graduated with that got through the program (which is challenging within itself, some do not make it) then realize dietetics wasn’t what they thought it would be and went back to school for a different field in healthcare. I wish I had job shadowed more careers and went to community college before I went to a 4 year college. College is expensive and it’s doable for anyone to attend, but finding a job and making ends meet is not as easy as you would think once you graduate.
Also, here is more information for your reference on how to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist: https://www.eatrightpro.org/about-us/become-an-rdn-or-dtr/high-school-students/5-steps-to-become-a-registered-dietitian-nutritionist. This is also a great website to explore to learn more about the field!
With love, health, and happiness,
Kayla