Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Becoming a Registered Dietitian: Applying for Your Dietetic Internship

Registered Dietitians (RD) or Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDN) are the nutrition experts. We go through many years of school, a dietetic internship, and new RDs will be required to have a Master's degree by 2024. This week we are walking through all the steps to become a Registered Dietitian. We discussed dietetic undergraduate programs, and today we are discussing dietetic internships.

Applying for the Dietetic Internship
There are several parts to the Dietetic Internship Application: undergraduate grade point average (GPA) in core curriculum, GRE score, and volunteer and nutrition-related experience. To apply for a Dietetic Intern, you must complete your undergraduate degree with the necessary prerequisite courses.

You will also need to take the GRE for programs that have a Master's component. Plan to take the GRE at least 6 months before internship application, so you have all the necessary components to apply for the internships.

Aside from your GPA and GRE score, personal experience is important. Volunteer in different areas of nutrition to get a better idea of what are you would like to work in, gain nutrition-related experience, and build your resume.

When you have all of these components, you can complete most dietetic internships through the Dietetic Internship Centralized Application Service (DICAS) and D & D Digital, which is the site where you pay the computer matching fee and rank the dietetic internship. 

Now you are ready to apply to dietetic internships? But what internship will you choose?

Types of Dietetic Internships: Coordinated Programs or Didactic + Dietetic Internship
There are two paths of entry into dietetic internships: coordinated programs or a didactic program with a dietetic internship. After you finish your undergraduate or didactic program in dietetics, you are eligible to apply for to a 'traditional' dietetic internship. After you apply to a 'traditional' dietetic internship you are matched using a national computer match process. This match process involves you ranking dietetic internships and the internships ranking all of their applicants. You are only matched with one program. 

Or, you could enroll in a coordinated program in dietetics which combines undergraduate (bachelor's coursework), graduate coursework, and a supervised practice or internship for RD eligibility. The coordinated programs is also called a combined program. The coordinate programs usually have students complete their freshman and sophomore year. Then, students may apply for entry into the coordinated program at the end of their sophomore year. Students complete their supervised practice as an intern while completing their undergraduate degree. 

Specialized Dietetic Internships
All dietetic internships must provide at least 1,200 supervised hours of practice. But internships has some differences. Internships can range in length from 8-24 months. The longer internships usually include a part-time internship schedule with some graduate credit.  Some dietetic internships have a specific focus including pediatrics, geriatrics, clinical, etc. If you have an interest in this areas, you might consider looking for an internship with a specialization. All internships have a variety of shadowing experiences within the field of dietetics to help prepare you for the RD exam.

Find a Dietetic Internship
Check out Dietetic Internships in your state and find one that fits your needs by visiting the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' (AND) Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) website.

My Dietetic Internship
I completed my undergraduate course work at Louisiana State University (LSU). I had the opportunity to work for a RD in private practice and for LSU's RD during my undergraduate career. I visited to several internships the summer before my junior year. I met with the program director, toured the facilities, and had a chance to talk with some of the current interns. I also researched the internship I applied and matched to the internship program at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences/Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare Systems. 

Do you have questions about dietetic internships?
For more information about dietetic internships, ask your undergraduate program director or contact the dietetic internship coordinator. Also, check out ACEND's FAQ page to find information about computer matching, program daintiness, and career options in dietetics.

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