Didactic Program in Dietetics

Didactic Program in Dietetics banner image; a female student practicing in a lab.Want to be a registered dietitian?

A Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD) is an undergraduate nutrition or dietetics program that meets the accreditation standards set by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). This course work will ensure that students have the "Knowledge and Skills" required by ACEND to compete for a dietetic internship. Graduates of a dietetic internship program can sit for a (computerized) national certification exam. At Cal Poly, the courses required for a B.S. in nutrition following the applied nutrition concentration have been accredited to meet these requirements.

*Effective January 1, 2024, the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) will require a minimum of a master's degree to be eligible to take the credentialing exam to become a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN). In addition, CDR requires that individuals complete coursework and supervised practice in program(s) accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). In other states, graduates also must obtain licensure and/or certification to practice. Graduates who successfully complete the ACEND-accredited Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD) at Cal Poly are eligible to apply to an ACEND-accredited supervised practice program. For more information about educational pathways to become an RDN, please visit https://www.eatrightpro.org/acend/students-and-advancing-education/information-for-students  

Didactic Program in Nutrition and Dietetics Student Handbook 

Graduating in the applied nutrition concentration enables you to:

  • produce appetizing, safe, affordable, and nutritious foods with a working knowledge of food composition, food preparation principles, and commercial food technology.
  • develop diets and promote consumption of foods that meet the medical, nutritional and health needs of individuals and groups.
  • practice effective and ethical management concepts and functions, particularly as applied to foodservice operations and nutrition programs.
  • have working knowledge of public policies, regulations, and the health care system as each relate to and impact the field of nutrition.

Mission Statement: Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD)

The mission of the Didactic Program in Dietetics at Cal Poly is to provide students with the knowledge, skills, and resources needed to gather data, assess information, plan interventions, and evaluate outcomes appropriately to implement the nutrition care process in preparation for supervised practice leading to eligibility for the CDR credentialing exam to become a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist.

Program Goal #1:

To provide education in a learning environment that prepares graduates to demonstrate knowledge and skills producing the competencies needed to become entry-level dietitians.


  • Over a seven-year period, the pass rate for program graduates taking the registration examination for the first time will be at least 80%.
  • 60% of DPD graduates who apply to supervised practice programs during their final year of DPD enrollment will be accepted/matched.
  • Within the 5-year period after DPD program completion, 80% of DPD graduates who apply to supervised practice programs will be accepted/matched to a dietetic internship
  • Over a 7-year period, 50% of DPD graduates will apply to supervised practice programs within 12 months of graduation.
  • 90% of applied nutrition (DPD) students will ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’  on a survey scale specific to preparation to meet program objectives.
  • Directors of dietetic internships rate at least 90% of our graduates as ‘Met expectations’ or better on preparation in foundation knowledge and practice readiness.
  • > 70% of Senior Projects are ranked acceptable or exemplary (3 or 4 on a 4-point scale).
  • 80% of the students in the Applied Nutrition concentration will complete the coursework for graduation within 150% of 5 academic quarters (23 months) after completion of FSN 328 Nutrient Metabolism 1.

Program Goal #2:

Program graduates demonstrate the knowledge, ethics, and technical skills needed for a successful career continuum in dietetics or in other professional fields.


  • 60% of the program graduates who do not apply, or are not accepted to, supervised practice programs and who go to graduate school or seek employment in other fields will ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree ‘on a scale assessing satisfaction with career preparation one year after graduation.
  • 50% of the program graduates who respond to the alumni survey and did not apply or were not accepted to a supervised practice program will be accepted to a graduate program, pass the DTR exam, enter the Peach Corps/Americorps or obtain employment in a nutrition, health or science-related profession within one year of graduation.
  • 50% of program graduates who are matched/accepted into a supervised practice program express an interest in serving as a preceptor for dietetic interns once they have earned their credential and entered practice.

*Results of program assessment are available upon request.

To become a registered dietitian nutritionist, a path of higher education is a must as well as a dietetic internship from an ACEND-accredited program, and passing the national registration examination. The pathway listed below is a common route many traditional students take, but it is not the only path to become an RDN. 

The 5 Steps

  1. Complete a bachelor's degree and receive a verification statement from an ACEND-accredited program (Didactic Program in DieteticsCoordinated ProgramFuture Graduate ProgramForeign or International Dietitian Education Program) Note, effective January 1, 2024, a graduate degree will be required to be eligible to take the Commission on Dietetic Registration. (Dietetic registration exam.)
  2. Complete an ACEND-accredited supervised practice dietetic internship program or Individual Supervised Practice Pathway is an option. Supervised practice/experiential learning is combined with the Coordinated ProgramFuture Graduate Program, and International Dietitian Education Program.
  3. Pass the Commission on Dietetic Registration's dietetic registration exam.
  4. Gain licensure in your state of practice, if applicable.
  5. Maintain continuing education.

If you are in Cal Poly's applied nutrition concentration and want to know more about preparing for and applying to dietetic internships, please contact the DPD program director, Arlene Grant-Holcomb for access to dietetic internship application information and resources.

You may also view a short video below:


The Didactic Program in Dietetics at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo received full 7-year accreditation after the most recent self-study and site visit with a current accreditation term of January 2016 until June 30, 2023. 

Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
120 South Riverside Plaza, Suite 2000.Chicago, IL 60606-6995
312-899-0040 ext. 5400 Fax: 312-899-4817
E-mail: acend@eatright.org

Want to be a dietetic technician, registered (DTR)?

Effective June 1, 2009, individuals who have completed both a baccalaureate degree and a Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD) will be able to take the registration examination for dietetic technicians without meeting additional academic or supervised practice requirements.

If you are a graduate of the applied nutrition concentration and would like to find out more information about career options for dietitian technician, registered see www.eatright.org

For more information about how our graduates who have ALREADY received a verification statement and would like to apply for taking the DTR exam, see http://www.cdrnet.org/program-director/grad-info-dpd-pathway-iii for procedures.

For more information, please see the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics's web page at www.eatrightpro.org/acend


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