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 Dietetics Handbook contains information and links to the academic calendar, core knowledge for the RD/RDN, curriculum, schedule planning, department faculty and staff directory, program policies and administration including dress code, tuition and fees, verification statement requirements, graduation requirements and other useful information.

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 to become a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist (RDN):

  1. Complete a bachelor's degree and receive a verification statement from an ACEND-accredited program (Didactic Program in DieteticsCoordinated ProgramFuture Education Model Graduate Programs, Foreign 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 program. Coordinated Programs, Future Graduate Programs, and International Dietitian Education Programs, integrate supervised practice/experiential learning with didactic coursework.
  3. Pass the Commission on Dietetic Registration's dietetic registration exam.
  4. Gain licensure in your state of practice, if applicable (not applicable in California).
  5. Maintain continuing education.
The steps to becoming a Nutrition and Dietetics Technician Registered (NDTR)
  • A student must complete a dietetic technician program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, that includes 450 hours of supervised practice experience in various community programs, health-care and foodservice facilities and must complete at least a two-year associate's degree at a U.S. regionally accredited college or university.
    • OR
  • Complete coursework in an ACEND-accredited didactic program or coordinated program in dietetics and complete at least a bachelor's degree at a U.S. regionally accredited college or university, such as Cal Poly, and receive a verification statement.
  • After completing the degree and dietetics coursework, pass a national examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR). For more information regarding the examination, refer to the CDR website.
  • Complete continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration.

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 the 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 a working knowledge of public policies, regulations, and the health care system as each relates to and impacts 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.

    Cost of the Program, Financial Aid, and Scholarships:

    An estimated cost of Attendance, as well as Financial Aid and Scholarship opportunities, can be found at Cal Poly's Financial Aid webpage. 

    Additional fees may apply to students who wish to continue on the path to becoming an RDTR or RDN. These fees may include examination fees, the cost of ordering transcripts, and cost of applying to and attending a dietetic internship when applicable. 

    Application and Admission Requirements:

    Application and Admission requirements can be found on Cal Poly's Admissions website

    Calendar and Schedule:

    The DPD program follows the Cal Poly calendar for each academic year, and for those earning verification statements, statements will be issued shortly after graduation each quarter.  Additional Calendar information including suggested course enrollment and flowcharts can be found in the DPDN Handbook

    Dietetic Internships:

    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, Corinne Kohlen for access to dietetic internship application information and resources.

    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 2190.Chicago, IL 60606-6995
    312-899-0040 ext. 5400 Fax: 312-899-4817
    E-mail: acend@eatright.org

    What a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Can Do for You

    When you need food and nutrition information based on fact or need to know how a healthy diet improves health and fights disease—rely on qualified professionals in the field. Please visit: https://www.eatright.org/videos



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