Didactic Program in Dietetics at the University of Massachusetts

Virginia A. Beal Lecture

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)

The field of nutrition and dietetics is dynamic, diverse and continuously evolving. Dietitians provide medical nutrition therapy in hospitals and clinics. They are also employed as consultants and managers, in public relations, and food and culinary positions where they manage foodservice operations in health care or other institutional and commercial settings. They write books, articles and newsletters. Dietitians are active in the health and wellness industry and in corporate wellness where they address health promotion and chronic disease prevention. Dietitians also work in national and state government agencies for programs such as Women Infants and Children (WIC) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education (SNAP-ED), as well as agencies such as the USDA and FDA. A growing number of RDNs work in private practice or as entrepreneurs providing nutrition products and services to consumers. RDNs also work as humanitarians around the world in the area of public policy to help during times of nutritional crises.

Here are the steps that you need to take to become a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist (RDN) as required by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR).

NOTE: ACEND is the accreditation arm of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). AND is located at 120 South Riverside Plaza, Suite 2190, Chicago, IL 60606-6995, 312-899-0040, web: ACEND@eatright.org

  1. Individuals complete coursework in a Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD) accredited by ACEND (Accreditation Council for Education of Nutritionists and Dietitians) which is achieved by completing a BS from an accredited program at a four year university.
  2. Graduates from DPD programs apply to Dietetic Internships (also called supervised practice in programs) approved by ACEND. The dietetic internship is an intensive training program (lasting 1200 hours) where graduates are mentored by practicing dietitians and receive graduate credit. These internships typically cost between $8,000 - $12,000. Programs that offer a graduate degree along with the supervised practice will be more expensive. There are limited no-cost programs and few offer a stipend. Application into a DI program is competitive and not all graduates who apply are matched.
  3. Once graduates have completed the DI/supervised practice program they can apply to take the CDR credentialing exam to become an RDN. The national registration examination is administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) website: www.cdrnet.org.
  4.  Graduates who successfully complete the ACEND-accredited DPD program at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst are eligible to apply to an ACEND-accredited Dietetic Internship. The UMass acceptance rate has averaged over 80% for the last three years.

Changes to these steps starting Jan 1, 2024:

Effective January 1, 2024, the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) will require a minimum of a master’s degree to be eligible to take the credentialing exam to become a registered dietitian/nutritionist (RDN). Approval to sit for the registration examination with a bachelor’s degree requires that individuals  have completed the DPD and DI (and so have met  all eligibility requirements) before December 31, 2023 at 12.00 midnight Central time. They must also have submitted the application for approval to take the exam into the CDR’s Registration Eligibility Processing System (REPS) before 12:00 midnight Central Time, December 31, 2023. If you miss this deadline, you will have to have a master’s degree and completed 1200 hours of supervised practice to be eligible to apply to take the exam. For questions about this deadline please contact https://www.cdrnet.org/ or call 1 (800) 877-1600 Ext. 5500.

For more information about the new master’s degree requirement visit CDR website: https://www.cdrnet.org/graduatedegree.

Licensed Nutritionist Dietitian (LDN)

Most people are unaware of the fact that individuals do not need to be licensed to call themselves a “nutritionist.” The term “Nutritionist” is not protected. However, the term “Licensed Nutritionist/Dietitian” is protected by licensure in Massachusetts. Most positions will require licensure or RDN certification, and frequently both.

In most states, RDNs also must obtain licensure or certification to practice. For information on Massachusetts state licensure visit https://www.mass.gov/orgs/board-of-registration-of-dietitians-and-nutritionists or contact the Massachusetts Division of Professional Licensure, 1000 Washington Street, Suite 710, Boston, 617-727-9925 or visit the licensure website at https://www.mass.gov/dpl (Click on “Division of Professional Licensure Boards” and then “Dietitians and Nutritionists”).

NOTE: In Massachusetts, the credentialing exam of the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) RDN exam counts for licensure credentialing, but there is an additional application and fee for licensure.

For more information about state licensure requirements in other states in the US click here.

Dietetic Major at UMASS

The Dietetics track at the University of Massachusetts is accredited with ACEND ACEND@eatright.org. The Dietetics track is for students who wish to apply for an internship to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN).

The accredited Dietetics track fulfills the ACEND Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD) requirements, and is the first step toward becoming an RDN. Following completion of the degree requirements of the Dietetics track, graduates will receive a Verification Statement which is necessary to apply to a Supervised Practice or Dietetic Internship. Registration also requires passing a national Registration Examination. Acceptance into Dietetic Internships is very competitive with the national acceptance rate at about 55%. The acceptance rate for UMass graduates who applied to Dietetic Internships has averaged 76% over the past 3 years.

Admission to the Didactic Program in Dietetics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst depends on admittance to the University of Massachusetts Amherst:

http://www.umass.edu/sphhs/nutrition/undergraduate-program/undergraduate-admissions

Nutrition students who wish to major in the Dietetics track must earn a GPA of 2.5 or above and a B in Nutrition 230 (Basic Nutrition). For more information about the Didactic Program in Dietetics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst including required courses and recommended course sequence, as well as other information on our career preparation please go to our undergraduate program information webpage: http://www.umass.edu/sphhs/nutrition/undergraduate-program

Here are the links to the required courses and course sequence:

Dietetics Track General and Core Requirements Advising Sheet

Dietetics Track Course Sequence

The cost of attending the University of Massachusetts Amherst can be found at the Bursar’s webpage:

https://www.umass.edu/bursar/tuition/undergraduate-tuition-rates

The academic calendar of the University of Massachusetts Amherst can be found on the Registrar’s webpage:

https://www.umass.edu/registrar/calendars/academic-calendar

For more information on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the dietetics profession, please visit the AND web site at www.eatright.org.

Requirements for accreditation by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND), the accreditation arm of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND@eatright.org), are described below:

Mission Statement of the DPD Program:

The mission of the DPD program of the University of Massachusetts Amherst is to provide quality teaching and a good scientific foundation to graduates, thereby enabling them to be successful in accredited dietetic internship programs (leading to eligibility for the CDR credentialing examination for Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist) and/or other professional careers.

Goals of the DPD Program:

  1. To prepare graduates for careers in dietetics, dietetic internships, and successful completion CDR RDN credentialing examination.
  2. To educate graduates who will reflect current nutrition science in their professional practice by providing a strong understanding of the scientific basis of the study of nutrition and dietetics.

DPD Outcome Measures (Goal One):

  1. Over a five-year period, at least 80% of students who are enrolled in the dietetics track as juniors will complete the program within three years of that time.
  2. Over a five-year period, at least 60 % of dietetics graduates will apply to supervised practice programs prior to or within 12 months of graduation.
  3. Over a five-year period, at least 50% of program graduates who apply are admitted to a supervised practice program within 12 months of graduation.
  4. Over a five-year period, the program’s one-year pass rate (graduates who pass the registration exam within one year of first attempt) on the CDR credentialing exam for dietitian nutritionists is at least 80%.
  5. Over a five-year period, at least 80% of dietetic internship directors rate at least a three on a five-point scale that UMass Amherst students came into the internship with an adequate level of knowledge competence appropriate for a supervised practice program.

DPD Outcome Measures (Goal Two):

  1. Over a five-year period, 80% of dietetic directors rate at least a four on a five-point scale indicating that UMass Amherst graduates have a strong understanding of the scientific basis of dietetics practice.
  2. Over a five-year period, 60% of graduates will rate at least four on a five-point scale that they received a strong understanding of the scientific basis for the study of dietetics in their course work at University of Massachusetts Amherst.
  3. Over a five-year period 60% of seniors will rate at least a four on a five-point scale that they received a strong understanding of the scientific basis for the study of dietetics in their course work at University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Over the past three years an average of 60% of our graduates apply the year they graduate to a dietetic internship and over the past three years (2018-2020). This has decreased from a higher percentage in previous years because many of our students who plan to become RDNs are now applying to master’s degrees before applying to a DI. For those who do apply within one year of graduation, our acceptance rate is an average of 80% (national average 61%). Our first time pass rate on the RD exam averages over 90%. Our last successful accreditation was completed in 2016.

NOTE: Program outcomes data for the Didactic Program in Dietetics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst are available upon request.

The education requirements of the Accreditation Council for Education of Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) met by courses in the Dietetics track at the University of Massachusetts Amherst program are listed below:

KRDN 1.1: Demonstrate how to locate interpret, evaluate and use professional literature to make ethical evidence-based practice decisions.

KRDN 1.2: Use current information technologies to locate and apply evidence-based guidelines and protocols.

KRDN 1.3: Apply critical thinking skills.

KRDN 2.1: Demonstrate effective professional oral and written communication and documentation.

KRDN 2.2: Describe the governance of nutrition and dietetics practice, such as the Scope of Nutrition and Dietetics Practice and the Code of Ethics for the Profession of Nutrition and Dietetics; and interprofessional relationships in various practice settings.

KRDN 2.3: Assess the impact of a public policy decision on nutrition and dietetics practice.

KRDN 2.4: Discuss the impact of health care policy and different health care delivery systems on food and nutrition services.

KRDN 2.5: Identify and describe the work of interprofessional teams and the roles of others with whom the registered dietitian nutritionist collaborates in the delivery of food and nutrition services.

KRDN 2.6: Demonstrate an understanding of cultural competence/sensitivity.

KRDN 2.7: Demonstrate identification with the nutrition and dietetics profession through activities such as participation in professional organizations and defending a position on issues impacting the nutrition and dietetics profession.

KRDN 2.8: Demonstrate an understanding of the importance and expectations of a professional in mentoring and precepting others.

KRDN 3.1: Use the Nutrition Care Process to make decisions, identify nutrition-related problems and determine and evaluate nutrition interventions.

KRDN 3.2: Develop an educational session or program/educational strategy for a target population.

KRDN 3.3: Demonstrate counseling and education methods to facilitate behavior change for diverse individuals and groups.

KRDN 3.4: Explain the processes involved in delivering quality food and nutrition services.

KRDN 3.5: Describe basic concepts of nutritional genomics.

KRDN 4.1: Apply management theories to the development of programs or services.

KRDN 4.2: Evaluate a budget and interpret financial data.

KRDN 4.3: Describe the regulation system related to billing and coding, what services are reimbursable by third party payers, and how reimbursement may be obtained.

KRDN 4.4: Apply the principles of human resource management to different situations.

KRDN 4.5: Describe safety principles related to food, personnel and consumers.

KRDN 4.6: Analyze data for assessment and evaluate data to be used in decision-making for continuous quality improvement.

For more information about educational pathways to become a RDN, click here.