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New advanced degree option will help fulfill state’s need for registered dietitian nutritionists | University of Nevada, Reno


As our knowledge and research on how nutrition affects our health and various health conditions continues to grow, the demand for professionals knowledgeable and trained to work in dietetics with patients and in various community settings is also growing. A new program option at the University of Nevada, Reno will help accelerate the state’s ability to provide qualified Registered Dietitian Nutritionists, commonly known as RDNs, by offering most of required coursework online.

The program, an , offered through the University’s , will consist of 30 credits and is designed to accommodate completion in 18 months, with students then being qualified to take the registration examination for the registered dietitian nutritionist credential. Effective Jan. 1, 2024, the Commission on Dietetic Registration, part of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, changed the minimum degree requirement for eligibility to take the exam from a bachelor’s degree to a graduate degree. The University developed the new program option to ensure Nevada could adapt to the new requirements in order to fulfill the state’s need for registered dietitian nutritionists.

“A bachelor’s degree is just not sufficient anymore,” said Jamie Benedict, associate professor and former chair of the University’s who helped to develop the new program with colleagues in the department. “That’s why the Academy made the change. There is so much more to learn about the role of nutrition in health, and our society is increasingly complex. Dietitians need to be prepared to meet those challenges.”

Students enrolling in the new program will be able to complete 24 of the credits asynchronously online, that is, not at designated times, but at times that accommodate their own schedules. Only six credits of the program, the portion, will be completed in person, in the field at health care and other community sites. The dietetics internship program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND), the accrediting agency for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It consists of 1,000 hours of supervised practice (hands-on learning) designed to allow students to master certain set by the accreditation council.

Along with the internship, the online courses will help prepare students for a wide variety of employment opportunities, such as clinical dietitians in a hospital or care facility, food service dietitians at schools or other community settings, nutrition educators and counselors at hospitals or weight management programs, and many other positions. The courses required for 21 credits of the online courses include those offered by the Department of Nutrition and the School of Public Health. They include advanced metabolism, advanced medical nutrition therapy, nutrition assessment techniques, leadership in nutrition and dietetics, evidence-based principles and practice, professional paper, and social and behavioral dimensions of health. For the remaining three credits, students choose either epidemiology in public health, program development in public health practice or health policy.

In addition to the new graduate program option adding expertise to the field of dietetics, Chris Pritsos, current chair of the department and the College’s Associate Dean of Research, says the program will help to improve the health of Nevadans. He said that is a major thrust for the Department, as well as the whole College.

“Our goal is to help ensure that our College’s graduates are prepared for impactful, rewarding careers that address today’s priorities and tomorrow’s challenges,” he said.