A post-graduation dietetic internship is a required step to becoming a registered and licensed dietitian. There are approximately 280 dietetic internships (also known as supervised practice programs) across the United States.
Post-graduation dietetic internship appointments are awarded on a competitive basis through an application process. Internships are an accredited program of study that provide a minimum of 900 hours of supervised practice designed to meet the performance requirements for entry-level dietitians established by ADA.
Internship placement is highly competitive. To increase your chances, you are advised to pay attention to the following, beginning with your first year of college.
- Earn good grades. An undergraduate grade point average of at least a 3.0 GPA is needed to be competitive. The higher the GPA, the better chance a student may have of gaining entrance into an internship.
- Gain relevant work experience. Paid work in the food service industry such as cooks and cooks assistants, servers, cashiers, cleaning and general workers can be beneficial.
- Gain dietetic-related volunteer experiences. Examples include assisting with health-related events at a local hospital or assisting with events sponsored by the health department.
- Get involved in extracurricular activities. Gaining leadership experience in your extracurricular activities can increase your interpersonal skills.
All internship programs require a full-time commitment, a part-time job on the side is discouraged and is usually impossible. Internships are usually completed in 9-24 months (average 10-12 months), depending on whether they are completed on a full-time or part-time basis, and whether they offer graduate study or degrees. Shorter programs typically feature faster-paced experiences, more on-duty hours per week, weekend work and no vacation days.
Students in internship programs are eligible for federal student loans, private student loans and forestallment of repayment of loans until your education is complete. This will vary some depending on the internship site and if they have applied to the government for educational loan status.
Students who are most successful at obtaining an internship:
- have a good GPA (3.0 and higher is best, 2.7 is minimum)
- prepare a professional application packet with recommendations
- have related paid and volunteer work experience
- have evidence of leadership skills, maturity and interest in the profession/internship
Bluffton University and the dietetic program director cannot guarantee you an internship appointment. We will, however, provide you with access to the directory of dietetic programs, advise you in the application process, review your correspondence/application for accuracy and recommend appropriate options. We will be here to support and assist you in any way we can.
You are strongly encouraged to follow the process and timeline outlined below.
Steps in applying to an internship
STEP 1: Beginning in the late summer/early fall of your senior year, review the directory of dietetic programs and the Applicants Guideline to Dietetic Internships notebook (available from the dietetics program director). This provides very basic information and contacts.
STEP 2: Obtain specific information about the internships you are interested in.
If the program has a complete website, use that for gathering information. Contact the director and request an application packet for their program if it does not have a complete website. At this point, you are not making decisions, but are gathering information and allowing yourself time to process the information.
Note: Regardless of whether you correspond by e-mail or a letter, it should be typed, free from spelling errors and professional in tone. This is the first contact they will have with you, so don't make a poor impression before you apply! Professional behavior should be followed any time you are in contact with anyone associated with the internship.
- Select at least 4 or 5 sites or more if necessary.
- Investigate programs in the other geographic locations. Consider out-of-state locations.
- Consider programs that do not have the largest stipends.
- Do consider prestigious (and therefore competitive) locations if your application fits their requirements.
- Compare notes with your classmates. Internships try to select a variety of students. You may be competing against each other.
STEP 3: Select the programs to which you will apply.
Consider seriously the information you have gathered and weigh your options. Consult with your parents, significant other, your program director or anyone else, but remember that YOU will be the one doing the internship. This step should be completed by late November/December.
Consider the following:
- Program length and when it begins and ends.
- Where most of your experiences will take place (Eg. medical center or smaller community hospitals. All will have community-based rotations.)
- Type and length of the rotations. Evaluate the number of weeks you are in various rotations. All internships must prepare you as a generalist (i.e. food service, clinical, community), but many have identified a strength or emphasis area. Make sure the emphasis area matches your interests.
- Fees, tuition for the internship itself, tuition for graduate credits and financial aid.
- Stipend (this money is paid to you, usually monthly).
- Graduate classes or degree granted. (Is the GRE required?)
- The overall opinion or feeling you have about an internship. Match your own qualifications, interests and goals as closely as possible to the programs.
Although making a personal visit to an internship is not required, it may be helpful in making decisions. Call and ask if they have an open house or will allow individual student visits. Consult with faculty if you are having difficulty deciding or are having trouble "interpreting" information from the internship. We regularly make contacts with internship directors, know what they are looking for in students and can offer guidance in this area.
You may apply to as many programs as you wish, but preparing each application takes considerable time and involves an expense, (application fee, postage, etc.). You should expect to spend about $50 for every application you make. A few thoughtfully selected, well-prepared applications may make your chances of selection as good as several applications prepared in haste.
STEP 4: Fill out the application. Write your letter of application.
It can take some time to get the information you need, such as dates of summer jobs worked and transcripts. Plan on having a completed application by the time spring semester begins in January.
Begin to write your letter of application. This usually weighs heavily in their selection process. Make sure you address the questions they ask for in your letter of application. Internship directors have frequently said that applicants will fail to answer the basic questions they ask. Examples are:
- Your goals, both short and long term (this should be something other than to obtain an internship)
- Why you chose dietetics as a career and any special interests you have.
- Why you chose their facility/internship.
- Any qualities that would be desirable and add to your information.
- Accomplishments you are particularly proud of, strengths and weaknesses.
Do not repeat things found elsewhere in the application packet. Do keep it to the length specified. Plan to rewrite and revise, perhaps several times. The dietetics faculty will be happy to review your letter and offer feedback before you write your final version.
Follow all directions exactly. Each facility may want things prepared slightly differently, and if you don't follow their instructions, your application will not be considered for an appointment. (eg. they ask for a handwritten letter and you type it because you think your handwriting will be a detractor. Your application will immediately be withdrawn.)
If the internship does not give complete instructions, i.e. whether the letter of application should be typed or hand-written, you must make the decision. You may call or e-mail the internship director for clarification. Have your questions prepared and keep it brief. It will be stated in the packet if they prefer not to be called.
Interviews - Some internship sites request in-person, phone or taped interviews as part of their selection process. Approach this professionally and don't let it deter you from applying to the internship. Being prepared for the interview is this best way to be successful. This means to: 1) review the internship information packet and know it, 2) review your application letter and be ready to expand, discuss and present yourself, 3) formulate some questions beforehand to ask about the site: internship rotations, staff, region, etc..... I have some actual interview questions from previous student interviews on file that may help you prepare for this process. Please let me know if you are interviewing.
STEP 5: Request recommendation letters and transcripts.
Recommendations - Generally, you will need three letters of recommendation. One should be from someone who can assess your clinical skills (your Nutrition in Disease professor or work supervisor). Usually recommendations are from two faculty members and one work supervisor.
Please give the individuals who will be writing recommendations advance notice and time to complete the recommendations. They are busy professionals who cannot drop everything to write letters for you. It is strongly suggest that by semester break: 1) you have identified who you want to write your recommendations 2) politely ask them if they would write recommendations for you, and 3) give them the signed completed waiver forms with an envelope for enclosure for confidentiality. Make sure they have access to the recommendation form, either on disk or a website you have e-mailed to them.
Make arrangements to pick-up the letters from them at a later date. They are not to mail the letters directly to the internship site unless the internship requests this. You will need to fully explain this to individuals who are not familiar with the dietetic internship process.
Confidentiality of the recommendation letters is by law your right and your decision (see the top of the recommendation form). However, most internships like them to be confidential, and I strongly recommend this. This requires that you sign the statement waiving your right to see the letter. The person will seal the envelope and sign over the back flap to make it official. The name of the internship is on the front so you can later get the letters in the correct envelopes for each internship.
Transcripts - Obtain official transcripts from the registrar's office at Bluffton University and ALL other colleges attended including those attended for just one summer course. Make your request in writing (and sign it) and be sure to note that you need them all to be official transcripts. If requests are made before the official end of fall semester, tell them to hold the request until the fall grades are posted. The Bluffton registrar has stated that if they are for your dietetic internship there will be no charge, but you must tell them this. Most colleges charge a fee for official transcripts.
STEP 6: Assemble the complete application packet (envelope) for each internship.
Take them to a post office to mail so you can request confirmation that they received it.
Verification Statement/Intent to Complete must be included in each application packet. This is official ADA paperwork that the program director will sign and give to you. If you have not graduated from Bluffton University yet, you will receive an Intent to Complete form for each internship packet with an official signature (they cannot be photocopies) in blue ink. I will need to meet with you to determine what coursework you need to complete for graduation. Then I will supply you with enough original forms for your internship application packets. (Once you have graduated, you will be given several original copies of the verification statement for your use. You will need to give one to your internship and later will need one to apply for your state license. You may obtain more verification statements any time from the Bluffton University program director).
STEP 7: Complete and mail computer matching / D & D Digital form.
Internship programs, with few exceptions, participate in computer matching to select their interns. With this system, you are asked to rank the internships in your order of preference. The internship ranks the applicants and the software matches applicants with internships. The dietetics program director will have D & D information for you.
These forms must be filled out and returned separately to D&D Computer Matching with the fee enclosed (currently $50). Only one fee is paid regardless of how many internships you apply to. Without computer matching you will not be placed in any internship position.
STEP 8: Notification Day
Applicants are notified via e-mail from D&D Digital in mid-April. Please follow instructions for accepting or declining the internship position. The dietetics program director will also receive information on who received a match, but not where they have received it. Please contact the program director as soon as possible with your information.
GRADUATE SCHOOL – Be sure to follow all instructions for completing the admissions process to the graduate school associated with the internship. This is a separate application process (and includes a separate fee), but some have you apply to both at the same time. Clarify any questions you have. It is usually best to go through the dietetics program (or whatever the department is called) rather than through the general graduate admissions office.
GRE EXAMINATION - Some internship sites require a GRE score (Graduate Record Examination), especially if they involve graduate classes. If you ever anticipate going to graduate school in your future, it is suggested that you take the GRE exam sometime before you graduate from Bluffton University.
You can get the application booklet, which lists the test dates, application dates and test sites, from the Center for Career and Vocation. The fee to take this exam is about $100, and the test results generally do NOT expire (there are probably a few exceptions to this).
Bluffton's dietetic internship
Bluffton's dietetic internship has an emphasis in community and public health nutrition.