What are the differences between a Dietetic Internship (DI) and a Coordinated Program?
A Dietetic Internship provides a minimum of 1200 hours of supervised practice and follows completion of at least a baccalaureate degree and ACEND/Academy minimum academic requirements in an accredited DPD. Some programs may be part-time and may be completed within a two-year period. An 11 month program would meet the ACEND/Academy minimum requirements of 1200 hours, while a two year internship would include a Master’s degree with the dietetic internship.
A Coordinated Program integrates academic requirements with supervised practice within an academic program. In other words, at the completion of a Coordinated Program, students will have finished both the coursework and the supervised practice necessary to become a Registered Dietitian. Each program is accredited by ACEND/Academy and culminates in a minimum of a baccalaureate degree. These programs provide opportunities for achieving the knowledge and performance requirements through an integrated program. Some Coordinated Programs accept students who already have a baccalaureate degree. For most of these programs, DPD graduates will participate mainly in the supervised practice component, but may have to repeat some coursework.
How do I prove that I’ve completed my B.S. degree if I’m applying for a DI Program before I graduate?
When you apply to supervised practice programs, the Meredith College DPD Director will provide you with a “Declaration of Intent to Complete” form. You will send this form to the programs to which you are applying along with your other application materials. It serves as temporary “proof” that you’re on your way to completing the undergraduate program. Once you have actually graduated, the Director will provide you with original signed copies of the “Verification Statement.” This form is your final proof that you did indeed complete the DPD, and it will only be issued to you after your graduation and you have submitted all transcripts of coursework for DPD courses and transcript indicating awarding of bachelor’s degree. It is not unusual for supervised practice programs to receive verification forms after students have already started their program, so don’t worry if you graduate right before you begin your internship.
Do DIs offer graduate courses?
Internships vary from no graduate hours to a combined Master’s/Dietetic Internship. Students who are interested in graduate programs should research available options. Meredith College offers graduate credit for coursework taken during the dietetic internship. Emphasis areas include general, research, and sports nutrition. Learn more about Meredith’s Dietetic Internship program. If you have further questions, contact Cathie Ostrowski, MS, RD, the Program Director (919) 769-8419 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
Where can I obtain more information about supervised practice programs?
The American Dietetic Association website (www.eatright.org) provides the most up-to-date information about the programs. At http://www.eatright.org/acend, there is a listing of each program and information on costs, length of internship, internship director, and area of specialization. Another resource is the Applicant Guide to Supervised Practice Experience, a valuable tool that describes many of the experience programs that are available. The Guide provides detailed information such as the usual number of applications received by individual programs and answers to frequently asked questions. This Guide is available for review in the office of the DPD Director. A workshop is offered during the fall semester by the DPD Director to provide students with valuable information about the internship application process. The workshop covers the internship application process including how to submit information for Letters of Intent and Verification statements. Students are required to attend the workshop their senior year if they intend to apply for dietetic internship programs.
How much does a supervised practice program cost?
Costs vary widely, so you should check with each program about required expenses. Most accredited DIs associated with regionally accredited university graduate programs qualify for government sponsored loan programs. You should contact the individual internship’s website to see if financial aid is available at a specific Dietetic Internship. Numerous scholarship and loan opportunities are available to help pay the costs of the supervised practice experience, including dietetic practice groups and state dietetic foundations.
What are the characteristics of a successful applicant for supervised practice programs?
Being a successful applicant to a dietetic internship starts long before you fill out application forms. Although programs may have varying selection criteria, applicants who receive appointments to supervised practice programs tend to have the following characteristics:
- A cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher (although a 3.2 or higher is recommended)
- A 3.0 GPA or higher in professional courses
- A 3.0 GPA or higher in biological and physical sciences
- Significant paid or volunteer nutrition or food-related work experience
- Strong letters of recommendation
- In addition to these characteristics leadership in organizations and willingness to relocate are also important.
How can I improve my chances of being admitted to a supervised practice program?
A student has no guarantee of receiving a DI appointment. In April of 2014, approx. 50% of the students participating in the national computer match received a match. Internships continue to become more competitive. In order to increase your chances for an appointment, you should:
- Investigate programs early to identify their admission criteria.
- Maintain a grade point average over 3.0 (although 3.2 or higher is more realistic)
- Get dietetics related work or volunteer experience (Hospital experience is considered valuable, as are foodservice, and community nutrition program experience.
- Participate in activities that demonstrate leadership (college clubs, sports, community service projects
- Get to know dietetics faculty members through faculty office hours, MNWA, or independent study. You will need letters of recommendations from them.
- Apply to more than one program, but not an excessive number.
- (Successful applicants apply to an average of 3-4 programs).
- Be flexible and willing to relocate, explore programs outside of Raleigh.
What steps should I take when applying to Dietetic Internships?
- Maintain good grades
- Become active in organizations or community activities; join MNWA
- Join the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (Only students who are Academy members are eligible for scholarships and awards)
- Obtain dietetics-related work or volunteer experience
- Begin reviewing the ACEND/Academy website and the Applicant Guide to Supervised Practice Experience to select internships that interest you
- Attend Supervised Practice Experience Planning workshop in the Fall semester
- Get to know the DPD Director (you will want them to write a good letter of recommendation)
- Get to know FN faculty (Remember, you need three letters of recommendation for your application)
- Get dietetics-related volunteer or paid work experience
- Get involved in activities in the MNWA – run for office or chair a committee
- Actively participate in Raleigh District Dietetic Association (RDDA) and NC Dietetic Association (NCDA) events
- Email or write dietetic internships for additional information and application
- Take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
- Attend Supervised Practice Experience Planning workshop in the Fall (mandatory in order to obtain information regarding process of obtaining Letter of Intent and Verification Statement)
- Select 3-4 internships that match your interests and qualifications
- Check deadlines and apply on time – usually mid-February (but can be earlier so be sure to check the deadlines)
- Appointment match date – April
- If you match in April – Congratulations!
- If not, then:
- See a DPD Director for alternatives
- Keep trying to match in the post-match period from April to August (not all programs fill their classes during the match)
- Continue to get experience if necessary
- Apply for internships again for the Fall match (deadline in September) for November appointment date (DI usually begins in January)
What’s this “computer matching” thing all about?
Most supervised practice programs participate in computer matching. At the time of application, you will submit a computer card that ranks in order of preference those programs to which you are applying. DI programs do the same; however, they are ranking applicants. A computer matches DIs to applicants based on those rankings. Computer matching cards are available from the Program Director prior to each application period, and there is a fee for computer matching. Ask the Program Director for more information.
Learn more about the Dietetic Internship Centralized Application System (DICAS):http://www.eatright.org/students/education/internships.aspx
Apply online through the Dietetic Internship Centralized Dietetic Application System:https://portal.dicas.org
What do I do if I don’t receive a DI appointment?
The selection process is very competitive, and a strong application packet does not guarantee a match to an internship program. The applicant pool is national, and you are in competition with many other students across the country. If you do not receive an appointment in the match, you should see the Program Director about available internship programs that might have openings. You should also allow your name to be published on the list of applicants who did not match – it can increase your chances of matching even after the computer match is over! It is still possible to obtain an internship in the post-match period, although it does require an additional application process. If you are still not successful, you should begin to re-evaluate your credentials, identifying strengths and weaknesses (which we all have!) and think about ways to better highlight those strengths and improve those weaknesses.
- Evaluate how you can improve your qualifications
- Look at additional Dietetic internship programs
- Obtain a job related to nutrition/dietetics
- Students who didn’t match should contact the DPD Director immediately to discuss the situation and plan for future matches. The dietetics advisors in the Food and Nutrition Department are interested in and concerned about students and can be very helpful in providing support. Persistent, qualified applicants nearly always find placement.
After completing a supervised practice program, what do I do next?
You must apply to take the Registration Examination for Dietitians. Candidates for the RD exam take their exam on the computer at one of more than 200 Thomson Prometric (formerly Sylvan) testing centers around the country. The exam can be scheduled following completion of the registration eligibility application procedure, which is discussed in the supervised practice program. The exam is approximately three hours long and includes questions in food and nutrition, nutrition services (community and clinical), education and research, foodservice systems and management. Upon successful completion of the exam, and notification by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR), you will be a Registered Dietitian, RD.