Becoming a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist (RD/RDN)
The letters "RD or RDN" after a person's name signifies that he/she has completed all of the requirements established by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (the credentialing agency for The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics). These requirements include completing a minimum of a bachelor's degree granted by a US regionally accredited college/university and an accredited dietetic internship program. These students then demonstrate their knowledge of food and nutrition by successfully passing a national "RD/RDN" credentialing exam. RDs are required to be involved in ongoing continuing professional development after obtaining the RD credential.
The "RD" credential sets dietitians apart from all others. Because of their extensive education and experience, dietitians are the nutrition professionals who are most qualified to help individuals meet their nutritional needs.
There are three requirements students must complete in order to become a Registered Dietitian (RD).
- First, students must complete the established education requirements in a Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD). Such programs must be accredited by ACEND and be at an accredited college or university. Appalachian State University is accredited by ACEND to provide a DPD. Our DPD is based upon completing a BS in Nutrition and Foods that includes specific courses and outcomes. Students who graduate from the DPD program at Appalachian State University meet all DPD requirements and are eligible to receive a Verification Statement and apply for entrance into a dietetic internship.
- Second, students complete a practical or applied education phase. The way to meet the second requirement is through a dietetic internship (often referred to as a supervised practice program). The number of appointments to Supervised Practice programs is limited and competitive nationally. Faculty will guide students through the application process. However, faculty has no control in the final decision of whether a student gets into an internship since it is made by each program.
- Third, students are required to pass the National Registration Examination for Dietitians. This test is administered by Commission of Dietetic Registration (CDR), the credentialing arm of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for those who have successfully completed the first two steps. https://www.cdrnet.org/. Per the CDR 2024 mandate, candidates for the RDN credentialing exam will be required to have a Master's Degree to site for the exam as of January 1, 2024.
In addition to the RD credential, several states (including North Carolina) require licensure. To learn more about licensure in North Carolina, visit the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition at www.ncbdn.org.
Becoming a Dietetic Technician, Registered (DTR)
Students choosing not to become RDs or who do not get matched with supervised practice programs may elect to become DTRs upon obtaining their verification statement. For information on how to become a DTR, visit www.cdrnet.org.
The dietetic internship is a formal program that provides for the achievement of performance requirements by providing a minimum of 1200 hours of supervised practice experience. Programs are conducted in hospital or community settings, or government, business or university organizations. Internships are available throughout the United States and vary in length from six to twelve months for "traditional" programs. Programs of extended length may offer the opportunity to acquire graduate credit or combine a master's degree program with an internship (18 months average length).
All internships offer an area of emphasis including nutrition therapy, community nutrition, food service systems management, business or general emphasis that combines features of those four areas. Students may apply to as many internship programs as they desire. Applications to internships are accepted in September (for December graduates) and February (for May graduates). Competition is extremely keen for the limited number of internship places.
Applying to Dietetic Internships
Students planning to become Registered Dietitians need to complete an AND approved or accredited Dietetic Internship after graduation from ASU and prior to taking the National Registration Exam.
Increasing the chances of being a successful applicant to a Dietetic Internship begins in the first year of college by working to obtain and maintain the best possible GPA, acquiring extensive volunteer experience, being active in student organizations and working closely with dietetics faculty. Professional behavior is a must.
The first step in the actual process of applying to dietetic internships is to carefully review the current edition of the Directory of Dietetics Programs-Accredited and Approved. The Directory is updated and published each year by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND).
How Do I Apply to Dietetic Internships?
There are two components to the application process.
First, you must complete the online application for each Dietetic Internship (D.I.) throught DICAS. If a D.I. does not participate in the online process, students will have to complete application materials and mail directly to the internship(s).
The second component is the computer matching process through D&D Digital Systems, this company that handles the computer matching process for AND: you must create an account to receive your D&D Digital identification number that will be needed in your DICAS Application https://www.dnddigital.com/.
(Parts of the remaining information on applying to D.I.s only apply if D.I.s are not participating in the online application process through DICAS.)
What Is Computer Matching?
Computer matching is a matching program that serves as a clearinghouse to help applicants obtain Dietetic Internship positions of their choice and to help Dietetic Internships obtain applicants of their choice. It eliminates unfair pressures and premature decisions on and by programs to accept or reject applicants, and it eliminates unfair pressures on applicants to accept or reject an appointment into a Dietetic Internship. AND has contracted with D & D Digital Systems to facilitate matching through a computerized process.
How Many Programs Can I Apply To?
Students may apply to as many programs as they wish. They will need to rank all programs they apply to in order of preference.
Who Decides Which Individuals Are Accepted to the Program?
Each Dietetic Internship reviews its own applications and, like students, submits a priority listing of applicants to D & D Digital Systems, along with the number of positions they have to be filled. Computer matching does not change the applicant's or program's selection process, so you will not be matched to a program whose name does not appear on your priority listing.
What Process is Used for Matching?
Before matching begins, the applicant priority lists and the Dietetic Internships lists are "cleaned." If a program does not rank an applicant, that program will be removed from the applicant's list. If an applicant does not rank a program, the applicant is removed from the program's list. Then, the matching process takes place using the applicant's prioritized list and the programs' prioritized list until all possible matches are complete. The process is explained in detail in the "Instructions to Applicants" booklet provided by D & D Digital Systems to directors of dietetics programs.
Will I Receive More Than One Match?
No. Only one match can be given.
If I Change My Plans, What Should I Do?
You must notify D & D Digital Systems in writing or by fax prior to the drop deadline of your decision to withdraw from the matching process. The fee will not be refunded.
Who Pays for Computer Matching?
All costs are borne by the applicant. Applicants must pay a fee when submitting their rank order lists to the D & D Digital Systems.
Will the Applicants or Programs Know How They Have Been Ranked by the Other?
No. All information submitted to D & D Digital Systems is kept confidential. Each applicant is given the final result of the matching. Each program is provided with the names of applicants it obtains in the match. Programs and applicants are not told how they were ranked by each other.
Who is Responsible for Acceptance and Rejection Letters Sent to Applicants?
D & D Digital Systems sends notification of placement or lack of placement to each applicant. It also provides each program director with a list of applicants matched to its program. Applicants who receive a match are required to notify the program they have been matched with, in writing by the required date, that they accept or reject the appointment.
What If I Do Not Get a Match?
D & D Digital Systems sends a listing of unmatched applicants who have agreed to release their names to each program following the matching. Programs may contact unmatched applicants or return to their applicant pool to fill positions after the appointment is occurred.
How Do I Improve My Chances?
If you want to improve your chances of receiving a Dietetic Internship appointment, consider the following suggestions.
- Select programs that are in less popular geographic regions. Historically, locations on both coasts receive proportionately more applicants than others. It can be beneficial if you apply to locations other than New York and New England.
- Select programs that do not provide stipends and choose programs that charge fees. Everyone would like to receive a large stipend while completing an experience program. Therefore, those that offer stipends are very competitive.
- Select programs where you will be the only ASU graduate applying. Compare notes with your friends, Dietetic Internships are strengthened by students from a variety of college and university settings. When you and your best friend apply to the same place, you are competing against each other. Rarely does a program accept two students from the same school for the same class of interns.
You may apply to as many supervised practice programs as you wish, but there are costs involved and these increase as the number of programs applied to increase.
- Fees for copies of transcripts
- Nonrefundable application fees
- Fees to take exams such as the graduate record exam (GRE)
- Postage for registered mail to notify you when applications are received (for D.I.s not using DICAS).
When completing your application:
- Read all parts very carefully.
- Identify everything that must be done and when it must be accomplished.
- Allow yourself and others ample time to do a totally professional job in preparing the application. These materials are usually your only opportunity to sell yourself.
- Follow all directions carefully. If a program does not specify complete directions (for example, whether the letter of application is to be typed or handwritten), you are expected to make a decision. You may call the program director for clarification but usually type all materials.
- Give careful thought to your letter of application and/or resume (Link to resume writing). Discuss your interests in dietetics, goals, and what you have gained from courses, work experience, community campus involvement, etc. Add to rather than just duplicate information the reviewers will read in your application.
- Answer all questions and include all information requested in appropriate detail.
- The content of the letter of application is to be your work. Do not ask anyone else to write it for you. The best letter is one you introduce yourself in your own way. The letter must be well organized, informative, grammatically correct and professional in content and appearance. All applicants should seek assistance from the ASU Writing Center.
Letters of Recommendation
Ask faculty, supervisors, advisors, and employers for recommendations as directed in each application packet. Be sure you communicate fully and personally with those you ask to write a recommendation for you. If there are forms to be completed, envelopes required, waivers to be signed, or if specific points are to be addressed, be sure to indicate these facts to the person writing the recommendation. Do not leave faculty to guess what it is that you want and need from them.
Letters should be requested well in advance of the time they are needed. All letters for fall internships that are requested from ASU faculty must be requested before the second week in December. Otherwise, faculty will likely be unable to give the attention needed to such an important document. Also, faculty usually need a copy of your resume for use in writing recommendations. Some faculty will require additional information. Prepare envelopes, headings, forms, etc. very neatly and carefully. Be sure titles are correct and names spelled properly. Remember: All materials you submit represent you. Remember to thank those who have been kind enough to assist you in this process with a thank you card. In the event that you decide not to apply to any program after receiving a faculty letter of recommendation, promptly return the unopened letter to its author.
You will need a complete set of official transcripts from every college you have attended for each Dietetic Internship to which you apply. Allow at least eight weeks to receive these, especially if you are requesting transcripts from other colleges. Transcripts must be official. It is a good idea to request two or three official transcripts in addition to those that you know you must have. This allows for last minute changes or additional applications to graduate schools, scholarships, or other unanticipated needs.
A few Dietetic Internships require a physical exam before final acceptance. If one is requested, make arrangements with your physician. Most programs will require a physical after your acceptance or when you arrive for the program. Personal health enables you to do your best and to profit from your internship experiences. It is best to be straightforward about health problems or concerns that you may have. Because of the required physical exam, it is usually impossible to conceal problems.
Internship directors vary in their desire for a personal interview. Some directors discourage interviews but encourage group tours or attendance at open houses. Some directors feel that on-site interviews are an unnecessary expense. Others believe that some prospective students should not be greeted in person unless all can be. On the other hand, some directors encourage or even require in person or telephone interviews of finalists. Follow the lead given on the D.I. website. Do not insist on an interview if it seems the director is hesitant to provide this opportunity. Do take advantage of interviews, open houses or tours if permitted or invited to do so. Should you go to an open house, dress professionally and be knowledgeable concerning the program.
Intent to Complete and Verification Forms
Currently enrolled undergraduate students applying for Dietetic Internships must obtain an Intent to Complete Form indicating the courses they will need to complete before graduating. These forms are available from the Dietetics Director. Students who already have graduated need to obtain a completed Verification Statement from the DPD Director. The DPD Director will complete required statements for you after you request the number of forms required. You will need one form for each Dietetic Internship.
Making Sure The Application Is Complete
Again, these applications are completed at an extremely busy time of year. It is important to plan ahead so that you may complete your application in a timely fashion. Applications should be mailed at least two weeks before the deadline. First class postage is a must and registered mail is recommended. As a safeguard, make a copy of each completed packet before mailing. This allows you to quickly assemble a packet should one be lost in the mail or should you need to reapply to a program for any reason.
Students will receive notification of their appointment status from the D&D Digital via internet site http://www.dnddigital.com on. To insure individual privacy and security, a personal login and password will be given to each applicant. Notification will be either that a student was or was not matched with one Dietetic Internship. If you are matched, you must finalize acceptance to that program, via telephone or fax to the program, on or before 5:00 p.m. the day after notification. If you are not matched with a program, with your prior permission, your name can be given to all internship directors who have not filled their classes.
The matching/selection process is not prefect, but it is the fairest system. Nevertheless, well qualified capable students may not receive a match with a dietetic internship on their initial application. Students who are not recipients of an appointment are encouraged to reapply for the next appointment date, if they so desire. In many cases re-application indicates your sincere desire to become a Registered Dietitian, and it is looked at as a strength rather than a weakness. Students who are not recipients may also elect to take the Dietetic Techician, Registered (DTR) examination. Obtaining the DTR credential allows one to work as a dietetics professional, thus gaining experience toward future application for an internship.
Additional information may be obtained directly from the AND.
In addition to the RD credential, several states (including North Carolina) require licensure. To learn more about licensure in North Carolina, visit the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition at www.ncbdn.org