Dietetic Internships

After receiving my BS degree in dietetics from UF, will I be a Registered Dietitian?

No. Completion of a Didactic Program in Dietetics (like the UF program) is only the first step required to become a Registered Dietitian.

The second step is the completion of a ACEND-accredited dietetic internship program. Eligibility for the dietetic internship includes the completion of the Didactic Program, and a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree. Receiving an appointment to a dietetic internship is very competitive, and completion of the UF DPD does not guarantee a dietetic internship. In April of 2009 and 2010, only 50% of students participating in the computer match nationally were placed into a dietetic internship.  It has become more critical for dietetic students to plan early for the application process and to use the resources provided by the program such as spring and fall workshops.

The third and final step to becoming an RD is successful completion of the National Registration Examination for Dietitians. It is very important to complete this step as soon as possible after finishing your dietetic internship. There are many study guides and programs available to help you prepare for success in this final step.

How do I prove that I’ve completed my BS degree if I’m applying to a Dietetic Internship Program before I graduate?

When you apply to dietetic internship programs, the UF 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 six 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 is certified by UF.

Do Dietetic Internships offer graduate courses?  

Some, but not all, dietetic internships offer graduate courses. Internships vary from no graduate credits to a combined Masters/Dietetic Internship. Students who are interested in graduate programs should research available options. Typically graduate programs require the GRE for admission so plan to take this exam by Fall of your senior year. The University of Florida offers a combined Master of Science – Dietetic Internship (MS-DI) Program with a minor in Family Youth and Community Sciences. The program’s website (http://fshn.ifas.ufl.edu/dietetics/graduate/home.shtml) provides prospective students with detailed information on the UF MS-DI Program. If you have further questions, contact Dr. Gail Kauwell, UF’s MS-DI Program Director (352-392-1991 ext. 227 orgkauwell@ufl.edu).

Where can I obtain more information about dietetic internship programs?

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website (www.eatright.org) provides the most up-to-date information about internship programs. You can accesshttp://www.eatright.org/acend for a listing of each program and information on cost, length of internship, internship director, and area of specialization. The ADA website also has a direct link to the individual programs’ websites which provide detailed information about the programs.

Another resource is the Applicant Guide to Supervised Practice Experience, a valuable tool that describes many of the dietetic internship 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 in CD-ROM format; check with Dr. McMahon for availability.

How much does a dietetic internship program cost?

Costs vary widely, so you should check with each program about required expenses. Most accredited dietetic internships associated with regionally accredited university graduate programs qualify for government-sponsored loan programs. You should check the individual internship’s website to see if financial aid is available at a specific dietetic internship.

Additionally, numerous scholarship and loan opportunities are available to help pay the costs of the supervised practice experience.

What are the characteristics of a successful applicant for dietetic internships?

Being a successful applicant to a dietetic internship starts long before you fill out the 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 science courses
  • Significant paid or volunteer work experience
  • Strong letters of recommendation
  • Leadership in organizations
  • Willingness to relocate
  • Clean criminal history (programs require criminal background check)

 

How can I improve my chances of being admitted to a dietetic internship program?

A student has no guarantee of receiving a DI appointment. In April of 2011 and 2012, 50% of the students who participated in the national computer match received a match (UF’s match rate was 86% for spring 2012). 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; college foodservice, camp foodservice, nursing home foodservice, and community nutrition programs are also very good; many other types of work experiences can also be valuable). Start early and consider ways to get experience in more than one area of practice.
  • Seek opportunities to conduct/assist with nutrition/dietetics research.
  • Participate in activities that demonstrate leadership (college/university clubs, sports, community service projects, organizations).
  • Get to know dietetics faculty members through faculty office hours, FSHN club, 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 4-6 programs).
  • Be flexible and willing to relocate. Explore programs outside of Florida!

What is the timeline for applying to Dietetic Internships?

  • Freshman/Sophomore Year
    • Maintain good grades
    • Become active in organizations or community activities
    • Join the Food Science and Human Nutrition (FSHN) Club
    • 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. Join the Gainesville District Dietetic Association (GDDA)
  • Junior Year
    • Begin reviewing the Academy website and theApplicant Guide to Supervised Practice Experience
    • Attend the junior orientation for Dietetic Internship Planning in Spring semester
    • Attend the “Let’s Get Registered” workshop in the Fall semester
    • Get to know your faculty advisor and other faculty members. It is important for faculty to get to know you if you intend to ask them to write a letter of recommendation for you. Get to know FSHN 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 FSHN Club – run for office or chair a committee
    • Continue membership in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (required in junior year or after 60 credits)
    • Continue membership in  the Gainesville District Dietetic Association
    • Maintain good grades
  • Senior Year
    • Call, email, or write internships for additional information and application
    • Maintain good grades
    • Get even more involved in the FSHN Club
    • Continue membership in the Academy
    • Continue involvement with the Gainesville District Dietetic Association
    • Take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
    • Attend the “Let’s Get Registered”  workshop in the Fall semester (mandatory in order to get letters of recommendation from faculty)
    • Select 3-6 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 faculty advisor 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)

How can I get help with the dietetic internship application process?

In the Spring Semester, the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department presents an Orientation program for junior dietetics students about dietetic internship planning.

The FSHN Department also offers a “Let’s Get Registered” Workshop during the Fall semester each year for all students who plan to apply for a DI appointment. Attendance is strongly encouraged at the sophomore and/or junior level, but requiredat the senior level. Attendance of seniors is taken, and dietetics faculty will not write a letter of recommendation for you if you have not attended. A handbook has been prepared for this workshop that describes the application process and provides examples of documents that will be required.

In addition, a Letter of Intent writing class is given as part of the Dietetics Seminar course (DIE4505) to provide guidance in writing letters of intent for the application packet. Class attendance is required.

 

What’s this “computer matching” thing all about?

Most dietetic internship programs participate in computer matching with D&D Digital. The process includes rank ordering the internships to which you are applying, and then the internship programs rank order their applicants. In April, students learn if they receive a dietetic internship match to one of their programs. As mentioned earlier, the national computer matching result for the past two years has been 50%, which means that half of the students applying for internships received a match and the other half did not. University of Florida DPD match rates are higher, but there are students graduating from our program who did not receive a match.

Computer match information from D & D Digital is available from the Program Director or on the website http://www.dnddigital.com/. There is a $50.00 fee for computer matching to D&D Digital. In Fall 2010, the application process for internships is moving to a centralized online system.

 

What do I do if I don’t receive a dietetic internship appointment?

When students submit an application to a Dietetic Internship program, they need to realize that 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 from 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, identify your 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
  • Reapply

Students who didn’t match should contact the Program Directorimmediately to discuss the situation and plan for future matches. The dietetics advisors in the FSHN Department are interested in and concerned about students and can be very helpful in providing support. Don’t give up, there are alternatives! Persistent, qualified applicants nearly always find placement.

After completing a dietetic internship 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 dietetic internship 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 passing the exam, and notification by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR), you will be a Registered Dietitian, RD.