Taking Risks in Your Dietetics Career Path Can Open New Doors

Young woman wearing glasses and thinking with hand on chin.
Photo: Thinkstock/Ridofranz

After graduating with my dietetics undergraduate degree, I went through a year-long period of feeling lost. I had lost the opportunity to apply for DICAS my senior year due to repeating a failed course. I wanted to move to Chicago but, based on my GPA, I wasn’t qualified for any of the science-based internship programs.

I started applying for graduate school for healthcare administration, convinced that I was not meant to become a dietitian. In my search, I ended up stumbling upon a Facebook ad for a combined program in the Chicago area: an MBA with an option for an emphasis in healthcare administration combined with a dietetic internship. It was all the things I had been hoping for rolled into one. I applied that same weekend and got accepted with early admission. Suddenly I was becoming an RDN after all!

I went into my program not knowing that being a dietitian in the business world was even an option beyond healthcare — those jobs had never existed where I lived previously.  Chicago opened this massive door of RDNs working in business, public relations, communications, advertising and more.

Getting published writing for Student Scoop for the first time was my first “ah-ha” moment — I wanted to do more than a traditional clinical dietitian job. My first spring semester, I took an unpaid position with a nutrition-based startup for RDNs. This turned into a paid summer internship, followed by a paid part-time job. In this startup, I’ve gotten experience in sales, marketing, communications and social media. Definitely not a traditional nutrition role!

In the fall of my second year, I did a specialty rotation working for a government commodity and met an incredible variety of RDNs making a huge impact on the way that everyday people view nutrition and farmers. This is an opportunity that I couldn’t have imagined myself taking as an undergraduate.

All of the risks that I have taken in the past two years have led me to realize that I want to work in nutrition business and communications — a revelation I may have never reached had my original plan to pursue an internship immediately after graduation panned out. The lesson I learned? Enrolling in a program you don’t know much about or taking an unpaid position over a waitressing job — these kinds of risks may change your career path in ways you wouldn’t have expected.

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Kate Egan
Kate Egan is a dietetic intern and MBA candidate at Dominican University in River Forest, Ill.