People always ask me: why did you choose Nutrition as a career? My response would always be – I did not choose nutrition; nutrition choose me. In this blog i will be sharing with you my journey from wanting to be a Pilot to pursuing a career in Nutrition and my experiences in the field.
Was Nutrition my first career choice?
In high school, I knew very little about careers in Nutrition. In fact, Nutrition was never in my thought process.
Wanted To Become A Pilot
I have always dreamed of becoming a Pilot or land a job in the field of Aviation. My obsession with planes would often lead me to take the bus to the The Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA) and sit on the waving gallery. I would be inspired and fascinated by the planes as they took off and landed.
The high school I attended in Jamaica allowed us to choose classes or subjects that reflected the career path we may have wanted to explore.
Sciences I Studied in High School.
In high school, I studied mostly the sciences: Chemistry, Biology, Physics, and Geography. These classes were some of the requirements to get into pilot school.
Unfortunately, my physics teacher choose to engage in a 40 day fast with no food and he became very ill.
His substitute did not do a great job teaching Physics and I was failing the class. I had to drop the class and my only other 2 options were: Food and Nutrition or Accounts.
Nutrition Choose Me.
Accounting to be was boring, so I choose Food and Nutrition. I fell in love with the idea of planning and preparing a meal and eating it afterwards.
My dream of becoming a Pilot over time, faded in the limelight of a career path in Nutrition. I strongly believe that I was ordained to be in the field of Food and Nutrition- Nutrition choose me.
What Happened After High School?
After sitting my CXC exams and successfully passed 7 subjects, I applied to the University Of Technology (UTECH) and got accepted into their Dietetics and Nutrition Program. It was at this college that my journey into the field of Dietetics and Nutrition started to germinate.
Fast forward 3 years later, l completed my Diploma and landed my first full-time job in Food and Nutrition.
My 1st Full-time Job in Nutrition
I have worked a summer job as a Dietetic Clerk or what they call a Nutrition Assistant in the US, at The Spanish Town Hospital.
After completing University, I obtained a job as a Food Service Supervisor in the Dietary Department at The University Hospital Of The West Indies , commonly known as UHWI. (pronounced Uwee).
This is the same hospital where my mom and dad worked for many years.
Food Service and Patient Care
To date, this is the toughest job i have ever worked.
I was fresh out of college, and had very little experience.
I looked like a 12 year old. Yet, I had to supervise dietary staff that were old enough to be my mom and grandmother.
But i grew,developed and gained a lot of Food service and patient care related skills.
Studied Food and Nutrition Sciences In The US.
After resigning from my job as a Food Service Supervisor in Jamaica, i migrated the US and enrolled into the Nutrition Program at Brooklyn College CUNY.
I received both a Bachelors and Master’s Degree in Health and Nutrition Sciences while holding a full-time job.
Disparity of Black Professionals in the Nutrition Field.
It is very obvious that the field of nutrition is predominantly Caucasian. Look at the colleges, nutrition seminars and the work place.
While Brooklyn college is a melting pot of students with different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, the Nutrition and other Programs did not reflect this diversity.
Lack of Diversity In College Nutrition Programs.
There were some classes where I was the only African American. This is also true for the faculty or professors in the program.
There were only 2-3 African American Professors I have encountered during my tenure at Brooklyn College.
Moreover, these black professors were not the ones who taught the core nutrition classes.
10 Facts About the nutrition field
It’s a female dominated field.
Predominately Caucasian; very small % of African Americans/blacks.
College Nutrition Program is heavily science based: Chemistry, Biology, Anatomy & Physiology, Biochemistry, Microbiology, Clinical Nutrition, Micronutrients, and Statistics & Research.
Salary will not get you rich
The profession is underrated and least valued compared to the other healthcare professions.
Need to be an Registered Dietitian (RD) to work in a hospital setting.
To become a RD, you must apply to at least 1 internship program (at least $50 for each application), sit an exam after completing and pass it.
A Dietetic Internship can run for 9-12 months full-time. Internship programs can cost from $10,000 to $25,000.
Without the RD license, you are limited to jobs outside of a clinical setting or those that require you to be a RD. These jobs includes: WIC Nutritionist, Food Service Supervisor, School Teacher, Public Health Inspector, just to name a few.
You have to love and have a passion for food and nutrition sciences to last in the field. Least to say, it is a very rewarding career.
Master’s Degree In Nutrition Needed by 2024
Note: By 2024, a Master’s degree will be required to not only make you more marketable, but to help you get placed into a DI Program.
Therefore, if you are planning on pursuing a career in Nutrition, an advanced degree is highly recommended.
What is the Nutrition Dietetic Internship program?
After completing your BS Degree in Nutrition, you will have to apply to a Dietetic Internship (DI) Program. The Academy Of Nutrition and Dietetic provides you with a directory of all accredited nutrition and DI Programs in the US.
Online and Part-time Dietetic Internship Programs
There are now online or distant Internship programs. However, you may have to find your own preceptors. Some DI programs now offer part-time placements.
In addition, The University Of Colorado Post-Baccalaureate DI Program provides a distance education model that allow you to complete the DI program without relocating.
Combined Master’s and DI Programs.
Some colleges or universities allows you to take both the Dietetic internship and Masters Program together.
The University of St. Joseph in Connecticut offers this same dual concept that allows their students to apply to their DI program.
Once they get matched to their program, they can apply to the Master’s Degree program and both can be taken simultaneously.
Brooklyn College, the school i attended, now has a DI Program tied into their MS Nutrition Program.
Dietetic Internships (DI) Uses DICAS
The Dietetic Internship Centralized Application Process (DICAS) is an online application service that allows students to apply to as many DI as needed.
Each DI program has a limited number of slots (~5 – 20) for interns.
The DI Matching Process
The Applicants then goes through a matching process where they can get selected to one of the DI programs they applied.
The matching process is very competitive as hundreds of students across the US are applying for one of 5 – 20 placements at a particular DI Program.
New York Presbyterian Hospital DI Program provides you with the breakdown of the application phases of their DI Program.
1200 Hours Internship
Once you are selected or matched to an internship program and you must pay your “$15,000” tuition fee.
You will need to complete 1200 hours of supervised practice in Clinical Nutrition, Community Nutrition and Food Service Management.
Some internship programs may offer other additional rotations.
The RD Exam and Fee
After you have successfully completed the 1200 hours of supervised rotations, you will be cleared by your DI Preceptors to register and pay a $200 fee for the The Register Dietitian (RD) Exam .
The RD exam is not easy. You will have to first study different modules that covers clinical nutrition, food service, Management and community nutrition.
What is the RD Exam?
The Exam consist of 125 scenario type choice questions. You will have 2.5 – 3 hours to sit the exam and you must get 25 points to pass the exam.
The grading system is very complicated. But, the computer will detect when you are failing in a certain area and will feed you more questions until you either redeem yourself or continue to fail.
Once the exam is finished, the computer screen will go blank and you will know right there and then if you passed or failed.
When you pass the exam, you will be able to start the application process either online or by mail to get your RD licence.
A fee of $294 is due once the application is received. You can pay online or personal cheque can mailed to the NYS Education Department. (NYSED).
Academy of Nutrition Membership
After you have passed your RD exam and maybe were offered a job to work in a hospital as a Dietitian.
If you have not done so already, you will need to apply to be a member of the The Academy Of Nutrition and Dietetic.
In addition, the Academy’s yearly membership will cost you around $235.
It comes with a number of discounted benefits and continuing Education (CE) credits opportunities to help maintain your RD license.
Dietitian vs Nutritionist
Many people unknowingly use the term Dietitian and Nutritionist interchangeably. But they both carry different weight.
However, the main difference between the two is the legal restrictions that each titles carries.
While some states require that a Nutritionist obtain a occupational license from their state’s nutrition board, some states allow individuals to practice as nutritionist without any formal education or training.
The Dietitian on the other hand, must obtain at least a Bachelor Degree, pass the RD exam in order to become licensed and be legally called a Registered Dietitian.
Would I Recommend Someone to Pursue Nutrition?
Nutrition is a great field to pursue. In this blog I have encapsulated a little of my experiences and knowledge in the field of Nutrition.
The Nutrition Program is growing and changing. The Academy of Nutrition said that they are trying to promote more racial diversity in the field.
Responsibilities vs. No Responsibility
Honestly, the Nutrition Program was designed for students who recently graduated from high school and is still living with their parents with little or no financial obligations.
In comparison, for someone who lives on their own and/or has a family with more financial responsibilities, pursuing a career in Nutrition with the hopes of becoming a RD, may pose some financial challenges.
But do not let anything or anyone discourages you from reaching your goals.
If you have the passion and love for Nutrition, you have already established your foundation for continued growth and building a career in Nutrition and Dietetics.
Mentor and Networking
Mentorship and networking help a lot.
I highly encourage that you network with people in the nutrition field very early and establish a mentor to help guide you through your journey.
Let Me Know What You Think.
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