Didactic Program in Dietetics at the University of Massachusetts

Virginia A. Beal Lecture

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)

The RDN certification requires completion of a Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD), which is achieved by earning a BS from an accredited program at a four-year university. Upon completion of the degree, graduates are eligible to apply for 1200 hours of supervised practice in the field, also known as a Dietetic Internship (DI). The dietetic internship is an intensive training program 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 a few that are no-cost and very few have a stipend. Application into a DI program is competitive and not all students who apply are matched.  The national match rate is approximately 55% of applicants. The UMass acceptance rate (within a year of graduation) has averaged 76% over the last three years. The UMass Nutrition department offers independent studies for students who find fieldwork experience in nutrition, which can strengthen their DI application. Over 80% of our students have some volunteer experience during their time at UMass.  Those who do not match may wait for a year or more to gain experience in the field before reapplication. Others find careers in the nutrition field that do not require the RDN credential.

Both the DPD and the DI need to take place in programs accredited by Accreditation Council for Education of Nutritionists and Dietitians (ACEND), the accreditation arm of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 120 South Riverside Plaza, Suite 2190, Chicago, IL 60606-6995, 312-899-0040, web: ACEND@eatright.org. After completion of both of these the aspiring dietitian must take the national registration examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) website: www.cdrnet.org. Registered Dietitians must complete 75 credit hours every 5 years to maintain their registration status. In Massachusetts all RDNs can become LDNs (see below) with no further examination or educational requirements. 

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 and in public relations and food and culinary positions where they can manage or work as consultants to 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 wellness and chronic disease prevention. Dietitians also work in national and state government agencies for programs such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for 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 in providing nutrition products and services to consumers. RDNs also work as humanitarians in foreign countries in the area of public policy to help during times of nutritional crises.

Licensed Nutritionist Dietitian (LDN)

The term “Nutritionist” is not protected in Massachusetts. In 1999 the Massachusetts Legislature voted to establish licensure of nutritionists and dietitians. A person is not able to legally call themselves a “licensed nutritionist” or “licensed dietitian” without fulfilling certain educational and experience requirements. To become licensed, a person must satisfy all of the following criteria:

  1. Complete a B.S. degree in nutrition.
  2. Complete a 1200-hour dietetic internship or three years of post-BS paid work experience.
  3. Receive a passing grade on the RD exam or other test approved by the licensure board.

This means individuals do not need to be licensed to call themselves a nutritionist. However, most positions will require licensure or RDN certification. Hospitals, for example, require that all their nutrition health care professionals be RDNs. The term “Licensed Dietitian/Nutritionist” (LDN) is protected. All RDSs are eligible to become LDNs without further examination upon submission of an application to the licensure board of Massachusetts http://mass.gov/dpl (Click on “Division of Professional Licensure Boards” and then “Dietitians and Nutritionists”). LDNs can bill insurance companies for medical nutrition therapy. For more information about becoming an LDN in the state of Massachusetts, please contact the Massachusetts Division of Professional Licensure, 1000 Washington Street, Suite 710, Boston, 617-727-9925.

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, students 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 students 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 depends on admittance to the University of Massachusetts:

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 can be found at the Bursar’s webpage:

https://www.umass.edu/bursar/sites/default/files/Ugrad%20Full%20Time_estimated_FY19.pdf 

The academic calendar of the University of Massachusetts 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.

The requirements for accreditation by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) the accreditation arm of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 120 South Riverside Plaza, Suite 2190, Chicago, IL 60606-6995, 312-899-0040, web:ACEND@eatright.org  are described below:

Mission Statement of the DPD Program. The mission of the DPD program of the University of Massachusetts is “to provide quality teaching and a good scientific foundation to students, thereby enabling them to be successful in accredited dietetic internship programs or professional careers.”

Goals of the DPD Program.

  1. To prepare students for careers in dietetics, dietetic internships, and successful completion of the dietetic registration examination.
  2. To provide a strong understanding of the scientific basis for the study of 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 freshmen will complete the program within four years of that time.
  2. Over a five-year period, at least 60% of dietetics graduates will apply to supervised practice programs the academic year they complete the program.
  3. Over a five-year period, at least 50% of those applying to supervised practice programs the academic year they complete the program will be accepted.
  4. Over a five-year period, graduates achieve a first time pass rate of at least 80% on the RD exam.
  5. Over a five-year period, 60% of graduates who did not apply or were not accepted into supervised practice will report that they are either employed in a nutrition or health-related field or have been enrolled in graduate school (upon completion of the two-year alumni survey).
  6. Over a five-year period, at least 80% of dietetic internship directors rate at least a three on a five-point scale that UMass 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 three on a five-point scale indicating that UMass 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 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 UMass.

Currently, the dietetics program at UMass has met or exceeded all benchmarks. Approximately 65% of our students apply the year they graduate to a dietetic internship and over the past three years (2016-2018) the acceptance rate as averaged 76% (national average 53%). Our first time pass rate on the RD exam averaged over 90%. Our last successful accreditation was completed in 2016.

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 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 2.4:  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 nutrigenomics

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.