Becoming a Registered Dietitian

Clinical Nutrition & Dietetics

Francene Steinberg and Joan Frank

Clinical Nutrition program is first step toward becoming a Registered Dietitian

"Dietetics is at the center of many overlapping domains of knowledge," says Dr. Francene Steinberg, Professor of Nutrition. With assistance from Joan Frank, Dr. Steinberg directs the Didactic Program in Dietetics, which forms the core of the Clinical Nutrition course work. The program, fully accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education, is the first step toward becoming a Registered Dietitian, and covers nutrition science, food science, medical nutrition therapy, human physiology, public health and wellness, business and food service management, the social sciences and general education courses. Future dietitians at Davis are taught by the country’s best nutrition scientists. "We place great emphasis on rigorous science courses," Dr. Steinberg says. "It´s a definite benefit of studying here."

Advising Appointments

Students are welcome to make an appointment to meet with the Staff Advisor or stop by during drop-in hours to meet with the Peer Advisors.   Please note:  Peer Advisor drop-in hours are M-F 9am-4pm in 3202 Meyer Hall.

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Program Description

The Clinical Nutrition major provides a strong foundation in the biological and social sciences, with advanced coursework in metabolism, nutrition and foods. The academic coursework within the major includes University and College requirements (including General Education, American History & Institutions, and English Composition) and the Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD). This major provides a high quality, cutting-edge curriculum to prepare graduates for success in a variety of careers and for advanced study. The field of dietetics allows individuals to apply the science and art of nutrition and foods to meet the health and nutrition needs of groups and individuals, promote health and wellness, facilitate behavior change, and function as effective leaders and managers in a variety of professional settings. Dietetics is a dynamic and growing profession. This major can prepare students for graduate study, further career preparation in the health professions (dietetics, medicine, pharmacy, nursing, etc.) as well as food service, food production and distribution, education, research and public health.

Graduates of this major, with completion of the DPD program, receive a pre-professional verification statement and are eligible to apply to supervised practice programs (accredited Dietetic Internships) in which students receive practical training in varied aspects of dietetic practice. Upon satisfactory completion of a minimum of a Baccalaureate degree and DPD academic coursework and a post-Baccalaureate program of supervised practice, the student is eligible to take the nationally administered Registration Examination. Passage of this exam results in earning the professional credential of a Registered Dietitian or "R.D."

Mission and Goals

The mission of the UC Davis DPD is to provide the academic background for advancement in the field of dietetics and for graduate study in nutrition or related fields. The program prepares highly trained nutrition scholars for positions of leadership in health care, education, government, community health and professional organizations. The program is dedicated to excellence in advancing nutrition knowledge, fostering principles of life-long learning, and service to people and society.

The goals of the program are:

  1. To provide students with a high-quality broad-based education that prepares responsible individuals who will contribute to meeting the nutrition, food and health needs of society.
    • Outcome measures: The number of clinical nutrition graduates, verification statements issued, and the program completion rates will be tracked
  2. To provide a foundation in the physical, biological, and social sciences, plus principles of education and management, that will serve as a basis for a knowledge of nutrition science; and to provide a strong curriculum in metabolism, normal, clinical and community nutrition, nutrition education and food service management.
    • Outcome measures: The preparation of students in curriculum course content will be assessed, and the pass rate of 1st time test takers of the Registration Examination will be tracked
  3. To provide a foundation of skills in critical thinking, problem solving and principles of life-long learning which will make it possible for students to use the knowledge and skills gained during their education.
    • Outcome measures: The preparation of students in professional characteristics will be assessed, and job attainment for those students who do not continue their education immediately past graduation will be tracked
  4. To provide academic and career preparation that enhances a graduate’s opportunities for placement in supervised practice programs and graduate study, and which supports successful performance in such programs.
    • Outcome measures: The participation of students in experiential learning opportunities will be tracked, and postgraduate education achievement will be assessed

Accreditation Status

The Didactic Program in Dietetics at UC Davis is currently granted Accreditation by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 120 South Riverside Plaza, Suite 2000, Chicago, IL 60606; (312) 899-0040 ext. 5400. This program meets the academic requirements outlined in ACEND´s "Standards of Education."

Career Opportunities

A dietitian is a health professional who assists people of any age to attain optimal nutrition. Dietitians are trained not only in foods and nutrition, but also in the areas of social sciences, education and management. This background prepares the dietitian to translate the science and art of human nutrition to individuals and groups from diverse cultures with different concerns. The Registered Dietitian (R.D.) is the nationally recognized credential in nutrition. An R.D. credential is typically required for employment in the health care field and preferred for many other employment opportunities in foods and nutrition. There are many different specialties within the field of dietetics, and dietitians often pursue more than one. Some of the major areas include:

Business and Industry: Dietitians may be employed to work in a variety of settings, including sales and promotion, employee fitness and wellness programs, marketing, product development and on the Internet. Supermarkets hire dietitians to work in areas of consumer education and food safety.

Clinical Dietetics: As a member of a health care team, a Clinical Dietitian assesses nutritional needs, determines nutritional diagnoses, develops individual nutritional care plans, counsels patients and evaluates clinical therapeutic outcomes. Clinical dietitians may work in hospitals, nursing homes or outpatient settings.

Community Nutrition: As a member of the community public health team, the dietitian assesses nutrition needs of population groups. These dietitians plan and coordinate nutritional aspects of programs aimed at improving health and preventing disease at the community level. Community dietitians may work in a variety of community settings and clinics, with diverse groups of individuals.

Education: Dietitians in this field plan, implement, and evaluate educational experiences for dietetic, medical, dental, nursing or other allied health students. They are employed by universities and health care facilities. Advanced education is generally required.

Food Service Management: As part of the management team, these dietitians plan, organize, direct and evaluate food service systems. They are actively involved in budgeting, employee training, personnel management, and establishing and maintaining policies and standards. They may work in schools, senior centers, healthcare facilities, hotels or restaurants.

Private Practice/Consultation: Previous experience in dietetic practice is a necessity. These entrepreneurial dietitians provide advice on services in nutritional care and therapeutics, sports nutrition or food service management. These dietitians are generally self-employed.

Research: This requires advanced preparation in research techniques and often an advanced degree. Typically a research dietitian works closely with other investigators in planning and implementing projects that examine nutrient needs, functions, and interactions in humans or animals. This dietitian may work in a clinical research center in hospitals or academic centers. Research activities may be incorporated into all areas of dietetic practice.

Jobs for Those without R.D. Certification: Although most positions in the health and wellness fields require the R.D. credential, there are opportunities for students who earn their Bachelor's degree but do not complete the R.D. requirements. Positions include Diet Clerk or Assistant, Food Service Supervisor or Manager, Community Nutritionist, jobs in the hospitality industry, and Sales and Marketing in the health, pharmaceutical and food industries.

Dietetics is a rewarding profession with an encouraging future. The current emphasis on nutrition and health in this country enhances the marketability of the dietitian. Employment opportunities nationwide are excellent. The Registered Dietitian is the only health professional whose primary expertise is nutrition. For more information, consult the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website. A listing of jobs held by UC Davis Alumni with degrees in Clinical Nutrition is available.

Course Requirements

Clinical Nutrition major requirements can be found online at the Registrar´s Web site and on the Nutrition Department Web site.

A description of the academic plan to complete all courses at UC Davis, the Finish in Four Plan, is available online. Transfer students may need additional quarters of work at UC Davis if they enter without all required pre-requisites to begin upper-division coursework. Resources for finding courses that articulate with UC Davis are also available online. Students are encouraged to seek advice from the Nutrition Undergraduate Advising Office regarding academic planning throughout their undergraduate career. The advising office includes Peer Advisors in nutrition and the Staff Academic Advisor (see contact information for Nutrition Advising). Students are also strongly encouraged to consult frequently with their faculty advisor regarding academic and career planning.

Graduation requirements include fulfillment of the major curriculum and the College and University requirements for graduation, which include a minimum of 180 unit credits, completion of all General Education requirements, and a minimum G.P.A. of 2.0. The full UC Davis requirements can be found in the University Catalog.

DPD requirements are built into the clinical nutrition major and students who graduate with a degree in clinical nutrition will concurrently be completing the DPD. A list of the UC Davis DPD courses may be found online. Those students who are not enrolled in the major, but are seeking to qualify in dietetics and obtain a verification statement from the UC Davis program must complete all of the UC Davis DPD requirements and have at least a Bachelor´s degree. Students must meet with the Program Director, who will evaluate their educational background on a case-by-case basis. Typically, a minimum of 12 upper division units at UC Davis will be required to obtain a verification of DPD completion from UC Davis.

Students are encouraged to participate in elective coursework and internship/service activities which will broaden their understanding of concepts and application of knowledge and skills in the fields of nutrition and dietetics. A list of possible UC Davis elective courses relevant to the field is available online. The campus Internship and Career Center (ICC) has many valuable resources and volunteer internship opportunities in the health field and specifically in nutrition and dietetics. Students may obtain Transcript Notation (through the ICC) and upper division nutrition unit credits (through the Nutrition Department and DPD Program Director) for approved internship experiences.

Dietetic Internship Application Process

An ACEND-accredited supervised practice program (Dietetic Internship) is typically between six and twelve months in length. Completion of this program makes the student eligible to take the National Registration Examination for Dietitians administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration. To be eligible for the Dietetic Internships, a student must complete a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, including the DPD coursework accredited by ACEND. Students wishing to participate in a dietetic internship must apply to that program upon completion of their educational program.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics maintains a current list of supervised practice programs. There are two application times each year: in February and in September, for programs beginning July – August or January – February, respectively. The student must have completed all DPD requirements and have been awarded at least a Bachelor’s degree, and obtained a Verification Statement by the time the Dietetic Internship begins.

Competition for the internships is keen. Successful applicants typically have a G.P.A. of 3.0 or better, volunteer or paid work experience in dietetics, demonstrated commitment to community service and leadership, and strong recommendations from faculty and employers. Students should plan ahead so that they can build a strong resume and portfolio during their undergraduate career. In order to maximize chances of successfully being accepted to dietetic internships, students should choose wisely and apply to programs which are a good match for their strengths and qualifications.

The UC Davis DPD program provides assistance in the decision-making process and application process. Information workshops are held twice a year, in fall and spring, to discuss the Dietetic Internship application process. The DPD program director and faculty strongly encourage individual meetings with students during this time. The advising office facilitates completion of recommendation letters and various official Academy forms for the applicant. There are several internal Nutrition Department forms that must be used for this process, as well as the official Academy Supervised Practice Application, which is available on the Dietetic Internship Centralized Application Services (DICAS) website.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the admission requirements for the Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD)?

Enrollment in the DPD is unrestricted. However, students must meet the University and College criteria for a student in good standing. These are described in the Undergraduate Catalog. Students in the Clinical Nutrition major complete the DPD coursework as part of their degree requirements.

Are there any specific costs while enrolled?

There are no specific fees associated with the DPD. The UC Davis Catalog lists tuition and fees for resident and non-resident undergraduates.

What is the suggested curriculum sequence for the Clinical Nutrition major?

The coursework is planned sequentially to build on knowledge gained from pre-requisite and introductory courses. The junior and senior level coursework in clinical nutrition and dietetics emphasizes the core knowledge and most up-to-date information in the field. The "Finish in Four" plan allows the student to graduate in four years.

What careers and jobs does a Clinical Nutrition major prepare me for?

Job opportunities include positions in healthcare facilities such as hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes; public health agencies; government agencies; food and nutrition management in healthcare, schools, colleges and the hospitality industry; in wellness programs; and in food and nutrition service and marketing industries. As the recognized professional in this field is the Registered Dietitian, many positions are limited to individuals with this credential. (See Career Opportunities)

What are the steps to becoming a Registered Dietitian?

Becoming a Registered Dietitian (R.D.) requires completion of three steps:

  1. A minimum of a bachelor’s degree and completion of the Didactic Program in Dietetics coursework.
  2. A supervised practice program (dietetic internship).
  3. The Registration Examination, a national exam to assure competence of practicing dietitians.

See the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics web site for additional details.

Explain the “Supervised Practice Program.”

Supervised practice programs, also known as Dietetic Internships, are postbaccalaureate programs that provide applied experiences in various aspects of the professional field of dietetics. Programs typically run for six to twelve months, longer for graduate degree-linked programs. Although some offer a stipend, most charge tuition. Approximately 250 programs exist and are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). Students must individually apply to the programs, which are competitive.

How can I improve my chances of acceptance in a supervised practice program?

Programs have varying selection criteria, but the successful applicants usually have a G.P.A. of 3.0 or better, volunteer or paid work experience and strong recommendations from faculty and employers. Attend the information meetings held by DPD faculty and the Program Director, consult with your faculty advisor, be pro-active about obtaining experience in the field of dietetics, and be active in your campus and local community. Pay attention to details of the application process and highlight your skills and strengths. (See Dietetic Internship Application Process)

What is a “Verification Statement”?

All students completing the BS degree in Clinical Nutrition and who have completed all UC Davis DPD requirements will be given a signed “Verification Statement” that documents completion of the DPD. This is issued at the time of graduation, once the degree has been officially posted by the University Registrar, typically 2 months post-graduation. The Verification Statement is used when preparing for admission to a supervised practice program (dietetic internship), professional membership and registration.

If a student has determined that he or she will not be pursuing a dietetic internship, it is possible for that student to gain exemption from a particular course (especially if that course is impacted) upon consultation with the program director. Decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis. If an exemption is granted, the student will earn the BS in Clinical Nutrition, but not the Verification Statement. If circumstances change and the student later requires a Verification Statement, the course or its equivalent must be completed before the Verification Statement will be issued.

The Verification Statement is valid for 10 years, after which an individual would need to complete additional course work (a minimum of 12 UCD units) to receive a new Verification Statement. The required courses are NUT 116A/AL and 116B/BL. Additional courses will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Individual Dietetic Internships may or may not consider applicants with degrees received over 10 years ago.
Additional information on Verification Statements is available on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ ACEND website.

How can I find out about academic and university policies?

The university has many policies which govern academic and student life issues. These may be found in the University Catalog and through online university web pages and resources.

Some of these include:

  1. Policy related to withdrawal and refund of tuition and fees
  2. Academic Calendar
  3. Protection of privacy of information
  4. Access to personal information
  5. Access to student support services is available as follows:
  6. Malpractice insurance is not required for UC Davis undergraduate students. Health insurance is required of all students and is available through the university. Students may opt out of this insurance if they have comparable insurance through another carrier. More information is available online here.
  7. Grievances are processed with the assistance of the ASUCD Student Advocacy Grievance Center.
  8. Assessment of prior learning for clinical nutrition students is conducted on a case-by-case basis by the program director, with the assistance of the assistant program director and the student affairs officer. Typically the student is given no academic credit for experiential learning, but may be given “content credit” which allows for a particular course to be waived. Course credit is given for some courses by the University Registrar when a student transfers to UC Davis or in other situations, outlined on the Academic Credit page.
  9. UC Davis requires that students be given a grade at the completion of each course. There are requirements that the students be evaluated in each course using a variety of strategies, for example, tests, written papers, case studies, projects, etc. The university requires that a final exam be given at the end of any didactic (non-laboratory) course.
  10. Disciplinary procedures are covered by the UC Davis Code of Academic Conduct.

Contact Information

DPD Program Director
Francene M. Steinberg, Ph.D., R.D.
University of California, Davis
Department of Nutrition
3143 Meyer Hall
One Shields Avenue
Davis, California 95616
ph: (530) 752-0160 / fax: (530) 752-8966

Assistant Program Director

Joan S. Frank, M.S., R.D.
Lecturer and Administrative Coordinator
University of California, Davis
Department of Nutrition
3241 Meyer Hall
One Shields Avenue
Davis, California 95616
ph: (530) 754-9749 / fax: (530) 752-8966

Staff Advisor

Martha Amesquita
Undergraduate Staff Advisor
University of California, Davis
Department of Nutrition
3202A Meyer Hall
One Shields Avenue
Davis, California 95616
ph: (530) 752-2512 / fax: (530) 752-8966