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By selecting the B.S. in Nutritional Sciences – Nutrition and Dietetics Option, you can forge your own path to a successful career in diverse settings such as: clinical dietetics, nutrition education and counseling, sports nutrition, health promotion and wellness, culinary nutrition, food industry and business, food sustainability, management, private practice, and research.

The Nutrition and 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.

Nutrition and Dietetics Option Overview icon-olus-circle

What is Nutrition and Dietetics?

This option offers multi-disciplinary training in the biological sciences, social and behavioral sciences, and business principles to prepare students to work in a variety of settings. It links nutrition and human behavior by applying nutrition principles, counseling skills, and educational skills to improving the nutritional status and health of individuals and communities. Students gain training that will prepare them to work in diverse settings that include:  clinical dietetics prescribing diets that help individuals manage diseases, community and nutrition education settings, culinary nutrition, sports nutrition, food industry and retail settings, food sustainability, public and health policy, and nutrition research. It also prepares students for management positions in the nutrition field and food systems settings. 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.

The course work in the Nutrition and Dietetics option is 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. Students are encouraged to use the University’s resources to help them succeed in their course work.

What are the credentials Nutrition and Dietetics option students can earn?

Students in this option earn the DPD Verification Statement that qualifies them to earn one of two credentials:

  • The Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) credential. Students seeking the RDN credential are prepared for acceptance into post-graduate dietetic supervised practice programs (DSPPs) that meet the requirements for eligibility to sit for the RDN registration exam.
  • The Nutritionist Dietetic Technician Registered (NDTR) credential.  Students with their B.S. degree in the Nutrition and Dietetics option are eligible to sit for the NDTR registration exam to earn the NDTR credential. Students with either credential work in variety of nutrition and dietetics settings.
Mission, Goals, and Objectives icon-olus-circle

Mission

The Pennsylvania State University Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD) will prepare students for entry into supervised practice programs in dietetics by providing a diverse, comprehensive education experience with evidenced-based practical applications in nutrition and a strong science component, leading to eligibility for the CDR credentialing exam to become an RDN.

Program Goals and Outcome Measures

Goal 1: To prepare graduates for acceptance into supervised practice programs, graduate school, or for employment. 

1.1  At least 80% of DPD students complete the program/degree requirements within 3 years (150% of program length). 

1.2  At least 60% of program graduates apply for admission to a supervised practice program within 12 months of graduation. 

1.3  At least 65% of program graduates are admitted to a supervised practice program within 12 months of graduation. 

1.4  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%.

1.5  At least 70% of graduates who applied to graduate school or pre-professional school will be accepted into graduate school or pre-professional school within 12 months of graduating from the program. 

1.6  At least 70% of graduates who sought employment are employed in a nutrition or health-related field within 12 months of graduating from the program.

Goal 2: To prepare graduates to have a strong foundation in science, foods, community nutrition, application of nutrition principles, and management areas for supervised practice through dietetics related coursework and field experiences in nutrition.

2.1  At least 80% of DPD seniors will rate their preparation for supervised practice programs as mostly satisfied (4) or better (using a 5-point scale) on a survey.

2.2   At least 80% of DPD alumni will rate their preparation for supervised practice programs as mostly satisfied (4) or better (using a 5-point scale) on a survey.

2.3   At least 80% of supervised practice program directors will rate DPD graduates as prepared (4) or better (using a 5-point scale) for supervised practice in all areas on a survey.

Program Outcomes Data

The outcomes data that show how well the DPD program is meeting the one-year pass rate criteria for the Registration Examination for Dietitians and the one-year acceptance rate criteria of the DPD graduates into post-graduate dietetic supervised practice programs are available in the Pathway to the RDN Credential section above.  

Outcomes data for the rest of the program goals are available upon request.  Individuals may request this information from the DPD director, Mary Dean Coleman-Kelly PhD, RDN (mdc15@psu.edu).

Accreditation Status

The Pennsylvania State University Didactic Program in Dietetics is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics,120 Riverside Plaza, Suite 2000, Chicago, IL 60606-6995, 9-0040312-89, ext 5400. http://www.eatright.org/acend

Date of next site review: Fall 2019

Pathway to RDN Credential icon-olus-circle

Earning your degree in the Nutrition and Dietetics option is the first step in the pathway to earning the Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) credential.   Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) are the food and nutrition experts who address today’s complex issues surrounding foods and nutrition. Because the RDN credential is widely recognized as the designation that an individual is an expert in food and nutrition, most employers are looking for individuals with their RDN certification in their qualifications for hire. The demand for RDNs and nutritionists is expected to grow by 15 percent between 2016 and 2026, faster than the average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  The steps to earning the RDN credential are outlined below:

Earn a BS Degree in Nutritional Sciences, Dietetics option and DPD Verification Statement

Students must earn a BS degree in the Nutritional Sciences major, Nutrition and Dietetics option and earn the DPD verification statement to be eligible to apply for an ACEND accredited dietetic supervised practice program (DSPP).

Be accepted to and complete an ACEND accredited Dietetic Supervised Practice Program (DSPPs)

Earning the DPD Verification Statement from Penn State's Nutrition and Dietetics option gives students eligibility to apply to over 200 ACEND accredited DSPPs in the country.  A unique feature of our program is the required course, NUTR 393: Dietetic Application Development, that guides students through the application process to DSPPs in their senior year.  Student feedback overwhelmingly states that this course was highly beneficial in helping them navigate this complicated process.

Penn State's DPD program has an excellent placement rate and graduates have attended programs all over the United States.

Students who are accepted into an accredited DSPP must fulfill the specific program's requirements for a DSPP issued Verification Statement.  During the program, students will gain experience in the three major areas of dietetics: clinical dietetics, community and nutrition education, and food-systems management. Many DSPPs offer additional experiences in research, sports nutrition, pediatrics, culinary nutrition, retail nutrition, informatics, food sustainability, and other related areas. These additional experiences vary by program. Students should check each individual DSPP's website to learn about the additional experiences offered.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics maintains a list of accredited of DSPPs.  There are 3 types of accredited DSPPs that students can choose to apply to: 1) Dietetic Internships, 2) Future Education Model Graduate Programs, and 3) Coordinated Masters programs.

DSPPs vary in length by program and whether they offer graduate credits or a Masters degree upon program completion. DSPPs that do not require a Masters degree at the time of the supervised practice experiences are typically 9 months to 11 months in length.  DSPPs that require completion of the masters degree with the supervised practice hours range from 16 months to 24 months in length.

Starting January 1, 2024, students will be required to complete a masters degree and supervised practice hours to be eligible to sit for the RDN exam.  Students who enter the Nutrition and Dietetics option in Fall 2019 as first year students have two options to meet this new requirement:

  1. Attend a DSPP that combines the supervised practice hours with the Masters degree, or
  2. Complete a Masters degree first, then apply to a "Dietetic Internship" DSPP that either does not include a graduate degree as part of the program or offers partial graduate credits.

Please contact the DPD director, Mary Dean Coleman-Kelly, MS, PhD, RDN to learn more about different DSPP options available to students upon graduation.

Pass the national board registration exam for the RDN credential

Similar to other health care professions, RDNs must take and pass a national board registration examination to earn the RDN certification.   The requirements are set by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) The RDN exam is a computer-based exam that covers the content in the three major areas of dietetics: clinical, community, and food service. Once students complete the DSPP and earn the DSPP Verification Statement, they are eligible to sit for the RDN examination.

Penn State DPD graduates have an excellent one-year pass rate on the RDN exam.

  • 97% of Penn State Nutrition and Dietetics option students pass the RDN exam within one year of completing their DSPP, well above the minimum program goal of 80%.

Students who earn their RDN credential and want to practice as Dietitians may need to apply for licensure, before they are eligible practice dietetics and provide nutrition counseling in states that require licensure.  Licensing statutes include an explicitly defined scope of practice, and performance of the profession is illegal without first obtaining a license from the state.  A list of the states that require licensure is available on the Commission on Dietetic Registration website at https://www.cdrnet.org/state-licensure.

 

Career Opportunities

Registered Dietitian Nutritionists work in a variety of career settings.  For more information about the types of careers available to those with their RDN credential, visit the following website:

 

More Information

If you have questions or need more information regarding the Penn State Nutritional Sciences Nutrition and Dietetics option (DPD Program), please direct them to:

Mary Dean Coleman-Kelly, MS, Ph.D., RDN
DPD Director
814-865-2138
mdc15@psu.edu

Resources for Applying to Dietetic Internships icon-olus-circle

The following are links to websites to help current DPD students and graduates of the program navigate the application process to Dietetic Supervised Practice Programs and the DPD course list form that is required in the DICAS application. 

DPD Course List Forms required for DICAS

If you have any questions about applying to Dietetic Supervised Practice Programs, feel free to contact Dr. Coleman-Kelly for assistance.

Mary Dean Coleman-Kelly, MS, PhD, RDN
Phone: 814-865-2138
Email: mdc15@psu.edu

Admission Criteria icon-olus-circle

Penn State University Admissions Criteria

The Penn State University Admissions office provides the admissions criteria for acceptance into Penn State University Park for first-year students and students transferring from other institutions.

Entrance to the Nutritional Sciences Major

Students are eligible for entrance into the Nutritional Sciences major by meeting the following criteria

  • Accepted and enrolled at the Penn State University Park campus and College of Health and Human Development.
  • Completed a least 29 credit hours
  • Have a minimum of a 2.0 cumulative grade-point average (GPA)

To enter the Nutritional Sciences major, students should contact the College of Health and Human Development Center for Student Advising and Engagement to talk with an academic advisor.

Entrance to the Nutrition and Dietetics Option

Students must meet the Nutrition and Dietetics option entrance criteria to be accepted into the option

Program Completion Requirements icon-olus-circle

Program Requirements

BS degree in Nutritional Sciences, Nutrition and Dietetics option requirements

Students in the Nutrition and Dietetics option must complete the university general education course requirements and the Nutrition and Dietetics option major courses to earn a B.S. degree in the Nutritional Sciences, Nutrition and Dietetics option.  Students must earn a "C" or higher in all of the Nutrition and Dietetics option prescribed and additional courses to earn the degree.  The following links provide additional information.

 

Nutrition and Dietetics option (DPD) Verification Statement Policy

A Verification Statement is an official document that signifies that the student has met all academic and professional requirements as dictated by ACEND of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for the Pennsylvania State University DPD program.  Students must meet the criteria below in order to have a Verification Statement issued to them.

  1. Meet the degree requirements for the Nutritional Sciences major and Nutrition and Dietetics option.
  2. Earn a 70% or higher on assignments tied to the ACEND KRDN student learning outcomes given in selected DPD courses in the curriculum
  3. Attend one of the scheduled Dietetics Option Information sessions with the DPD director upon declaring the Nutrition and Dietetics option and sign a form documenting their attendance

 

Issuing Verification Statements

  • DPD Verification statements, per ACEND requirements, will be issued after the Nutritional Sciences, Nutrition and Dietetics option B.S. degree is conferred and designated as such on the official transcript and the DPD director has confirmed all KRDN SLOs meet the minimum requirements stated above.
  • Five original, signed copies will be sent to each student to their personal mailing address on record with the department. Students have the option pick up their Verification Statement in person upon request.

 

Information for transfer students:

    • Courses taken at another institution may be transferred to Penn State but must be approved through the Penn State Admissions office transfer course equivalency process. Any DPD required Nutrition (NUTR) or Hospitality Management (HM) course must be evaluated for content by the DPD director to determine which courses will be approved.  It is recommended that the student do this prior to taking the course. 
    • Students who transfer from other ACEND Accredited DPD programs may request to have their DPD courses evaluated by the DPD director to evaluate the course and KRDN Student Learning Outcome (SLO) equivalency to meet the DPD Verification Statement criteria.   Students must provide a copy of the course syllabus and graded assignments from the course that met the KRDN SLO. The determination of equivalency by the DPD director will occur on the case-by-case basis as needed.
    • Students are required to complete at least 22 credits of Nutritional Sciences and Hospitality Management courses to earn the Verification Statement from the Penn State DPD program.  These courses include:
    • NUTR 358 Assessment of Nutritional Status (3 credits)
    • NUTR 391 Professional Preparation in Nutrition and Dietetics (2 credits)
    • NUTR 400 Introduction to Nutrition Counseling (2 credits)
    • NUTR 452 Nutritional Aspects of Disease (3 credits)
    • NUTR 453 Medical Nutrition Therapy (3 credits)
    • NUTR 490W Nutrition Seminar (3 credits)
    • NUTR 495 Advanced Field Experience in Nutrition (3 credits)
    • HM 330 Food Production & Service Management (3 credits)

     

    Additional information about Verification Statements is available on the ACEND website at http://www.eatright.org/ACEND/content.aspx?id=66.

    Academic Calendar icon-olus-circle

    Visit the Penn State University academic calendar to find key dates and deadlines for each academic semester.

    Program Costs icon-olus-circle

    Program Costs for the 4-year Nutritional Sciences, Nutrition and Dietetics Option degree

    The total program costs for the 4-year BS degree in Nutritional Sciences, Nutrition and Dietetics option include the items below:

    Penn State University tuition and fees for in-resident and non-resident students Fall and Spring semesters

    NUTR 495 Advanced Field Experience in Nutrition course taken in the summer between the junior and senior year*

    Mandatory fees associated with the following Nutrition and Hospitality Management courses

    • NUTR 358: Assessment of Nutritional Status:  $10.00
    • NUTR 320: Science and Methods of Food Preparation:  $130.00
    • HM 330: Food Production and Service Management: $130.00
    • NUTR 495: Advanced Field Experience in Nutrition (membership to the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics): $58.00

    Additional Costs:

    • Books, materials and supplies: Required books, dietary analysis software, and printing fees for course materials are estimated to be approximately $600 to $1,000 per semester.
    • Student Nutrition Association membership (recommended): $10 per semester or $15 per year
    • Personal health insurance: Variable
    • Applications to Dietetic Supervised Practice Programs and using the Dietetic Internship Centralized Application System (DICAS):  $65 to $200 per application
    • Costs that may be required by some sites used during the NUTR 495: Advanced Field Experience in Nutrition
      • Liability insurance: $25-$50
      • Drug testing:  $50-$100
      • Immunizations: $50-$100
      • Background clearances/security checks:  $30-$50

     

    *Students are required to take Advanced Field Experience in Nutrition (NUTR 495; 3 credits) in the summer between their Junior (6th semester) and Senior year (7th semester) and complete a minimum of 300 hours of work in a Dietetics and/or Nutrition-related field. Students are expected to set up their own experiences. Students will be taught the skills needed to locate and find their experience in NUTR 391: Professional Preparation in Nutrition and Dietetics, taken in the spring semester of their Junior year. Students will pay the summer and tuition and fees outlined by the university tuition and fee schedule.

    Financial Aid and Scholarships icon-olus-circle

    Financial Aid

    The Penn State Office of Student aid offers resources to students learn about financial aid and student loans available to them

    Scholarships

    Students have many opportunities for scholarships through the university, the College of Health and Human Development*, the Department of Nutritional Sciences*, and professional organizations.

    Additional scholarship opportunities will be announced on the Nutritional Sciences Advising blog.

    *Scholarships offered by the College of Human Development and the Department of Nutritional Sciences are awarded via an internal selection committee. Selections are based on student career interests, current GPA, and financial need.  There is no application process for these awards.

    Program Policies and DPD Student Handbook icon-olus-circle

    The Nutrition and Dietetics option (DPD program) has policies in place to ensure Nutrition and Dietetics option students have the information needed to be successful in the program.  The following policies are the most important policies for students to be aware of in this program.  Students can find additional policies and procedures that they may need to reference in the DPD Student Handbook.

    Penn State Resources icon-olus-circle
    Student Organizations and Professional Organizations icon-olus-circle

    The Department of Nutritional Sciences, along with other campus facilities and community organizations, offers a wide range of real-world learning opportunities for undergraduate students. These experiences are either volunteer or paid, and students may obtain additional credits toward their degree, depending on the experience. Students have the opportunity to become involved in student-led clubs,  peer-to-peer health promotion and education, leadership training, international travel, serving as a teaching assistant, and  participating in applied and basic research.

    Student Organizations

    Professional Organization Resources

    Getting Nutrition Related Experience icon-olus-circle

    Getting Nutrition Related Experience

    The Department of Nutritional Sciences, along with other campus facilities and community organizations, offers a wide range of real-world learning opportunities for undergraduate students. These experiences are either volunteer or paid, and students may obtain additional credits toward their degree, depending on the experience. Students have the opportunity to become involved in peer-to-peer health promotion and education, leadership training, international travel, serving as a teaching assistant, and  participating in applied and bench research and international research.

    Nutritional Sciences Advising Blog

    The Nutritional Sciences Advising Blog frequently posts information from employers and university programs seeking undergraduates to work at their facility.  Students are encouraged to sign up to receive e-mail notifications to be aware of the most recent opportunities posted on the blog.

    Undergraduate Teaching Assistants

    Students who earn a B+ or higher in their undergraduate courses and want to reinforce the information they learned in the course are encouraged to become an undergraduate teaching assistant (TA) in the Nutritional Sciences department. Students can enroll in NUTR 496 to receive 1 credit that can go toward their 400-level supporting course requirement. This is a great way for the professor to get to know the student, and if the student does a good job, s/he can get a good letter of reference from the professor with whom they are working. Students interested in becoming a TA for a specific class should ask their professor toward the end of the semester about the opportunity.

    Undergraduate Research Opportunities

    Students seeking research experience have the opportunity to be exposed to applied research or basic research in the Department of Nutritional Sciences and affiliated research centers. Students can enroll in NUTR 494 to receive 1 credit that can apply toward their 400-level supporting course requirements.  Depending on the research lab's funding status, students may be given the opportunity to be paid for their work.

    Once students have identified a research lab that interests them, they should contact the professor and/or director in charge of the lab via e-mail to determine if they are taking undergraduate students.

    Volunteer Experiences

    Undergraduate students have participated in these volunteer activities to gain experience. Contact information for these venues can be found by clicking the link or doing a search on the Internet.

    International Experience

    Global Leadership Initiative

    The Global Leadership Initiative (GLI) in the College of Health and Human Development gives select undergraduate students the opportunity to hone their leadership skills in an international setting, build their global awareness, and prepare them for working with people worldwide through experiences abroad, through in-class learning, by communicating with alumni mentors, and by sharing experiences with other students. For more information, contact Stephen Kodish.

    Global Health Minor

    Students from across the university have the opportunity to complete a minor in Global Health, which was designed to provide undergraduate students with a multidisciplinary exposure to the theoretical and practical issues affecting the health of populations around the world.

    NDTR Application Process icon-olus-circle

    Nutrition and Dietetic Technician, Registered (NDTR) Examination

    Students who meet the criteria to receive a Penn State DPD Verification Statement are eligible to take the NDTR examination. Students who take the NDTR exam typically choose not to apply to a post-graduate Dietetic Supervised Practice Program (DSPP) or are not matched to a DSPP.

    What does a dietetic technician do?

    Dietetic technicians work as dietary aides in clinical settings, such as hospitals and long-term care settings; they work in school food service; and they work as research lab assistants, etc. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics provides additional information on employment opportunities, job outlook, and salary information.

    What are the advantages of taking the NDTR exam?

    Students should take the NDTR exam if the job for which they are applying requires the NDTR certification. While the certification will not hurt the student’s chances of getting employment, there are some states that do not require the NDTR certification. It is possible for an individual to get a nutrition-related job without it. This will vary by state and by employer.

    Graduates of the Penn State Nutrition and Dietetics option who plan to apply to a DSPP are encouraged to take the NDTR exam. Directors of these programs look favorably on applicants who have earned their NDTR certification.

    How to apply to take the NDTR examination

    The DPD director must submit the DTR application materials to the Commission on Dietetic Registration in order for an individual to take the NDTR exam. Please read the following steps carefully to learn what documentation is needed by the DPD director.

    Criteria to be eligible to apply for the NDTR exam

    • B.S. degree in Nutritional Sciences, Nutrition and Dietetics option.
    • Verification Statement issued by the DPD director of Penn State

    Documents that must be filled out and provided to the DPD director

    • NDTR application form
    • The above document can be given to the DPD director in person, mailed to her office, or sent via e-mail:
      Mary Dean Coleman-Kelly, MS, Ph.D., RDN
      110 Chandlee Lab
      Nutritional Sciences Department
      University Park, PA 16802
      Email: mdc15@psu.edu
    • Send an electronic copy of your official Penn State transcript after your degree has been conferred by the University. These can be ordered online from the registrar’s office. Send it to Dr. Coleman-Kelly at mdc15@psu.edu.

    Additional resources

    Program Outcomes

    The DPD Program outcomes are available upon request.

    Accreditation Status

    The Pennsylvania State University Didactic Program in Dietetics is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics,120 Riverside Plaza, Suite 2000, Chicago, IL 60606-6995, 800/877-1600 , ext 5400. http://www.eatright.org/acend

    Date of next site review: Fall 2019

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