Jan. 15. 2014
Written By:
McKel (Hill) Kooienga
McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Founder of Nutrition Stripped® and the Mindful Nutrition Method™

McKel shares her tips for how to become a dietitian nutritionist.

I’m sharing my story today here for all of you out there who have emailed me asking about my path and how I got to be where I am today. I get emails almost daily from future dietitians, nutritionists, health coaches, current professionals, and people interested going back to school to pursue a degree or work in the field of nutrition. I LOVE that the momentum of dietetics is catching on and the power of what we put in our bodies has such a huge impact on our minds, bodies, and overall health. I’m sharing my top tips!

All in all, I’m completely flattered that I receive this much email from you all asking me about my career path- I’m going to be 100% honest with you- this is just the START of my career path. I have a lot of projects coming up, big goals, dreams, and aspirations that I’ll accomplish in my lifetime. I don’t want any of you to think I’ll “all-knowing” in this field because I’m not, but I sure do work hard, love what I do more than anything, and want to continue to learn. Top 5 Tips:

Get involved.

With professional groups, college groups, volunteering, etc.- this not only gives you a well rounded and open experience, but also is a great resume builder.

Sharpen your focus.

On a specific field or topic of dietetics/nutrition that you want to become an expert in. This may take some time, but if you’re listening to your true self of what makes you happy, go on the path of that.


Keep in touch with advisors, friends, college friends, co-workers, family, friends, etc. You’ll need their support for whatever you choose to do with your career.

Stay savvy.

Think you can go to school as an RD and come out and never study again? Think again. This career is an ever-changing field and requires your expertise, knowledge, and critical thinking skills to continue to be the best you can be.

Think outside the box.

This is the most important for new dietitians and the way this field is going. We all need to keep up to date with continued research BUT also think outside of the box when it comes to what you’re taught in school- this is only a small percentage of real life nutrition and what’s going on in our food system. Be your own teacher.

I will tell you, the biggest help for me on my career path was using my networks within my school, the Ohio State University, to keep me up to date with job openings and seeking out potential networking companies/RD’s via the main internet job sites. My internships were standard in meeting the requirements for AND programs and included clinical/hospital work, food service, school wellness programs, employee wellness, cancer centers, and community-based nutrition programs.

I am where I am today due to outside research, long hours of hard work, dedication, passion, and my own interests taking priority over what we were taught in school. Going through schooling and receiving the proper education to do what I do on a daily basis [coach clients, make recommendations, utilize my skills as a dietitian and wellness coach, writing, photography, marketing, networking, etc.] was a long and challenging process, but worth every second! Keep at it and you’ll find an area of nutrition you enjoy if you haven’t already. Also you can check out my ABOUT me section and FAQ for more questions and answers about my professional path.

More tips…

  • On creating a business // Be willing to go through struggles, pain, and hardship- creating your dream job isn’t rainbows and butterflies all the time. It takes perseverance, dedication, hard work, long hours of free work, dealing with rejection, and sacrifices. So what is that you’re willing to sacrifice?  
  • Have confidence
  • Speak your truth // I often see other bloggers, business owners, etc., simply “copy” what others are doing- instead, do you! Do what you love not what’s on trend.
  • Be unique
  • Be creative
  • Have passion // love what you do… it’ll show in your work
    • if you don’t have passion, this career will soon become a “job” with a lack of staying power
  • Network with like-minded people
  • Be receptive to your “calling” //  Listen to your intuition about where this career can take you- there are so many wonderful fields within dietetics and nutrition.
  • Be open minded to other professionals and fields
  • Research an area that resonates with you and stick with it
  • You don’t need to be an expert in every field within nutrition

I hope this answers many more of your questions you all email me about, best of luck to each and every one of you- we are all unique, talented, intelligent beings in this field. Let’s work together, contribute with an open and an intelligent mind for the future of nutrition in our society.