Not pursuing an RD? No problem! Here’s Some Options (Part I)

So you know you love nutrition and that you couldn’t see yourself studying anything else, but you’re not sure if becoming a Dietician is for you. For those of us with an option in Nutrition Science, we are usually in this category or already have an idea of what we want to do with our Nutrition degree. However, whether your option is in dietetics or nutrition science, it’s always a good idea to know what options you have if plan A doesn’t work out.

So I present to you alternate career path number one:

Physician Assistant

  • What do they do?
    • Physician Assistants (aka PAs)  practice medicine under the supervision of physicians and surgeons. They are trained to see/examine patients, diagnose and treat medical issues. They will often see patients in lieu of doctors and are able to prescribe medication.


  • Where do they work?
    • PAs work in many settings such as: hospitals, private practices (physician owned), community health clinics, nursing homes, schools/universities, federal government agencies and other places.


  • How much do they make?
    • The average salary for a PA in the US is around $83,000 a year. PAs practicing in Los Angeles average around $90,000 per year. Salary also depends on specialty.


  • How do you become a PA?
    • In order to become a PA you must attend an accredited  program to receive PA-C (Physician Assistant Certified). Most PA schools are graduate programs and award a masters degree, however there are physician assistant associate’s degree programs. There are 8 PA schools in California: 6 are masters programs, 2 are associates. After completing the academic program, graduates must sit through the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam and get state licensed in order to be able to practice medicine after graduation. After that, PAs may decide to do a Residency to gain more experience and if they want to specialize in a particular field of medicine.
  • How do I get into PA School?
    • You must meet the coursework pre-requisites: chemistry, physiology, anatomy, microbiology, biology etc
    • You must have hands on health care experience. Many schools require at the very least 1000 hours and most schools will not recognize volunteer hours. Most applicants have done this by working as an EMT, CNA, Medical Assistant and other related jobs.


Going down the path to become a Physician Assistant is a great option because our major’s curriculum already incorporates most of the prerequisites and because our major is pretty tough academically speaking, it provides a great foundation for PA programs.

If you’d like to look for more info on becoming a Physician Assistant, check out the links below:

American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA)

PA schools in California