Nearly 2 in 5 American adults suffer from obesity, according to a recent report by the Center for Disease Control, and the medical cost of our obesity came to almost $150 billion in 2008. Dietetics programs train students to be part of the solution to this growing problem by giving them the knowledge and tools necessary to assess and innovate nutrition programs for individuals and the public at large. Here's a list of 10 universities with accredited dietetics programs that can help get you on the path to promoting wellness through good attitudes about food.
- Bradley University in Peoria, IL, features an on-campus nutrition clinic, opportunities for service-learning projects with local community agencies and a working food-service unit designed for nutrition students. The dietetics program contains a Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD) curriculum that has been in high standing for nearly 50 years and prepares students with the necessary training to apply for dietetic internships just after graduating. Future dietitians at Bradley can also develop their nutritional interviewing and counseling skills by watching advanced students in the observation room of the school's counseling center.
- D'Youville College is home to a pioneering move in dietetic education -- the Buffalo, NY, school was the first in the US to offer a combined BS/MS in Dietetics degree path. Students who opt for this combo degree earn credit for their dietetic internship while still in college, and the hybrid format comes with the added benefit of charging undergraduate tuition rates for all five years of full-time study. D'Youville also offers an advanced nutrition practice concentration and claims a career placement rate of nearly 100 percent annually.
- Missouri State University offers a relatively low student-to-faculty ratio, which can lead to small class sizes and increased opportunity for one-on-one time with instructors. Dietetics faculty at the Springfield, MO, campus practice as registered and licensed dietitians (RDs/LDs), so they can advise students on academic as well as professional matters. Graduates must attend an internship program and pass a national registration exam before a license can be granted, but Missouri State graduates have reported a 100 percent success rate on the license test in the last three years.
- Montana State University is one of several universities that offers both dietetics and nutrition programs through its Department of Health and Human Development. The dietetics program at the Bozeman institution focuses on preparing students to work as RDs in such environments as health care facilities, primary and secondary schools, community centers, food service enterprises and private practice offices. One thing that stands out about the Montana State program is their emphasis on community involvement -- graduates, alumni and senior-level students are all expected to participate in community service on some level.
- Oregon State University in Corvallis, OR, begins their dietetics program with a pre-dietetics option, which contains a challenging science-based curriculum and can help prepare younger students for the academic rigors of upper division coursework. Necessary science courses in those first two years include 15 credits each in anatomy and physiology and general chemistry; eight credits each in biology, microbiology and organic chemistry and four credits in biochemistry. Students who earn a GPA of 3.4 or better are expected to have a better-than-average chance of dietetic internship placement after graduation.
- Saint Louis University students can choose any one of a variety of dietetics and nutrition programs, depending on how they plan to use their degree in the professional world. Undergraduate concentrations include culinary arts, food innovations and entrepreneurship and a pre-physician assistant track. Graduate students can pursue a Master of Science in medical dietetics, nutrition and physical performance, culinary arts or dietetics and public health. The Missouri institution even offers its own in-program dietetic internship for graduates seeking RD status.
- St. Catherine University offers an accredited DPD that boasts a fairly impressive statistic: since registration began in 1969, not one single graduate from this Minnapolis, MN, university has failed the RD exam. This comprehensive and long-standing program covers the basic science work in biology, chemistry and physiology alongside big-picture dietetic concepts such as food labeling, food additives, menu planning and food service operations. The program also prepares students for professional life by requiring that they conduct original research and present it to the regional dietetic association.
- University of Dayton in Dayton, OH, focuses on preparing students for the various challenges that registered dietitians face in the professional world. The balanced curriculum contains similar science components to most DPDs, but University of Dayton students are encouraged to integrate the humanities, arts and social sciences into their study. The school also advises students to seek out long-term volunteer opportunities or paid working experience in a nutrition-related field to help their chances of being accepted to the dietetic internship of their choice.
- University of New Haven students have access to amenities that can help make a sizeable difference in their dietetics educations. For example, individual mentoring services are available to help students find their way into quality programs of supervised practice or graduate study after earning their BS. What's more, students in UNH nutrition and dietetics programs can work for pay, school credit or volunteer experience at nearby facilities provided by Yale University, the Connecticut Department of Health, the Guilford School Lunch Program and medical centers such as Norwalk Hospital, Bridgeport Hospital and Yale-New Haven Hospital.
- University of New Mexico provides a post-graduate dietetic internship on top of its bachelor's degree program in nutrition and dietetics. The Albuquerque school also offers a Master of Science in Nutrition program for students who want to take their academic work to the next level. Over the course of their education, students will learn to use their dietetic expertise for the benefit of individuals and groups across all ages and cultures, and the curriculum is structured in such a way to prepare graduates for a variety of occupations in public health, clinical care or food systems management.
The field of dietetics is growing in both prominence and scope with each passing year, and several schools near you are likely to offer accredited dietetics programs that can prepare you for the demands and rewards of this vital health care profession. If none of the schools on this list seems exactly right for you, don't hesitate to expand your horizons and do some research on your own -- you might be pleasantly surprised at what you find.
“Adult Obesity Facts,” cdc.gov, 2013. http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html