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Overview of the Nutrition and Dietetics Option

What is Dietetics?

Dietetics is an interdisciplinary program that incorporates the science of human biology and biochemistry as well as foods to understand how the body utilizes nutrients and related substances for optimal health throughout the life cycle. The program prepares individuals for leadership and management positions with a focus on food-service and food-systems management.

Individuals who have an interest in food, nutrition, and management and who want to work with the public to promote and optimize good health or to help manage existing diseases are excellent candidates for this field of study.

What is the Nutrition and Dietetics Option in the Nutritional Sciences Major?

The Dietetics option of the Nutritional Sciences major is an accredited Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD) at Penn State. The option provides a strong foundation in science, foods, and nutrition with a diverse curriculum to meet the accreditation standards set by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). Students who enter this option have the long-term goal of becoming a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). The RDN professional designation qualifies an individual as a food and nutrition expert to address today’s complex issues surrounding foods and nutrition.

The course work in the Dietetics option is very challenging as students share classes with undergraduate students majoring in pre-medicine, nursing, chemistry, biochemistry, molecular and cell biology, food science, hospitality management, and exercise science, as well as graduate students in nutrition. Students are encouraged to use the University’s resources to help them succeed in their course work.

What are the Job Opportunities?

The RDN credential is the most widely recognized credential for a nutrition expert. Most employers are looking for the RDN certification in their list of qualifications in nutrition-related jobs. The demand for registered dietitians and nutritionists is expected to grow by 20 percent between 2010 and 2020, faster than the average for all occupations according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Registered Dietitian Nutritionists work in diverse areas, including: clinical, community, and wellness settings; counseling; education in the community and in academia; school food service; public health and policy; sports nutrition; the food industry; long-term care facilities; food-service management; as research technicians in industry and academia; private practice; and marketing, among others.

What is the Process to Become a RDN?

Similar to other health care professions, the RDN credential is not earned upon graduation with a B.S. degree. Graduates of the Didactic Program in Dietetics must be accepted into and successfully complete an accredited pre-professional program in dietetics, known as a dietetic internship (DI) program and then pass the national registration examination to earn the RDN credential.

DI programs are a minimum of 1,200 hours and generally take 10 to 13 months to complete if the student attends full time. DI programs charge tuition and fees to all students enrolled in their programs; these costs vary among programs. Acceptance into a DI program is a very competitive process. Nationally, there is a surplus of students applying to available DI programs. The national acceptance rate into DI programs is fifty percent. For more information about the national acceptance rates see the ACEND website. Graduates of Penn State’s DPD have an acceptance rate into DI programs greater than the national average.

To earn the RDN certification, students must successfully complete the DI program and pass the national registration examination. Graduates of Penn State’s DPD have a first-time pass rate greater than the national average on the registration examination.

For more information, view Becoming a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.