A review of the data on the demand for dietetic internships in relation to the number of available positions indicates that the supply is not keeping up with demand. The data are being provided, by ACEND, so that students who are currently enrolled in Didactic Programs in Dietetics (DPD) or those who are considering becoming a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) are aware of this situation in order to make informed career decisions. To summarize the chart showing the Supply and Demand for Dietetic Internships since 1993, demand for internships rose to a peak in 1997, followed by a downturn that bottomed out in 2001. Since then, the demand has been rising and now exceeds the 1997 high with no significant increase in the number of positions since 2003. As a result, competition for internships is fierce.
Although ACEND has no authority to mandate an increase in the number of Dietetic Internship programs, it is firmly committed to working with the education community and the dietetics profession to make more positions available as soon as possible and to develop a long-term solution that enables all qualified students to complete their education and sit for the RD exam. In the meantime, current and prospective dietetics students should review the suggestions to improve their chances at getting a dietetics internship position.
How Do Other Professions Avoid a Shortage of Internship Positions?
All other regulated professions in the United States that require supervised practice, from nursing, to medicine, to law, to teaching, avoid shortages of entry-level supervised practice by providing both didactic education and supervised practice within one education program. In contrast, the majority of dietetic students must obtain their entry-level supervised practice by applying to a second, post-graduate program, often without the benefit of professional recognition through a graduate-level degree.
As a result, Many students who fail to obtain internship positions are frequently given the excuse that "not every pre-med student gets into medical school;" however, this is an unfair comparison, because entry into the medical profession does not start with pre-med, it starts with medical school which includes at least one year of supervised practice.
In comparison, entry into the dietetics profession starts with acceptance into a Didactic Program in Dietetic (DPD); however DPDs do not include entry-level supervised practice. This has resulted in about 2,000 students paying for an education every year who will never be able to complete it through no fault of their own, and simultaneously creating a pool of individuals who are likely to compete for many of the same positions as RDs after they graduate without the benefit of an RD credential.