How to Increase Your Competitiveness for a Dietetic Internship
Supervised practice in an accredited Dietetic Internship program is required, along with academic coursework, to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. There is a national application process that is made available through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Currently there are more applicants than positions available and nationally about 50% of the applicants are placed. It is essential that, beginning early in their dietetics coursework, students plan for developing a strong record of academic progress, experiences and relationships that will support a successful application.
Investigate programs early to identify their admission criteria
- Applicant Guide to Supervised Practice – Includes files containing standardized information about supervised practice experience programs. Every attempt was made to collect and report the most current and accurate program information available at the time the guide was compiled. Always check the program’s website for the most up to date information.
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics – Website with all accredited programs listed by type of program and organized by states. Program websites are available on this resource.
- All Access Internships – This website has been developed by previous dietetics students to help other students with the internship application process. This is an independent site, but it might be a good way of collecting more information about the programs you are interested in. Please use this only has a secondary resource as we cannot verify its accuracy. Always make sure to check the specific internship's site or the Academy’s site for the most current and accurate information, especially regarding deadlines.
Maintain a GPA over 3.0 - Most programs require a minimum GPA of 3.0 or higher for consideration for admission. In light of this, individuals with a GPA less than 3.0 are strongly discouraged from applying to Dietetic Internships and cannot be guaranteed faculty letters of recommendation. Although acceptance into the DPD requires a minimum GPA of 3.0 (which is also the minimum GPA required for most internships), the Dietetic Internship application process is highly competitive and recent experience suggests that you should maintain a GPA of at least 3.3 or higher to be most competitive for placement. Internship programs have more applicants than internship spots nationwide and currently, approximately 50% of applicants are accepted into a Dietetic Internship. While a strong GPA is important, it is also essential that students develop a strong and balanced portfolio of experiences during their academic years. Just having a GPA of 3.8 or higher will not assure acceptance into a program if a student has a weak portfolio. All higher education grades are reviewed, but particular consideration is given to most recent academic experience and to the grades in courses required to meet the DPD requirements.
Participate in activities that demonstrate leadership
Start building relationships with professors, employers, coaches, advisors, supervisors, etc. early in order to assure you will receive strong reference letters.
Obtain dietetics-related work or volunteer experience (check out the Jobs and Opportunities page for more information)
- Review the websites for hospitals or clinics near you or contact the nutrition department or Director of Nutrition or Dietary Services to look for paid and volunteer opportunities
- If possible, it is optimal to work as a Dietetic Technician or Diet Clerk
- If no paid positions, inquire about volunteering
- Review the websites or contact the Director at a long-term care facility
- Inquire about paid positions in dietary department
- If no paid positions, contact the RDN on staff to see if you might be able to assist as a volunteer; for example, to assist with meal rounds
- Shadow a dietitian in different settings
- Volunteer for the Farmer’s Market Voucher program during the summer
- Possible paid or volunteer opportunities during the school year
- Feeding America (Hunger relief organization in St. Paul)
- Many different types of volunteer opportunities
- Head Start (Government-funded child feeding program serving preschoolers)
- Develop lessons/activities for kids
- Food shelves
- Cook evening meals at Dorothy Day Houses, Loaves and Fishes
- Home-Delivered Meals
- Meals-on-Wheels; Open Arms
- Food service
- Review the websites or contact the Nutrition Department or Food Service Director at a hospital, long-term care facility, or college or university near you to see if they are hiring dietary aides or foodservice staff, including foodservice supervisors
- Shadow a foodservice director at a local school or university
How many hours of work/volunteer experience do I need?
There is no defined number of hours. However, having a position with some longevity (longer than 6 months) will demonstrate commitment to an internship director and will allow you to gain adequate experience in an area. At the same time, participating in short experiences can also be very beneficial as it allows you to try something new and different.
I have a job that pays well but is not nutrition-related. I cannot quit because it helps pay the bills. Will it look bad on an internship application?
No, it will not look bad as long as you have also been able to participate in some other nutrition-related activities. Any job will give you valuable experience such as time management, work ethic, organization, and leadership. However, if your internship application only lists a non-nutrition related job, you probably will not be chosen. So, make the time and commitment to other opportunities, paid and/or non-paid. The summer is a great time to gain experience as you most likely will have little to no school commitments.
How can I gain dietetics-related experience in my current job?
Waitress/cook - try to get involved with things like taking inventory, food/supply ordering, costing recipes, menu modification, menu analysis, doing product specifications, a marketing project, taking a look at environmental issues (recycling, organic options, etc.) and/or equipment needs. Also, ask if there is some type of in-service for the staff that could be developed on something like a food safety topic.
PCA/Nanny – ask to be involved with food/supply ordering, costing recipes, menu modification, menu analysis, taking a look at environmental issues (recycling, organic options, etc.). Also, ask if there is some type of in-service or training opportunity for the staff that could be developed on something like a food safety topic or a common specialty diet.
Other – review the suggestions above to see if any of these could considered for the job you have.
I have an opportunity to work with a dietitian but I need to create my own goals and objectives of what I want to get out of this experience. What will an internship director like to see?
One thing DI directors would like to see is completion of a project from start to finish. Some things that could be considered are developing an in-service, training materials, handouts, etc. about a nutrition related condition or a special diet. It will be very beneficial to be able to show initiative, leadership and good communication by seeing a project through from A to Z. Also, getting patient contact and medical charting experience will be good. Another possibility is to do a couple of case studies using the Nutrition Care Process, maybe one on a somewhat "easy" patient and another on one more complicated. Case studies will allow you to really learn about a medical chart and to start thinking about nutrition management in regards to patient care. Other ideas are to get experience with menu modifications and calorie counts.