Being a successful applicant to a supervised practice program starts long before you fill out the application. The best case scenario is to speak with the dietetics program director as soon as you decide to major in dietetics, this may be when you enter SEBS as a first-year student, when you declare the dietetics option, usually second semester the first year or later, or when you come to Rutgers to complete DPD requirements if you already have a baccalaureate degree.
These points are crucial for the dietetic students to keep in mind:
There are three components to the process. First, complete the online dietetic internship application at www.dicas.org. (dietetic internship computerized application system, DICAS). The majority of dietetic internship programs use the online application system.
The second component to the application process is to register for the computer match. D&D Digital, is located in Ames, Iowa. Located on that website are the program codes for every dietetic internship except those which preselect interns. The applicant registers with D&D Digital and completes a prioritized list of programs to which s/he has indicated that they wished their applications to be viewed. That is, a student completes one application for DICAS, and indicate the programs they wish their application to be sent. If a student wishes to apply to 5 dietetic internship programs, the student indicates those 5 programs on the DICAS site, and then indicates the same 5 programs on the D&D Digital site, in a prioritized list of the most appealing program first, followed by 2–5.
The third component is the appointment process. The application deadlines for DICAS and D&D Digital are September 25 and February 15, respectively for the fall and spring match. After the application deadlines, dietetic internship admissions committees review the application materials provided to them online and may decide to interview potential dietetic interns. There are time periods during the application review period in which students may re-prioritize their list with D&D Digital, based upon more information received during the interview period. The list may be reprioritized, but new programs cannot be added.
Information about the match is made available to applicants on the D&D Digital website on either the first Sunday of November at 6 p.m. CST for the fall match, or the first Monday of April at 11 a.m. CDT for the spring match. These days are known as "notification" days.
A matching program serves as a clearinghouse to help applicants obtain supervised practice positions of their choice and to help dietetic internships obtain applicants of their choice. It eliminates unfair pressures and premature decisions in appointments by programs and acceptance or rejection of appointments by applicants.
There is no limit to the number of programs selected; however, you must submit a fee to DICAS ($50 for the first application and $25 for each additional application), $55 to register with D&D Digital, and application fees to every program to which you indicate that you are applying. Program application fees vary from $35–$150. On average, most students apply to 5 or 6 programs.
Some dietetics students will choose not to apply for a dietetic internship. Others who apply, sometimes do not receive a match with a program. Thus, it is wise for all dietetics students to explore a range of post-baccalaureate options. Determine your interests and consider the following options:
- Go to graduate school in nutrition, dietetics, public health, or other related fields of study. Graduate school admission generally requires a good GPA. Most schools require that students score well on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). If you think that there is even an outside chance that you will apply to graduate school, plan to take the GRE no later than the fall of your final year. Some graduate programs in nutrition and dietetics offer supervised practice programs that are open only to their graduate students. Students may apply to these programs after admission to the graduate program.
- Work as a diet technician or assistant. Since 2009, DPD graduates have had the opportunity to take the national registration examination for nutrition and dietetic technician, registered (NDTR) without further training. Program graduates must possess a DPD verification statement, and complete forms which are available on the Commission for Dietetic Registration website. These forms are to be completed by the applicant and provided to the DPD Director who completes the registration process. The test-taker will be notified by CDR that they are eligible to take the NDTR exam. Experience as a NDTR is very useful if an individual decides to apply to a dietetic internship in the future.
- Work in foodservice management. Foodservice management positions are available to students interested in a career in business. Foodservice management companies (e.g. Aramark, Morrison, Chartwell, Sodexo) and restaurant chains look for energetic people who they train to manage operations in schools, businesses, health care facilities, etc. The work is challenging, but the career potential is excellent.
- Work as a WIC nutritionist. In NJ, it is a requirement for hiring that nutritionists possess a DPD Verification Statement. This federally-funded program provides food and nutrition education to pregnant women, their infants and children up to age 5.
Your success preparing for the right job that never seems to be listed on the web where you look hinges in part on your preliminary job research. To locate information (addresses and background data) about national and perhaps even local food, nutrition, and health-related companies, try the career guidance office on campus. Also, look to the "Classified Advertising" section in each issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for job opportunities and a listing of employment services. Additionally, many state dietetics associations, in N.J. it's the New Jersey Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (NJAND) post open positions on their websites. Web searches on the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics site provide more information about positions available nationwide.
Dietetics students can learn a great deal from practitioners that currently hold interesting positions. Network with these individuals at state and district dietetic association meetings or through your affiliation with any of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) dietetic practice groups (DPGs). Students can join these professional organizations at a reduced student rate of ~$60 per year. Currently, the DPGs, or professional interest groups, offer AND members (including student members) opportunities to network with fellow practitioners in similar areas of interest and/or practice.
Once you've identified one or more practitioners, contact them and inquire whether you might be able to informally conduct an "information interview." You might want to ask them how they got started in their job, or how they prepared for their position (e.g. was previous work experience necessary or advanced degree coursework required?). How did they find out about their job opening? What advice would they suggest as you prepare for a job in the particular area of practice?
Be flexible when meeting with practitioners; due to their work schedule and personal obligations, they may need to limit the time they spend with your or reschedule the appointment. After the interviews, make sure you than them for their time and information.
When you are actually looking for your first job, inform everyone you know that you are in the job market. You never can tell who might be able to assist you with a job lead. Finally, don't get discouraged if you can't land a job right away. The good news is that most dietetics students are able to find a position shortly after the completion of their supervised practice program.
According to the 2016 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall estimated median income for a primary position nationally for registered dietitians employed full time with less than six years of experience in dietetics was $58,920. The job outlook from 2016–2026 has an expectation of job growth to be 15%, a rate faster than average for all occupations. Depending upon areas of specialty, dietetics in New Jersey may earn more than the reported national mean.
Many Dietetics majors choose to join the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics (AND) as student members. As a student member, individuals receive hard copies of the journal, email updates, and are automatically members of the state dietetic association, NJAND. Application forms are available outside Room 209 in Davison Hall or from the Program Directors.
AND membership increases opportunities for communication and networking on a local level through automatic state association membership. Active participation in state and district dietetic associations can help students make informed career decisions and enhance their applications for supervised practice programs.
AND members are eligible for scholarships for undergraduate and graduate study and for supervised practice programs. Each year, usually around January/February, AND publishes current information about application procedures on their website.