- Rebecca Washuta
How I Changed Careers in My Late 20’s, Became a Dietitian, and Started a Thriving Private Practice
Updated: Jun 29, 2020
Are you passionate about nutrition and wellness and considering making this into a career? Are you anxious to take the next step but have no idea where to get started? I’ve been there. I’m often asked about my journey to becoming a Certified Nutrition Specialist and Licensed Dietitian, so I wanted to create this resource for those of you who are also starting out on this path. Below you can find a bit about my story and answers to the questions I get asked most frequently.
In 2016 I had what I thought was my dream job, a high-paying job flexible career in biopharmaceutical sales. I was the youngest female sales manager at my company, managed clients across 11 states, and was responsible for a $7+ million portfolio. I felt important. Important I learned however, does not equal happy. I knew there was something missing. I had always had a passion for nutrition and health and even though it felt ridiculous at the time to totally change careers, I knew in my heart it was something I had to pursue. So I did my research and found a graduate program that was both comprehensive and flexible (as I was still working full time). I set up meetings with Licensed Dietitian’s I admired to get their guidance, and found an internship I was excited about. I started an LLC and created my brand. I studied my butt off for my board exam, passed with flying colors, and got licensed in my home state of Florida. These activities spanned the course of 4 years, and to be honest it was not an easy road. The fact that I wake up every day excited about what I do and know that I’m truly making a difference in people’s lives has made is 100% worth it.
What is the Difference Between CNS & RD, and How Did You Decide Which Route to Pursue?
A Certified Nutrition Specialist® is highly qualified nutritional professional that has:
A masters or doctorate degree in nutrition from a fully accredited university
1,000 hours of a supervised internship
Passed a rigorous board exam
Here is a great visual summary from Healthy.Work
CNSs focus on functional medicine and take a “root cause” approach to wellness. This means they are trained to find the root cause of disease, and to practice preventative care. Because of this CNSs primarily work in private clinical practices or in community nutrition, corporate wellness, and public health, as opposed to working in hospitals like RDs. This is a good litmus test if you’re trying to determine which path to take. I knew from the beginning I never wanted to work in a hospital and was excited about having my own practice.
In some states, like my home state of Florida, once you have your CNS credential you can then apply for a license to become and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist (LDN). In these states, RD & CNS are seen as equivalent, as both lead to state licensure which is what is required in order to legally practice. It’s important to note that the scope and path to licensure for CNS varies by state, you can read more about your state here.
What Master’s Program Did You Choose and Why?
As I was still working full time, it was important to choose a program that was both flexible and fulfilled the academic requirements I was looking for. After a lot of research, I chose University of New England. I think the program was very well rounded and enjoyed the focus on community nutrition as well as medical nutrition therapy.
How Did You Get Your Supervised Practice Experience Hours?
I found an RD with a private practice that focused on holistic nutrition and wellness, and instantly knew I wanted to learn from her. My best advice is to find an internship where you can learn both about nutrition and best practices for running a business.
Tips for Studying for the Board Exam?
Give yourself enough time (at least a couple months), and don’t overwhelm yourself (and break the bank) by purchasing all new books.
Tips on Starting a Private Practice?
Reach out to Dietitian’s or other health practitioners with their own practice and schedule consults. Some of the best tips I’ve gotten for software, acquiring new clients, insurance, networking, etc. have some from these meetings.
If you're interested in learning more or have specific questions, you can set up a call with me by filling out my contact form. The world needs more nutrition professionals (there is so much work to be done!) so if you know this is your calling, it's time to get started.