It’s now been almost two years since I left my job as a marketer and returned to school. When I first started I already had a BA in Communications, but I had a sincere deficit in the prerequisites necessary to get into a Nutrition program. Turns out all of those evasive maneuvers I made during my first degree to avoid chemistry, biology, and statistics weren’t too effective after all. I’ve encountered all three of those and more in the past two years. But, the good news is that I’m DONE…. with prerequisites at least. And now it’s time to move on to the next chapter in this journey.
Applying to Nutrition Programs
Last winter, I applied to a number of different schools with masters programs in Nutrition, including University of Washington, University of Utah, and Washington State University. There’s a number of other schools I also included, and some other local schools I could have applied to, including Bastyr located in Washington as well. However, my main focus has been on getting into a Coordinated Dietetics program.
What is a coordinated dietetics program? This essentially means that when you get accepted into one of these programs, you also get accepted into an internship program. To be a dietitian you have to do an internship with clinical hours before you are certified to practice. The problem is that these internships can be quite competitive, and you don’t have a lot of control over where you end up. You apply to multiple schools and the Academy actually places you. Where you get assigned is where you go.
In the Seattle area there’s about three different schools in the city that turn out students with a Masters in Nutrition. But only one of those offers a coordinated program. That school is the University of Washington, and guess what? A number of the the hospitals in the Seattle area are affiliated with the school, so internships at those hospitals are reserved for students of the university who go through their coordinated dietetics program. They simply don’t have room for all of the interns from the other schools. So, this provides some extra competition for those not in a coordinated program.
I will point out though that these other programs (Bastyr, SPU) are great programs, even though they’re not coordinated. They’re just a little more difficult to get your internship after graduating (from what I’ve heard). For me that was a big deal. When I’m done I’ll have spent an approximate total of five years pursuing this career change. Plus I’m engaged and will soon be married. So, the last thing I want to worry about after finishing a program is getting an internship… or the possibility of not getting an internship. For that reason, I’ve pretty much focused solely on coordinated programs.
Prerequisites for Applying to a Nutrition Program
As I already mentioned, I’ve been working on my prerequisites for the past two years at local community colleges. That was taking about two classes per quarter, including two classes in the summer time.
The prerequisites can vary slightly depending on what program you are applying to, but most of them require the same core set of classes. Here’s what I ended up taking.
- General Chemistry w/lab (3 quarters)
- Organic Chemistry w/lab (2 quarters)
- Biochemistry w/lab (1 quarter)
- Anatomy & Physiology w/lab (2 quarters)
- Cell Biology w/lab (1 quarter)
- Microbiology w/lab (1 quarter)
- Statistics (1 quarter)
- Nutrition (1 quarter)
Based on what I’ve seen, most schools require some variation of the classes above. If you haven’t taken any science classes it’s guaranteed you’re going to need to take chemistry, even if you decide to do a different career (nursing, doctor, physical therapist, etc.), so it’s a good place to start. I noticed that not all nutrition programs require statistics, so I waited until after I applied to programs to take it. Most programs allow you to apply and get accepted even if you have a few outstanding prerequisites, as long as you are able to complete them before starting their program. So, once I got accepted into a program that required statistics, I just took that in the spring.
Oh… and there’s the GRE
I almost forgot. If you’re applying into a Masters program, you’ll most likely need to take the GRE as well. Some school’s don’t require it, including Bastyr, located here in Washington. The test itself is kind of annoying. It’s annoying because it feels like most of the questions are really just written to be confusing. If you need to take it, I’d suggest planning far enough in advance to study for several month’s and do it early enough before you turn in your school applications so that you can retake it if you don’t score as high as you’d like. That way you can retake it before you apply… and increase your chances of acceptance, instead of waiting a year to apply again. The best GRE study resource I found was Magoosh.
Getting Accepted into a Program
I applied to several schools and got one acceptance. With another year under my belt of experience and volunteering, I think I could have probably increased my acceptance rate, but here’s why I chose the school I got accepted to:
- The Program was Coordinated
- State school – which means lower in-state tuition
- Provided a focus on both Nutrition and Exercise
So, which program is this? The program I’ll be attending starting in the Fall of 2016 is the Washington State University Nutrition and Exercise Physiology program.
This program is a little bit different than the other programs I applied to, in a few different ways. For starters, it provides a focus on both nutrition and exercise physiology. To me, both of those things are equally important for supporting health and well being. They very much go hand-in-hand. Most of the programs I looked at focused more specifically on nutrition. I would have happily done one of those programs, but nutrition and exercise are more of a perfect match for me.
Secondarily, this was the only bachelors program I applied to. So, I will technically be earning a second bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology. I found out about the program researching the their Masters in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology program. But, they required a Bachelor of Science degree to get in… and I had a Bachelor of Arts. The alternative was that I could complete their two year BS program in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology, then followed by a one year masters in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology, with clinical hours included. So, that’s about three years until I can get my RD. That’s equivalent in time to most other Masters programs. So, I decided to take the plunge.
Now I begin my concentrated focus on Nutrition and Exercise Physiology, which I will continue for three years, eventually culminating in a BS and an MS in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology. When I’m finished I will take the tests to become both a ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist, and a Registered Dietitian.
Here we go!