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How to Become a Registered Dietitian

My number 1 most frequently emailed/asked question on this blog is:

How do I apply to school to become an RD, especially if I’m starting from scratch with the prerequisites?

Many of you seem to be in the same boat that I was in 2009 — after getting an unrelated undergraduate degree and years of office work in an unrelated field, you’ve decided you want to make a career out of nutrition. I’m honored to know that I’ve inspired some of you to follow your own dreams, and happy to be able to help you out along the way. The process sounds scary and complicated, but it’s really not when you understand it… and it will definitely be worth it. Right? :) Here’s everything you need to know about going back to school to become an RD, right on one easy page. I wish I’d had this on hand when I started my own journey! :)

~   ~   ~

First things first. To become a registered dietitian, you need to do 3 things:

  1. Take the specific set of courses outlined by the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics (AND). This can be completed at the undergraduate or graduate level.
  2. Complete the required internships, also outlined by AND. This can be done separately or at the same time as the coursework, depending on your program. (See the researching programs section for more details).
  3. Take the RD exam (and pass it!).

Steps for Applying to School to Become an RD:

  1. Research programs.
  2. Take the GRE (if applying at the graduate level).
  3. Take the required prerequisites.
  4. Apply to your chosen programs (this can be done while finishing prerequisites — I was only half way through when I applied).
  5. Get accepted to the school of your choice and rejoice!

1. Research Programs

The first thing you should do if you want to go back to school to become an RD is to research the offered programs. Click here to view AND’s accredited programs. You can narrow it down based on location, whether it’s graduate or undergraduate, etc.

Coordinated programs mean you do the coursework AND internship all at once, in one program. If it’s a coordinated masters program, it will typically be 2 to 2.5 years. The MPH-Nutrition program at UNC (where I went) is like this, so our internships are set up for us and dispersed throughout the 2.5 years of school (in the two summers in between classes, and in the final fall semester).  Didactic coursework and internships, on the other hand, means you complete the coursework and the internships separately, and will have to apply to both programs separately as well. I would recommend applying to coordinated programs if possible as internship programs in particular can be hard to get into.

2. Take the GRE (if you are applying at the graduate level)

Enough said. You’ll be fine — just buy a study guide book and use it. :) Especially for the math and vocabulary sections!

3. Take the Required Prerequisites

Most of the prerequisites (at least for the MS and MPH programs I looked at) are similar, although there are a few higher level differences, which is annoying. I took the courses I knew I absolutely needed first, and saved the last one or two for the summer before I started, when I would know which program I was attending.

Prerequisites You’ll Need to Take:

  • Chemistry 1 + lab
  • Chemistry 2 + lab
  • Biology 101 + lab
  • Organic Chemistry + lab
  • Anatomy & Physiology + lab
  • Human Nutrition (or something similar — an intro to nutrition)
  • Biochemistry

You may also need:

  • Microbiology
  • Intro to Psychology
  • Intro to Sociology
  • etc.

I took all of the courses in the first list, plus Microbiology. Psychology and Sociology were covered from my undergraduate coursework — I was a Sociology major! When taking prereqs, I’d recommend starting with Chemistry 1 and 2 and going from there. The other courses all include some general Chemistry so it will help you to have taken that first! Also — don’t be overwhelmed by this list. I was totally overwhelmed and scared about all the hard science (that I avoided in undergrad) but it was over before I knew it and actually fun to be learning again, especially since it was working towards a goal that really mattered.

The prerequisites took me a full year to complete on a part time basis, while also working part time. Starting in the Summer of 2009, I took Chem 1 and 2, in the fall I took Organic Chem and Bio 101, in the spring I took Human Nutrition and Anatomy & Physiology, and, finally, in the summer just before beginning my graduate program I took Microbiology and Biochemistry.

4. Apply to Your Chosen Program

Most applications are due sometime between December and February to start the following fall. It’s fine to apply to schools before you’re done with the prerequisites — you’ll just send updated transcripts as you complete courses. When I applied to schools, I had only completed about half the prerequisites, so I just outlined my plan for completing the rest (e.g. I will take these courses in the spring and these courses in the summer) at the end of my personal statement.

5. Get Accepted and Rejoice!

You did it! Time to get out there and start changing the world :)

I hope you guys found this helpful — I remember it being kind of a nightmare trying to figure all this out on my own, so hopefully I’ve spared some of you the same fate :) Good luck!

Comments

  1. 1

    What a great resource! All the info in one place. I know this will be helpful to many people. Good job! And I second your suggestion of applying for a coordinated program if possible.

  2. 2

    Thank you for this!!

  3. 3

    Great info Anne! I get these questions all the time! I’m referring them to your post from now on :)

  4. 4

    Great post! I have to admit… it brought back some “wonderful” memories of going through the process last year :) It’s tough but TOTALLY worth it… I’m happier than I’ve ever been. To those that are considering this, definitely forge on! Although they all cover the same required courses, every school is slightly different so do your homework on which program is best for you. Yay future RD’s of the world!!!

  5. 5

    Thank you for sharing this information Anne. This is something I have been thinking about for a long time. I’ve been searching for a new path that where I can focus on food and healthy living. I thought about going to culinary school, but after much debate, I think this is going to be a better choice. I got my transcripts from my undergrad today…the process starts now! Thanks again!

  6. 6

    Hi Anne! Thanks for this breakdown! Do you know much about the difference between the paths for becoming an RD vs a CCN (certified clinical nutritionist)? I’m interested in pursuing a degree in nutrition so I can integrate my background in journalism/communications with my interest in nutrition/wellness (especially from a holistic standpoint). I’m not sure that for me, becoming an RD is the right option based on what I want to do. Do you have any insight? Thank you!

    • 7

      Being a “nutritionist” is a huge difference from being an RD – a nutritionist is usually just someone who has taken a brief online course, that’s it. Way less credibility when compared to the massive amount of intensely science schooling that RD’s go through, plus internships, etc.

  7. 8

    Helpful! I’m in the process of taking pre-reqs right now, but I’m working full-time and taking one class a semester (which is all my work will pay for) so it’s going to be a SLOW process, but hopefully I’ll get there! I just wish I had taken some science in undergrad! Haha. Thanks for the info! :-)

  8. 9

    Hi Anne! I am a recent follower to your blog and a current sophomore at UW Madison in Pre-Dietetics. Seeing all your great experiences at your internship is helping me get through undergrad to get to the good stuff! Thanks!

  9. 10
    Linda - a Canadian RD says:

    Good luck everyone! You will enjoy your new career!

  10. 11

    This is so helpful, thanks!

  11. 12

    I’m in a dietetics program now but and will be applying for internships next year. I am also kinda interested in public health. Do you know if there are many programs for combined internships/master’s of public health? What extra stuff is required for the public health aspect?

    • 13

      I think UNC is one of few (if not the only) MPH-nutrition coordinated program. Our program is 2.5 years instead of the regular 2 – the extra semester is the additional public health stuff (although it’s sprinkled throughout the years) – biostats, epidemiology, public health mgmt, etc.

  12. 14

    Thank you thank you for doing this! I’d love to, but I have NONE of the prereqs…it’s a lot!

  13. 15

    I’m planning to do this soon too and will put in a link to your page!

  14. 16

    I’m in the process of applying to internships right now, and I was looking into masters/internship combined programs. However, I think I’m going to do an internship THEN get my masters in sports nutrition rather than in nutrition science (which is what most combined programs seem to offer).

    • 17

      I’m pretty sure Colorado State has a coordinated sports nutrition program – or you can focus on it heavily or something? I was looking into it and debated going there. Check it out!

  15. 18

    I’m debating on taking this route now too and wondering–do you need two semesters of organic chem & bio chem? Or just one?

  16. 20

    Ahhhh thanks so much! I totally forgot about this post. This was 100% more helpful than any other information I’ve seen about applying for the Masters (as someone with no science background). The ADA should link to this on their website!!!

    (sorry to harass you on gchat while you’re studying!)

  17. 21

    Anne, I keep coming back to this page over and over again – it’s such a wealth of information! Evidently my mom’s new dream is for me to follow in your footsteps and become a dietician — she even said she’d be willing to pay for it!

    An offer like that makes a girl really think… though I would be starting from zip, zero, and zilch like you did. Plus, there aren’t any schools in the DC area, are there? Food for thought…

    • 22

      Well damn… a full ride? What the hell?! :)

      But you’re right – no schools in DC area for masters programs. Closest is JHU! And it’s definitely a long process (will have taken me 3.5 years, start to finish, including all summers) and includes a TON of science, med-school type stuff, etc. But it’s worth it if you think it’s really what you want to do!

  18. 23

    I just wanted to say thank you for this information. I have been wanting to do the big career jump and needed some motivation. You definately inspired me and I just wanted to say Thank You! Good luck on your journey!

  19. 24

    Thank you for this break down! I graduated with a Political Science degree and now I’m considering becoming an RD. I wish I would have followed my heart earlier in life, but like you mentioned, a slew of office jobs made me realize that: 1. Law school wasn’t for me and 2. I love the healthy living world and want to be part of it full time!

    I still have not made any decisions about going back to school (due to current loans), but this blog entry is really encouraging!

    Leslie S.

  20. 25

    I’ve read through this post about five times in the past week. I’m about to finish a degree in education… but I’m seriously considering pursuing this as my long term career instead. I don’t have any of the pre-reqs and the amount of science is super intimidating… but I can’t stop thinking about it!

    • 26

      If you really think it’s what you want to do, don’t let the amount of coursework intimidate you… it’ll be over before you know it! And the science really isn’t that scary :)

  21. 27

    This is so helpful. Thank you so much! It is definitely scary going back to school (I am in a very similar situation as you – but also did not have an amazing undergrad GPA so definitely will NOT be getting into UNC’s amazing program).
    I am definitely considering a MPH, most likely in nutrition, but am not sure if I am interested in becoming an RD. Do you know if most people in your program intend on becoming an RD as well- or any are using their MPH for other careers?

    • 28

      I’m glad it was helpful! :) UNC’s MPH in Nutrition is specifically geared towards the ADA’s requirements for becoming an RD, so all of us are doing this program to become RD’s. But I’m sure other schools have just general MPH programs (maybe in nutrition or just more general) that aren’t geared towards becoming an RD!

    • 29

      Oh and one more thing – even if your undergrad GPA wasn’t amazing, it might not matter if you still have a ton of prerequisites to make up. They will basically only be looking at the grades for the relevant prereqs, so you can always take those classes now and blow them out of the water :)

      • 30

        Thank you again!!! UNC is an amazing program as you know, and looks sooo nice from your pics!! If you dont mind I have one more question :) Did you take the pre-reqs at a community college, or a real school? I am undecided about that (though I know higher level classes are not usually offered at CC’s).

        • 31

          I took almost everything at a community college – I’d definitely recommend doing that if you can, it’s WAY cheaper! Everything you need as a prereq should be offered at a community college near you – it’s not too high level!

  22. 33

    I keep coming back to this post. It is so helpful! I’m working on taking pre-reqs right now. Did you take Anatomy & Physiology + lab in a combined course or separate? Thanks!
    Leslie

    • 34

      Yay, good! It was a combined course – I’d recommend doing that since it’s better to have the same teacher at the same time for lecture and lab so it goes together well!

  23. 35

    I’m so happy I came to your blog today. I really need a career change and have been wondering what it would take to be an RD / what an RD actually does day-to-day. This is inspiring me even more to get out of the cubicle that I’m sitting in. Thanks!

  24. 36

    Did you have any experience related to nutrition/dietetics prior to deciding to apply to your program? I have a completely unrelated degree (Sociology as well) and my current job is not remotely related to dietetics!
    thanks!

  25. 38
    Phi Nguyen says:

    Anne, since you were out of school for a few years, how difficult was it to get letters of recommendation for grad school. Did you revisit old professors or made connections with new professors? For me the most difficult part is figuring out who to ask for recommendations–been out of school for 2 years!

    • 39

      If I remember correctly, 2 of my 3 references were from previous bosses at my jobs, and then I asked 1 of my prerequisite professors that I had that semester. Since I’d been out of school for so long I hardly even remembered who my professors in college were and I’m sure they wouldn’t remember me, either!

  26. 41

    Hi Anne! Wow, this post is exactly what I needed… I was starting to get so bogged down and confused with what my next steps would be! Same story, stuck in a cubicle job and looking to change careers :) I’ve been considering this for a long time now but I have a concern… it is a bit scary to me going from working full-time to school and making no money. I know this is a personal question (sorry, you can email me and also be vague!!) but has that been stressful? 2 1/2 years seems like a really long time to make my husband bear all of the financial brunt, but I don’t want that to be the only reason to not pursue my goals. Again, sorry if this is personal, but were you able to get financial aid to cover living expenses?

    A final question, and I apologize since I’m new to your blog that I don’t know this – have you decided ultimately what you want to do once you’re an RD? Private practice, etc.? Thanks for your time :)

    • 42

      Just emailed you! :)

      • 43

        Hi Anne! I just found your blog and, like the person above, this is exactly what I was looking for. However, I recently paid off about $60k in student loans from undergrad, so the thought of going back to school and not working for a few years is terrifying! How hard is it to get scholarships or financial aid, and how were you able to make it work? I’d love to get your perspective :)

        • 44

          Totally get it. One of the reasons I chose UNC is because I got in-state tuition there (because of the Academic Common Market — no equivalent program in VA where I am a resident), so that helped big time. I didn’t get any scholarships (well, a couple for a few hundred), so I took out loans for nearly all the tuition (federal loans). I did work part time while taking my prereqs (as an editor) and then while in grad school (my blog was my part time gig since it was making money by that point), as did most of my friends, to pay for living expenses. Good luck!

    • 45

      Hi! I’m looking at the same situation with full time job currently and trying to figure out if it would be possible to pursue school. I have nothing higher than a high school diploma, so I would be starting from square one. I have been teaching at a local gym for several years now and also do some personal training. This has always been a passion of mine. I’m curious as well about the financial aspect. Thanks!

      • 46

        Hi Danita — sounds like you’d want to do an undergrad nutrition program, then. I’d recommend following the link I shared in the post to search for programs on the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics website. Regarding cost, it will totally depend on the program. Good luck!

  27. 47

    This is an awesome post Anne. I recently decided to go back to become an RD as well. I found a few programs that you can complete almost entirely online. Some of the pre recs with labs you have to do at a community college. Its another great option for people who may want to still work full time. I love your blog

  28. 49

    Does becoming an R.D. involve a lot of math? I have taken Algebra and Pre-Calc in hs and Stats in college (and was not a fan of any of it)! Just curious. thanks

    • 50

      It involves some, especially when clinical nutrition is involved (calculating amounts for tube feedings, etc.), but it’s nothing too crazy. If you’ve done all those classes you’ll be fine!

  29. 51

    Anne, This is great! I’m finishing my undergrad as we speak in public health and am looking for a more nutrition based graduate program. Wonderful and informative resource!!

  30. 52

    Great post! I’m midway through my junior year. All our internships are last and I start those next January. I think your tip about the prereq’s not being scary is key…especially if you already have a degree. I changed my mind about school so many times bc of those classes…but I’m so happy I made the decision.

  31. 53

    Hi Anne! I just read this, and I feel like I’m reading about my own life! I am 22 years old, and I graduated in May 2012 with a bachelors degree in Public Relations and Marketing. I’m currently living in Auburn, AL where my fiance is attending graduate school for Landscape Architecture. At the moment, I’m working part-time (days) at an event center and part-time (nights) as a waitress. I’ve always been fascinated with the human body and nutrition, and I feel like being and staying healthy is my passion! I was to learn more about nutrition and be able to share my knowledge with other people and communities. I’m also very savvy in the kitchen and I’m constantly trying to figure out ways to modify recipes to make the healthier but still delicious. I’ve recently started toying with the idea of going back to college to get a second degree (either another bachelors or a masters) in Nutrition. Don’t get me wrong, I love PR. But I feel like I’d excel in Nutrition, and both degrees could go hand-in-hand. You’re an inspiration! Based on your list, I’ve already taken 4 of the pre-req’s during my undergrad career, so I think I’d only need 3 or 4 more. Do you know which programs take the least amount of time? Please let me know if you have any advice! Thanks so much

    • 54

      I’m so glad you found this page helpful! An MS in Nutrition would take less time than the MPH program that I did… they will probably all be about 2 years (not including prereqs). Best of luck!

  32. 55
    Gabriel says:

    Hi Anne,

    I have a BS in psychology and went back last year to school to apply for RD program. I took all the prerequisites and did very well. But unfortunately here in NY only a couple of colleges offer RD program. Needless to say I was not accepted to the program, bummer! They claimed that my record was blemished because I went back to school for one semester to get an MS in psychology but I decided not to pursue that and dropped the course. This was like 7 years ago. What are my chances or what do you advice if I still want to pursue becoming an RD.

    Gabriel

    • 56

      Hi Gabriel, bummer about what happened! I’d recommend talking to some of the admissions staff at schools you want to go to – they could probably give you some good advice. I’m sorry I can’t be of more help!

  33. 57

    Hi Anne, I am truly glad I stumbled upon your page today. I’m stuck in life right now and would be thrilled if you could offer some advice for me.

    I am 22 years old, graduated from University of Toronto in BComm last summer in 2012. For a year now since I have graduated, I decided to spend another 3 years completing a Bachelor’s degree in nutrition in U of T. However, I found the courses quite difficult and managed to complete the basic nutrition and another nutrition course (nutrition & community). I know according to your guidelines, I would have to take the chemistry and biology courses. So I’m wondering would it be easier and smarter to take it at a university like Ryerson which is less harsh or even a college like Sheridan (less well-known but guarantee better marks). I have also found a list of accredited universities in Canada: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_universities_with_accredited_dietetic_programs
    This scares me since U of T isn’t on the list and render me thinking that the past year’s credits wouldn’t count towards becoming a RD. I’m full of confusion as to what I should do. It would be fantastic and a lot of help if you could give me some advice as to what my next steps should be through email!

    THANKS A LOT IN ADVANCE!! :)

    • 58

      Hi Chels! That’s great you want to go back to school for nutrition, too! I so wish I could help but I’m really not an expert on which courses give you credit and which don’t. I’d recommend contacting the admissions team at the schools you’re interested in – they can help you! Best of luck!

  34. 59

    Hi Anne! I’ve been mulling over different masters programs as a route to RD… This page really helped. My problem is that there aren’t really any programs where I live (Richmond, VA), and moving isn’t likely to be an option. Do you know anyone who has done the program as an online course of study? I have studied that way in the past and I am quite comfortable academically (my bachelor degree is Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and I am also a paramedic), but I’m not sure about the quality of the online programs…

    • 60

      Hey Rachel! Unfortunately I don’t really know anything about online course options… I’m sorry I can’t be of more help! Best of luck!

    • 61

      Hi Lindsay – was wondering what you ended up doing and what online programs you found that you though we’re good? Looking at the career change, too!

    • 62

      Hi Rachel! I was wondering what you ended up doing? I’m in Hampton Roads and am considering becoming an RD. Thanks for your answer! :)

  35. 63

    Hi Anne,

    Just came across your blog, I love it! I too would like to become an RD; I have an undergrad degree in Neuroscience so I have a lot of the science prereqs, just not the nutrition background. I currently work in a public health job and my ultimate goal is to do nutrition-related research, but I also want to practice as an RD (private practice or clinically) because I love working with people and can’t be behind a desk all day! Just wondering if you know of anyone who has done the RD requirements (I will be doing them as part of an MS program most likely), started working as an RD, and then done an MPH? I love the sounds of an MPH/RD combined program but unfortunately there are none near where I live (MA). So I am thinking of doing the MS/RD, then pursuing an MPH on a part-time basis once I start working as a dietitian. Any insight on this?

    PS: In post 41 above you had provided the person with info about going to school full-time and not making money during that time…can you tell me about your experience with that as well? Thank you :)

    • 64

      Hey Lisa! There were actually a few people in my MPH program at UNC who already had their RD – they just did a much shorter version of the program (I think it was 1 year?). So definitely do-able! Although time-wise it might make more sense to just do it all together. :) Regarding school full time, I made enough money from blogging and freelance writing to cover living expenses while I was in school and took out loans for all the tuition costs. I got in-state tuition at UNC so it wasn’t too bad, although obviously going from making a full time salary to paying tuition/taking out loans kind of sucks. But you just have to decide if it’s worth it for you! Best of luck!

  36. 65
    Megan Lyons says:

    Hi Anne,
    I will be graduating fromWest Virginia University with a B.S. in Human Foods and Nutrition. in December (yay me!) Unfortunately, the program at WVU is not a combined program so to become a R.D. after I have my B.S. degree, I have to complete the dietic internship process and then the R.D. exam. Can you give me any tips on applying to the internship program or if its better (or easier) to find a masters program that offers both (MSRD). I live in Southern California. Thanks!!

    • 66

      Congrats on graduating soon! I don’t have any internship application tips since I did a coordinated program and didn’t go through that process. But if you’ve already done all the coursework, I would go ahead and just do the internship program and then take the RD exam! No need to get a masters unless you really want to. Good luck!

  37. 67
    Franteon Johnson says:

    Hi Anne,
    Thank you so much for this awesome info, it has really helped me map out my journey to becoming an RD. The silly issue that I am trying to figure out is, whether to go for a graduate degree or a 2nd undergrad degree? Currently, I have a degree in Information Technology, so I too would need to complete all of the science prereqs. Since I live in Baltimore (Maryland), I have few options but I just want to make a good decision for the long term. If you could share some thoughts or opinions, that would be much appreciated. Again, thanks for this wonderful post. Have blessed one!!!

    • 68

      Hi Franteon! I’m glad it’s been helpful. Regarding your dilemma, I would recommend going for a graduate degree – at least for me, it was honestly going to be about the same amount of time so it just made more sense that if I invested all that time I should at least come out with something at the masters level! Obviously it’s up to you and your goals though – good luck!

  38. 69

    Anne,
    I started reading running/food blogs in May and found them inspiring and engaging but nothing relating to my future (I will graduate in Spring ’14 with a BS in biochemistry). Earlier this spring I found myself considering an MPH and feeling less certain about my medical school goals. This morning I found your blog and found myself SO inspired! I’m not sure that I would want to become and RD specifically but I am very passionate about spreading the word about the importance (and fun!) of eating well and exercising. I am wondering if you have done any related work in the DC area and/or know of any person or organization that does that sort of work. Again, thank you so much for being so inspiring, I look forward to following your blog!

    • 70

      Thank you for reading, Fiona! There are hundreds of organizations related to health in the DC area! A simple Google search will lead you to a ton – there are corporate wellness companies, tons of government organizations dedicated to health, a lot of community organizations that help with food insecurity, etc. etc. Good luck and have fun! :)

  39. 71

    Thanks so much for this info. I have a B.S. in biology and have been out of the workforce for a while, but I know my passion lies in health and nutrition. I just recently started researching how to become an RD and there’s so much information online that it’s overwhelming. Thanks for breaking it down.

    My big decision now is do I get a second B.S. in Nutrition or get my Masters. What will be easier, cheaper, and take less time?

    • 72

      What’s easier/cheaper/shorter will depend on how many prereqs you have done, etc. For me, it was going to be around the same amount of time so I decided I’d rather have a masters, but it will be up to you to decide what’s worth it for you! Good luck!

  40. 73

    Fantastic site! At the age of 47 and having a successful and fulfilling career am looking at a second career in health and wellness. Some great tips and advice in this post. Thank you!

  41. 74
    Lauren Seeley says:

    Thanks so much for your ideas and guidance to becoming an RD Anne! All of the information you posted is extremely helpful!!!! I work full time and I’m looking into programs that will allow me to continue to work full time. :) If you know of any, in particular and don’t mind sharing, that would be great!,

    • 75

      Thanks for reading! :) I wish I knew of some off the top of my head, but I don’t as I was researching full time programs. I’m sure there are a bunch that let you continue to work full time, though! Good luck!

  42. 76

    Hi Anne,

    Thanks for this very helpful post. I am in a similar situation as you were in and need my pre-reqs (7 of them including chem). I am finding I can take everything but Chem online. And with Chem, each class at community college has its own pre-req – adding 2-4 additional classes to take before I can even take the ones I need. Did you run into this? For ex, I am finding Chem 1 requires certain math courses, etc…Just wondering if there is a way around this for someone who’s been out of college for 6 years.

    Thanks,
    Laura

    • 77
      Laura-Ashley says:

      Laura – I’m currently looking into switching careers to become and RD and would like to start taking some of the pre-reqs while I work full-time. I’ve been looking all over for on-line/distance learning options for the pre-reqs. Do you mind sharing where you were able to take your on-line pre-reqs?

      Sorry to jump on your post!

      Thank you,

      Laura-Ashley

      • 78

        Sorry Laura- Ashley, I just rechecked this so I apologize for the delay!!! :)

        I am in your same situation! I live in the bay area and am able to take Chemistry and Ochem through UC Berkeley Extension. For Microbiology and BioChem – you can take it online via University of New England. For Algebra, LSU offers it online. I was looking at a combo Masters/RD program, but ended up only going for the RD for now due to location. Feel free to email me with questions. I know different programs require slightly different pre-reqs but I researched extensively. Best of luck!!!!

  43. 79

    Dear Anne,
    thank you for your post! I am interested in nutrition and plan to apply for MPH in UNC. Did you have relevant work experience before applying? I contacted admissions and they say that relevant work experience (paid or volunteer) is highly recommended.
    Were there any international students?
    Thank you!
    Best regards,
    Anna

    • 80

      Hi Anna, Great to hear you are interested in UNC! The only work experience I had that was relevant was my blog, which apparently the admissions committee really liked. Most of my friends had some internships or volunteer work in their nutrition area of interest, though. And yes, we had one international student from Ghana. Good luck!

  44. 81

    Hi Anne,

    I’m a new follower and interested in becoming an rd. I’m in a unique position in that I might be living in Colombia next year which means I can’t fully dive into a program but looking to start taking prereqs next spring to get a start. The prereqs are all at undergrad level right? And since I woulnt be able to finish them in the spring before Colombia do you know if prereqs transfer easily and I can pick it up at another school if I end up living somewhere else when I return?

    Any help is appreciated! I really like your blog.

    • 82

      Thanks for reading! Yes, all the prereqs are done at the undergrad level. And I assume the prereqs are transferred easily – I did mine at a few different schools. Good luck!

  45. 83

    I’m thinking about relocating to North Carolina. Was UNC a good school? I know there are some other programs in NC, but I don’t know which 1 is best (easy to understand professors, moderate difficulty level, low tuition, done the quickest). I’m also worried about paper writing… was there a lot of 5+ page papers required? Finally, if I want to open my own business for nutrition coaching, do you think the RD is a good choice or would I be okay with 1 of those cheap online certificates + lots of reading on my own? Thank you!

    • 84

      UNC is an amazing program (it’s the top MPH program in the country tied with Harvard), but I wouldn’t say it’s easy in terms of difficulty level (you have to do 3 extremely challenging biochemistry courses, etc.), and the low tuition thing will depend if you get in-state tuition or not. And yes there was some paper writing since it’s an MPH program, so our public health courses required that. We also had a big end of program masters paper. If you want to do your own business for nutrition counseling, I’d make the effort and get an RD.

  46. 85

    Anne, thanks so much for helping to clear up all the complicated info out there. I need to take all the prerequisite classes and i am wondering, besides the cost of the actual program, how much investment is roughly required to complete the prerequisites?

  47. 87

    Hi, my name is Christian and I am currently a sophomore at Northern Kentucky University. I am majoring in Exercise Science, but I would really like to become an RD. I have already taken the Bio and nutrition courses. I just finished Anatomy and Physiology (but didn’t do so well). I will be taking chemistry next semester. I didn’t know if there was a way for me to finish my Exercise Science degree and then do an internship and then the other steps to become a RD, I wasn’t really sure how all that works?

    • 88

      I’m sorry, Christian, but I think your school’s registrar or your advisor would be able to better help with this. If they don’t know, I’d call the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics for more info. Good luck!

  48. 89

    I came across your article after doing a lot of research on changing my career and it’s been really helpful! I’m currently just waiting tables as I lost my job earlier this year. Part of me keeps thinking I should continue looking for a job in my field (marketing) but another part of me thinks now is the time to make a change. I think my big concern is the money and all the science classes! Any advice?

    • 90

      Ultimately you just have to decide if you’ll be happy in a few years if you’re still in the marketing field. If the answer is no, might be time for a change! Sure, it’s a lot of money, and the science is hard, but if you really want it, you’ll make it work. Good luck!

  49. 91

    Hi Anne – So glad I just stumbled across your blog – maybe you can answer a question for me. My daughter is a senior in a Dietetics program at well regarded midwest University and will be graduating in May. She is in the process of applying for an Internship and was recently told (beginning of December) that there is tuition associated with the internships which might be as much as $30,000. I am astounded that she was never told this before. Can it possibly be true? If that’s the case, wouldn’t a Masters program be a better choice to pursue? Thank you -

    • 92

      Hi Beth, I wish I could help, but I never did the internship program since my grad program included the interships. I knew it cost money but that sounds REALLY high – I’d research it a bit more? If it really is that much, then yes, a masters program that includes the internships might be a better call!

  50. 94

    Hi Anne,
    Could I graduate with an Associates in Culinary and get into Univeristy for the BS nutrition program? Or do I have get in undergraduate associates degree and transfer to univerisity? Its a little confusing to me..

  51. 96

    Started my 2 nd career after getting msw in 2004. Work with HIV+ clients. Started thinking about some level of dietician degree/ credential- see a real need tied into social work. Glad to see some support while I kick this around. Hoping my local community college might help. My BA in sociology…

  52. 97

    This was incredibly helpful, thank you!!

  53. 98

    Hi Anne,
    First I would like to thank you for all you do for up and coming RD’s!! My daughter is a junior in a health promotion/disease prevention undergraduate program. She is also a D1track athlete on partial scholarship. (Or otherwise she would have done the accredited RD undergraduate route.). She hopes to redshirt a year to retake chem and anatomy to get A’s or B’s (she has C’s) to become more marketable to apply for graduate coordinated RD programs. Her GPA has been in the 3.25-3.3 region. She practices 20 hrs/ week for track. Here are my questions. Do you think the lower GPA in light of her sport will damage her chances of getting into a grad program? Do you think it is wiser to stick strictly to coordinated programs considering the uncertainty of getting an internship? How can she open up lines of communication with program directors most efficiently? She has tried calling and has not had much success with return calls. Are there any experiences she should persue to give herself better odds of getting accepted into a program? She does work as a food prep person in a nursing home kitchen during summers and breaks. She has also volunteered in the college dining hall assisting the RD occasionally when she has time. Thanks so much for any advice you have. -Gail

    • 99

      Hi Gail! Great to hear your daughter wants to become an RD, too! I’m not sure about the GPA stuff, since I don’t know what admissions is looking for, but obviously the higher grades the better, particularly in any of the science/nutrition prereq classes. I’d definitely recommend she do some volunteering, maybe with some other RDs, just to get something to put on her resume and also an idea of what the job is like. Coordinated programs are awesome but really competitive, so she might want to apply to a mix of didactic and coordinated. In terms of trying to reach the program directors, perhaps she can visit some of the schools she’s interested in and set up meetings? Good luck to her!

  54. 100

    Anne or others: Has anyone had any luck with finding a reputable online masters program yet that will lead to RD?? I have searched but am not sure if I have come across anything legitimate..I am like many, bachelors in psych.. Looking to get masters online..plan on taking prerequisites at local community college..

  55. 103

    Does anyone know how long after graduation I have to fulfill my dietetic internship?

    I graduated in 2008 w/ a BS in Nutrition & Foods Science w/ an emphasis in Dietetics.

    I never did the internship and am now (2014) I’m thinking about doing it, but wasn’t sure how long I had. I thought it was 10 years.

    Thanks,
    Jason

  56. 104

    I would like to become an RD.
    I’m currently attending a community college and getting my GE’s out of the way. would you happen to have any advice for me?
    Or can you tell me how to go about it, so I don’t waste any time.

  57. 105

    Hey Anne,

    You keep saying that the science prerequisites aren’t that big of a deal. What about the actual classes when you get into the program? Are they heavily science-based or are they more application based? Also, to be a RD, does the degree have to be in nutrition science, or can it be in dietetics, public health, etc? And if so, what is the big difference between them? Basically, i’m more into the application of healthy eating than the science behind it all. Would love to take courses that focus on fad diets, food intolerances, food addiction, eating disorders, diabetes, eating for optimal healthy, chronic diseases, gluten intolerance, and so on. Any advice?

    • 106

      The actual programs are definitely science-heavy. No matter what your degree is in you will still need to get in basic biochem, medical nutrition, etc. It’s a necessary evil to make sure you understand the fully mechanics behind all those fad diets/intolerances!

    • 107

      Nutrition is heavily based on science. You need to understand the scientific mechanisms behind food allergies, fad diets (metabolism), supplement dosages, etc. If you’re more interested in the application of healthy lifestyles, you might consider a career in health promotion or something similar. However, I would definitely be hesitant to receive nutrition advice from someone that doesn’t understand the science behind it all.

  58. 108

    Hi Anne,

    I’m interested in applying to the UNC program to become a rd. For the required prereqs, did you have to take any prereqs just to take the required ones for UNC? Ive noticed that I’m having that issue & was wondering if you came across that & were able to get those classes waived.

  59. 109

    Thank you for the great info.. I am thinking of going to school for an RD. I have worked with food my whole life, in the hospitality industry.
    I like organic foods and am a fairly healthy person. My family and I eat lots of veggies and grains and very little meat. I like knowing when I eat something, what does this veggie do? Detox? Helps blood pressure? I look up lots of things on what veggies do for your body and watch a lot of bios on natural foods.
    Sometimes I even give ideas to people who would like to try to lose weight… Tell them about detox veggies or even sometimes cleansing your body with natural foods.

    Thank you again!!! I am very inspired and it helps me a bit better on what i need to take for schooling.

  60. 110

    Hi Anne,

    I am a Post Graduate from India and have about 4 years of work experience in Food Service Department and also Weight Loss Management as a Chief Dietitian/Dietitian. However there has been a gap in this field as I had switched over to another industry.

    Right now, I’m really keen in moving to Canada, being such a beautiful place and also a country which offers growth opportunities in the field of nutrition.

    I want to get licensed as a Dietitan/Nutritionist in Canada. I currently do not hold a licence in India. Are you able to advise me how to become a Registered Dietitian in Canada?

    Really eager to hear from you for an honest guidance.

  61. 112

    Thank you for this incredibly helpful post– I’m in the process of figuring out if I want to apply to grad school for MPH programs in nutrition and it’s nice to see it all broken down.

    Did you take A&P as 1 course? I’m trying to find courses like that in NYC and most of them are 2 semesters courses or just anatomy / just physiology.

  62. 114

    Hi Anne!

    This article has been so helpful. I graduated in 2012 with a degree in English (ha!). Since about 2010, I have lost a bunch of weight and have become very fascinated with health and nutrition. I’ve been working at an office job for almost two years, and am struggling to look for a next job because I can’t stop thinking about the Dietetics field. The problem is, I have none of the prerequisites. The bigger problem is, I’ve always been pretty awful at science (probably because I was never interested in it while in school). Do you think someone who has never really enjoyed science could be successful in this program? I can be very motivated, but I don’t want to set myself up to fail. I always had my mind set on being a writer, so I don’t think I ever gave science a fair chance. Also, I’m a little confused about the prerequisites since I already have a Bachelor’s degree. If I took the prereq’s at a local college, would those courses just be add-ons to my existing degree, then I’d be able to start up a Master’s program? Or would I have to get a second Bachelor’s degree? Please feel free to email me in response, as I will probably have more questions. I hope this all makes sense!

    • 115

      Hi Kim! I am pretty much having the same predicament. I barely have any (or no) prerequisites for a bs or ms in nutrition/dietetics. I just received a bachelor of fine arts in acting so I’d definitely have to start all over again. Also math and science courses are challenging for me, but I have a good work ethic and think I might be able to handle it. If anybody has any advice for someone starting from the beginning (with a completely unrelated bachelors degree) I’d really appreciate it!

  63. 116

    Hi Anne! I am in a similar situation that you were in. I am from West Virginia and have a Marketing degree, but I have actually been considering taking prereqs here and then applying for the RD program at UNC. I am 23 and married, so the one question I have would be, where were your internships and how long was each one? Were they local? I think I recall reading that you had three? The only thing that would hold me back would be having to move away for an internship for a summer.
    Thank you so much for this post. It has been so inspirational and encouraging!

    • 117

      Hi Nicole! My internships were interwoven into my program since it was coordinated, so I did one summer at a public health organization in NC, one summer at a hospital here in DC, and a fall “create your own” internship working with RDs that have private practices. Good luck!

  64. 118

    Hi Anne! Thank you so much for this post. I graduated in December with a BA in Psychology, and am considering getting a graduate degree in Nutrition, MPH, etc. I’ve been so discouraged by all of the pre-reqs, but this post really inspired me. Did you take your pre-reqs at a local community college? I tried to take some pre-reqs this spring semester at my local community college, but all of the classes I needed filled up before I could enroll. Also, most of the classes have pre-reqs and need to be taken in a specific order. Do you have any advice for how to make it through the pre-reqs in just a year?

    • 119

      Yes, I did almost all the prereqs at a community college. I recommend starting with Chem 1 since you’ll need that for everything else! I did 2 over the summer in compressed summer sessions (chem 1 then chem 2), 2 in the fall (bio 101 and organic chem), 2 in the spring (human nutrition and anatomy & physiology), 2 in the summer (microbiology and biochem 1), then started my program in fall. Good luck!

  65. 120

    I actually graduated in 2000 with a BS in Sociology :) and now after 13 years of working in Marketing I decided to become a Nutrionist/RD. Anne, I took all the required science classes such as Chem, Bio and so on, but what I wanted to know is if there are any major nutrition classes I would have to take. Also, did you go for an MS program? I heard that if you didn’t major in Nutrition in your undergrad you would have to take several more classes to be qualified for the Didactic program in Dietetics. I have tried calling several advisors at schools but I rarely get a call back and most of the time no one picks up the phone. I just became a mother 8 months ago so my husband and I are willing to make the move to any school that I get into.

    • 121

      Hi Gita! Prereqs will depend on the school, but I just had to take Basic Nutrition before starting my program – I did the MPH-RD program at UNC Chapel Hill. It’s basically an MS + public health coursework and is coordinated so it includes the internship. Good luck!!

  66. 122

    I just turned 40, I’m very interested in nutrition and how people react to the food they eat. Last July I became violently ill and had to eliminate gluten from my diet. I feel sooooo much better. This has sparked my interest in investigating what I eat and how I respond to it. I’d like to do the same for others. My question is….do you think a 40 year old can start from scratch to become a RD? Or is it too long of a process?

  67. 124

    Thank You so much for sharing this!

  68. 125
    Lauren Sanders says:

    Hi, I’m Lauren! I am currently a sophomore in high school. I am hoping to go into nutrition and dietetics when I enter into college in the fall of 2016. I am faced with a decision that will further impact my field of choice; does taking Spanish or Latin help me more in the years to come of my learning and in my future job? I am in my second year of Spanish right now, planning to switch to Latin for my junior year. My Spanish teacher believes that proceeding with Spanish will benefit my career if I need to interact with non-native patients. Also, I have come to realize that the Latin language will help when learning the root words in my science courses. I do not have space in my schedule to take both languages, though it would be helpful. In addition, I am faced with choosing band or science courses that could prepare me for college and also get college credits. Which is more valuable in this case? I just want to do what is in my best interest and could really use some help, as it would be much appreciated! Thank you for your time.

    • 126

      I would go for Spanish and science. Good luck!

      • 127
        Diana Vasquez says:

        Hello Anne,

        Thank so much for all the info you provided is extremely helpful I recieved my bachelors in Spanish.

        I want to become and RD , I currently have a desk job and was wondering about how long it will take if I could go to school part time ?

        I would defenelty take my pre-requesites in a community college near my home.

        Thank you!

        Diana V

  69. 128

    Anne,
    I just stumbled upon your site and would love some info from you! I’ve been a massage therapist for the past 5 years and have decided to get a degree in Dietetics. I have to start from square one (minus a few units from a previous go at a college education), but the problem I’m having is that there is no program for this where I live. Is there a transferable major that I can start with in the mean time? Just an AS that covers the basics needed to transfer to the right university with a Dietetics program? Any insight you have will be so appreciated! Thank you! :)

    • 129

      I would probably go with Chemistry and Biology, since you’ll need chem 1, 2, biochem, bio 101, anatomy and physiology, microbiology, etc! Good luck! :)

  70. 130
    Melissa says:

    Hello Anne,
    I’m not sure if you would know, but if i got a Bachelor of Health Science, would that qualify me become a RD, or do I need to be in a nutrition program?
    Thanks in advance!

    • 131

      It would depend if you have taken all the specific courses (science, nutrition, etc.) you need – I’m sorry I can’t be of more help! Probably a better question for someone at eatright.org

  71. 132

    Hi Anne,
    I’m about to graduate from a private art school and my degree program has left me pretty unsatisfied. I decided to start looking into being an RD, but since my school is private I’m in a tough spot. Because none of my course credits will transfer, I don’t have any prerequisites to use and honestly am unsure where to start (since I don’t have any of the basic college classes out of the way, I have to start all over!). Can you possibly point me in the right direction? I would really appreciate some help. Thanks!

    • 133

      It sounds like you’d need to apply to a Bachelors in Nutrition degree program? I would search for programs on eatright.org. Best of luck!

  72. 134

    Hi Ann! Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with all of us. Reading everyone’s posting I can relate to what they are saying. Sometimes we get stuck in a career that we never intended to do and as a result we are so unhappy! I am at a point where I am ready for a career change and coming across your blog tonight was like God’s send. May God richly bless you for sharing your knowledge with all of us!!!

  73. 135

    Hi Ann, It’s encouraging to see you have continued to reply to comments even years after writing this post! I’m an almost mother of 2 with a BS in Biochemistry and a cert in fitness nutrition. I run my own personal training business and would really like to increase my credibility (and BE MORE HELPFUL) in nutrition. I know you said you didn’t have a science-related degree but I’m curious if you know the answer to this or can direct me to someone who does: Since I have a degree in a nutrition-related field, is there a way to become an RD without getting the masters? I keep trying to research it and it seems a BS is enough but I would maybe need a few classes that I didn’t take previously (intro to nutrition, psychology) but then I don’t know what to do from there. As a stay-at-home mom with young kids (2 year old and my second is due in September), I need to bypass as many unnecessary steps as possible. So, any advice? I know it will likely be a slow process for me but I have some resources that will expire soon so I want to think about classes before that happens.

    • 136

      Hi Alisa — you can definitely become an RD without doing a masters! You just need to take any of the required courses you haven’t done yet, apply for/do the internship program, and take the RD exam. I would talk to someone at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for more help. Good luck!

  74. 137

    Hi Anne, I found your post to be very helpful. I live in California and have a BS in an unrelated field. It seems that I am in a “no man’s land” if you will of available programs, unless I relocate myself to Los Angeles or Loma Linda.

    I’m wondering if you took your prerequisites at a community college? We have one near my home and they do offer quite of few of the courses you listed.

    I called ACEND, and the woman I spoke to suggested the coordinated program, however, like I mentioned above, those are both hours away from me (4-5) and I have a family/life where I am now (San Luis Obispo) and cannot relocate.

    Do you have any suggestions for me? I’m just unclear on what my first steps in this process should be.

    Thanks, Rebecca

    • 138

      Yes, I did take my prereqs at a community college! It sounds like you might want to look into online RD programs — you can search on eatright.org for distance programs. Good luck!

  75. 139

    I’m in such a similar situation as well. I graduated with a B.S. in Business Marketing and a minor in Psych in December 2012. Since being in sales, I’ve realized this isn’t what I want to do and I would love to be an RD and fulfill my real passion. I have a question regarding the GRE: why did you take the GRE before the prerequisites? I agree that it makes sense to get my masters rather than a second undergrad degree, but wouldn’t you take the GRE’s after/during completing the prerequisites? Thanks!!

  76. 141

    How long do I have to take the RD exam after I graduate?

    I graduated in 2008 with a BS in Nutrition & Food Science w/ an emphases in Dietetics. I have not done any internship yet.

    Thanks

  77. 143
    Priyanka says:

    Did you take the pre-reqs at a community college? Will grad programs accept that?

  78. 145

    Hi Anne.I’m a university student of nutrition sciences in Iran.My English isn’t perfect.I have same question as Juliette.Do you know much about the difference between the paths for becoming an RD vs a CCN?I know Rd,but I don’t know about CCN and the difference.I’m so lucky to know you and I ask my question from you because I want to migrate to America for PHD course.
    I’ll thank you if you answer my question and guide me.

  79. 147

    Hi Anne,
    Once you were excepted to your coordinated Masters program did you continue to work full time? How?

  80. 150

    Hi there!
    I’m about to embark on the journey of building my own fitness business. However I’ve been considering going back to school for my master’s in a couple years and following these steps to become an RD, just in case my business ever fails and also to be more knowledgeable in my field. Could you tell me, if I were to become an RD in say, two years, do I have to re-certify at any point, or is it good for life? Thanks!

  81. 152

    Hi Anne,

    Thanks for all your wonderful info. I recently graduated with a Bachelor’s in Communications and have been looking into getting my Master’s in Food Studies. I love the anthropological/cultural side of gastronomy but at the same time I would like to have a RD degree as well. So, for finance & time sake, I’m considering taking as many pre-reqs at my community college while I work on my Master’s in Food studies. I would like to find the shortest (and cheapest) route of getting my RD license. Any recomendations would be helpful!

  82. 153

    Hi Anne: I just found your page. Do you need to have good math skills to be a RD and can you tell me if all the chemistry classes are hard. I will have an associates degree after this year and want to become a Nutritionist but am not sure how intense the courses are. Thanks.

  83. 155
    Jessica Alden says:

    Hey thank you so much for posting this! I am taking my pre reqs now and it is nice to see all of this in one spot! :) Good luck with everything!!

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