Purdue Master of Science in dietetics program includes hands-on learning opportunities to improve client health

Written By: Rebecca Hoffa, rhoffa@purdue.edu

From hospitals to health departments to schools and beyond, registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) are making a difference in the health of individuals throughout Indiana as they counsel their clients on making healthy eating decisions based on their nutritional needs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for registered dietitian nutritionists is expected to grow 7% between 2021 and 2031.

To help meet this need and bolster the registered dietitian nutritionist workforce, Purdue University’s Department of Nutrition Science within the College of Health and Human Sciences has launched its new Master of Science in dietetics, offering new learning opportunities and hands-on experiences to set students up for success.

“We are providing the foundation for an entry-level registered dietitian nutritionist, but students have a lot of opportunities really from the very start of their career that are changing as the world changes,” said Dinah Dalder, clinical associate professor and director of the Master of Science in dietetics program. “The types of things that RDNs are doing now are just really incredibly varied.”

The two-year program consists of a combination of classroom learning during the first year and supervised practice in professional work settings throughout Indiana during the second year. The goal is to ultimately prepare students to take the registration exam through the Commission on Dietetic Registration to become a licensed RDN, and historically Purdue’s nutrition and dietetics students have had a high pass rate on the exam.

While these supervised practice requirements were previously satisfied by a fifth-year coordinated program in dietetics, starting Jan. 1, 2024, the commission will require all students to obtain a master’s or doctoral degree prior to taking the national credentialing exam.

“Registered dietitian nutritionists have a pivotal role in contributing to the health of our nation,” said Laura Murray-Kolb, professor and head of the Department of Nutrition Science. “As rates of obesity and other chronic diseases continue to skyrocket in our country, the need for professionals who are trained in using food and nutrition to optimize health has never been more evident. Purdue’s new Master of Science in dietetics will continue our long tradition of training high-quality practitioners and will ensure that we do our part in preparing health professionals who will work to improve the health of residents of Indiana and beyond.”

Dalder noted this program has offered a great opportunity to build upon the curriculum and incorporate student feedback for this additional year of classroom instruction. One of the most exciting additions is a course in applied nutrition counseling, which will allow students to practice counseling an adult client under the direction of a faculty member prior to entering supervised practice during their second year.

“I think that’s such a new opportunity for our students and one that will be very popular,” Dalder said.

As an established program that’s been accredited for more than 45 years and has graduated more than 500 students, the Department of Nutrition Science has a legacy of preparing registered dietitian nutritionists to be leaders in their field.

“One of the benefits of coming to Purdue is that we do have a reputation, both within the state and nationally, and our graduates are highly sought after,” Dalder said. “I’m contacted frequently by employers looking to hire Purdue graduates.”

Current Purdue Nutrition Science students will get an opportunity for priority consideration each year, but the program will accept qualified external candidates as well. While priority consideration will typically begin in November, external applicants will be considered beginning Jan. 15.

As the applications roll in, Dalder is eager to see how the new program takes off and continues to grow.

“I’m excited that we will be offering some coursework that we had not been able to offer before to broaden our curriculum and increase the level at which students are trained,” Dalder said.