One of the larges obstacles most dietetics students is being accepted into a dietetics internship program. This is usually understated and most students don’t realize this harsh reality until there are far into their undergraduate program. According to the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics, the odds of getting into a dietetic internship are about 50%. This is due to the fact that there are so little internship and many more applicants than available spots. Most internships only select 10-15 students per year. If you are one of the unfortunate students that don’t match, you have to wait until the following year to reapply.
Dietetic Internships must provide 1,200 hours of supervised practice. This is usually completed within 8-24 months. Most internships last about a year long, while others that include a graduate degrees can take 2 years. Internships are for perspective students to be eligible to take the RD exam.
Accredited Dietetic Internship
The most common type of internship that is conducted after completing at least a bachelor’s degree from an a DPD accredited program. These can be either part-time or full-time (32 or 40 hours a week). Expect to rotate between different rotation sites every 1-3 weeks. Research projects, journal article reviews, volunteering, and attending conferences are usually required in additional to the work required during the rotations.
- Rotation sites and preceptors are provided for you
- May have to move out of state to do the internship
- Working full-time without pay
Accredited coordinated program
A program that combines the necessary supervised practice hours of a dietetic internship with didactic coursework to prepare students for entry-level practice as dietitians. Graduates of this program before eligible to take the Registered Dietitians Exam. Coordinated programs can be offered at undergraduate or graduate levels. Similar to nursing school, you have to complete 2 years of prerequisite coursework before applying to this program. These programs are highly competitive, so a minimum gpa is required.
- Most time efficient route to becoming a dietitian
- Don’t have to worry getting accepted into a competitive dietetic internship
- Very few programs offer this route
- Competitive to get into this program
- Stress of completing an internship and taking undergrad classes at the same time
Individualized Supervised Practice Pathways (ISPPs)
The newest internship option that is designed to address the shortage of available dietetic internships. Allows supervised practice to be fulfilled on an individual basis. Students are required to secure their own preceptors. It is also possible to coordinate a part-time job in dietetics with an ISPP, counting paid work hours towards ISPP hours. Good for students who can’t relocate to another state.
(Unique Qualifications for ISPPs)
- Be a graduate from a DPD accredited program and hold a DPD verification statement, and were not matched to an internship.
- Have a doctoral degree from an accredited university (don’t need to have a DPD verification statement). May need to take additional classes depending on educational background.
- Have the ability to complete the internship locally
- Less expensive
- Must find rotation sites and willing preceptors in food service, community, and clinical on your own.
- Requires a lot of discipline and planning to complete all required competencies, projects, assignments and administrative paperwork.