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. Taking Risks in Your Dietetics Career Path Can Open New Doors - 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.

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