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Help! Currently in an MS of Dietetics program... but want to become a PA!

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Hello everyone,


I am currently in year 1 of 2 in a Masters of Dietetics program. At the end of it, I will be a registered dietitian. My schooling includes 1200 hours of supervised practice.


However, this semester I have been working with standardized patients conducting various physical exams and I absolutely fell in love. I love working hands-on with the patients, and I want to be able to treat and prescribe medicine. I have always felt a little "off" about my career choice, and now I am asking myself why I didn't become a PA. It seems like the perfect solution since pursuing an MD is out of the question, both money and time-wise.


My overall undergraduate gpa was 3.77 with my science gpa actually being a little higher. I am fascinated with physiology, science, and medicine and have a great desire to learn more. I feel like I made the decision to go into dietetics rather hastily, and now I have figured out what I really want to do.


Where should I go from here? If I want to become a PA after this program is over, can I join a certificate only program, or do I have to earn a totally separate masters degree again? I am kind of confused about the difference between all of the different types of PA programs.


Also, will the 1200 hours count as patient care experience even though it is part of an educational program?


Finally, is having the RD valuable or kind of useless? Would any practicing PA also be a practicing RD at the same time? I'm not sure if it was a waste of time to get my RD if I will end up never using it as a PA...


Thanks for your help,


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Briana, there are tons of RDs who become PAs. One school told me RDs are the 3rd to the number of RTs and RNs who become PAs. I have been an RD for 21 years. After a relocation to a different state and a long story, I am going to a a PA too!


Wow, that's great to hear!


I guess the main thing I'm concerned about is the fact that I'm going for my MS in dietetics. Are a lot of the RDs going for their MS for the first time when they apply to a PA program? I wonder if there is a school with less classes that does not award an MS degree since I will already have one.


Also, will you be renewing your RD and being a PA as well, practicing as both, or just becoming a PA?


Lastly, do you think I will have to work in the field as an RD for a few years before getting into a PA program, or will the fact that I have a masters and 1200 hours of supervised experience be enough?


Sorry for all the questions, I have looked around for the answers but haven't found much about someone in my particular situation.

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You will have to complete the full PA program I believe. The type of cert or degree a PA program awards means very little unless you intend to go into academia. The masters programs don't teach anything someone in a cert program doesn't also get. Graduation from a program allows you to take the PANCE and that is the main thing. Don't think of PA programs in terms of the 2yr or 4yr RN programs model.

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I know 6 RDs and are now PAs. None of them have kept their RD license. As you will find when you spend some time reading previous posts on this forum and research the schools you're interested in, each school varies with their pre-requisities and years of experience and type of experience. Very UNLIKE the dietetics curriculum, where, whichever school we go to, we all have had the same classes. As far as getting your MS in dietetics, if you've already started, then I guess finish it. Having an MS doesn't make you have any greater advantage over another candidate from what I've read on here. In my opinion, of course I'm 44 so consider the age factor (!) if I were 23-24 again, and interested in becoming a PA, and currently enrolled in an MS dietetics program, I would quit the MS program immediately to save cash and finish up any pre-requesities for PA and apply for PA school asap. Of course, there are many many other thiings I would have done differently too....ha ha There are some dietitians on this forum who are at your stage, thinking about becoming a PA, look for their posts and PM them! While I have provided shadowing and interning experences for about 25 potential or soon-to-be RDs in my career, and every single one of them said "I want to do exactly what you do" (I had an awesome job as a wellness director for a large healthcare system) I will NEVER take an RD student again, based on the 5 RD jobs I've had to where we relocated to....but after I'm done with PA school, I can't wait to have students shadow or intern with me for PA career potentials!

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Hi Briana (another Brie!) - in regards to the Master's program.. for most new PA's it is a big YES. It may be required in your state regardless, and by 2014 that will be the national mandate. You don't want to set yourself to just have another hurdle in the future. Quite a few people in my class already have MS degrees, so you wouldn't be alone.


BTW, there are some certification programs who have students concurrently doing their master's, or who have agreements with other universities to finish a master's when they're done. Since you're just starting on the application path though, you would be much better served finding a master's program (or 5) and applying there. :wink:

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I am a MS, RD too. If you are almost done with your internship, I'd say try get a clinical RD job in a hospital for 1 yr to get more HCE hours to help boost your PA application. There is no advance standing PA program I am aware of, so your MS won't really make a difference in terms of a PA program-but it could make you a more competitive candidate. I had a 3.8 science GPA and 8000 hrs HCE and received an interview invite to all the PA programs I applied to. Good luck!

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