UNE Online among first to offer new certification pathway for registered dietitians
The University of New England College of Graduate and Professional Studies Master of Science in Applied Nutrition (M.S.A.N.) is one of the first in the U.S. accredited to offer students a new pathway to certification as registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs), the gold-standard credential for those working in the ever-growing discipline of nutrition.
The 100% online master’s degree program at UNE is among the earliest 25 graduate-level dietetics programs in the U.S. accredited under the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) Future Education Model (FEM), a new, competency-based model of coursework and supervised experiential learning (SEL) required for RDN eligibility.
UNE’s 48-credit hour M.S.A.N./RDN program expands upon UNE’s existing M.S.A.N. program. The new focus provides rigorous education grounded in science, nutrition research, food and food service management, and health promotion. It is designed to prepare entry-level dietitians to provide evidence-based, personalized nutrition care in a variety of clinical, management, and community settings.
Studies show there is an increasing need for registered dietitians. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an 11% job growth rate for RDNs by 2028, more than double the national average for all occupations.
Historically, students graduating from ACEND accredited dietetics programs must match to an internship prior to sitting for the RDN exam, and only about half of candidates match to those internships in a given year. An additional challenge is that oftentimes, students must relocate to attend an internship if they are matched. Because of these hurdles, some promising graduates miss out on their chance for RDN certification.
The FEM graduate program through UNE removes those barriers. As one of only two programs nationwide based entirely online, students in the new focus area are granted the flexibility to complete their coursework and required SEL experiences in their own location and at SEL sites most convenient to them. It can also be completed in just two years.
“This is experiential learning at its finest — students that engage in a competency-based model of education are able to immediately apply the knowledge and skills that they are learning in-class in the professional environment,” said Elizabeth Dodge, Ph.D., director of the graduate program in Applied Nutrition. “We also see this as a value add in terms of students being able to stay where they are without the disruption of having to potentially relocate."
In addition to receiving their master’s degrees, students enrolling in FEM programs will participate in their Supervised Experiential Learning (SEL) experience while in the program, rather than via internship after the completion of their didactic coursework. They will also receive verification of eligibility to take the Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Registration Exam, administered by the Commission of Dietetic Registration (CDR), upon successful completion of the program.
Another advantage is that a verification statement from an ACEND accredited program is not a requirement for FEM programs. This has previously been a barrier to career-changers and students who have expressed an interest in nutrition but do not have a bachelor’s degree from an ACEND accredited program.
“This program will hopefully capture some students who want to explore a new career field as well those who maybe weren’t able to match to an internship after earning their undergraduate nutrition degrees,” said Angelina Maia, Ph.D., RD, assistant director M.S.A.N./RDN focus of the graduate program in Applied Nutrition.