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So, You Want to Become a Dietitian? Here’s what To Expect at Uni, Getting Accredited and Beyond

So, you think you want to become a dietitian?! The intention of this blog is to act as a crash course for any aspiring dietitians that are currently in high school, prospective mature-aged students and anyone in between who is looking to set themselves up for the best possible success in their tertiary studies.

We will cover the subjects that you want to be taking now (or have prior knowledge in), the ATAR rank that will be required to enter a course in your state, a comprehensive list of current (as of September 2020) accredited course programs and a few handy hints that we wish we could have known when we were looking at studying dietetics.

A lot of the information regarding courses and qualifications will differ university by university, state by state, so if you are looking for specific information, please contact the university that you wish to attend.

For all intents and purposes, this blog simply aims to help guide anyone interested in studying dietetics and wants to know how to set themselves up for the most success possible.

Let’s break it down!

TERTIARY EDUCATION PATHWAYS INTO DIETETICS IN AUSTRALIA

There are a couple of different pathways into dietetics, so how you get there really depends on who you are and where you are (or where you are willing to travel to). Regardless of what you choose to do, something that every aspiring dietitian must ensure is that the course you do study is accredited by Dietitians Australia (DA) in order to qualify for entry to the Accredited Practising Dietitian Program (APD Program).

For more information on the APD Program, head over to Dietitians Australia (DA) – but in a nutshell, it is the accreditation program governed by the Dietetic Credentialing Council (DCC) that dietitians in Australia go through to receive full accreditation status. What this accreditation means is that you, as a practitioner, will have a public guarantee of nutrition and dietetic expertise (according to the DA). It is the only credential in the nutrition field recognised by the Australian Government, Medicare and the Department of Veteran Affairs (DVA). It involves 52 weeks of formalised support with an APD mentor, 30 hours of Continuing Professional Develop (CPD) activities and a Recency of Practice declaration.

The three main paths that an aspiring APD can take are:

  1. Complete a DA accredited Bachelor’s degree
  2. Complete a DA accredited Bachelor’s degree with honours
  3. Complete a Bachelor’s degree in a relevant field (e.g. Applied Science) and then go on to do a DA accredited Masters’ course

Current Accredited Dietetics Education Programs

As of September 2020, the list of accredited programs is as follows.

Queensland
New South Wales
Victoria
South Australia
Western Australia
Australian Capital Territory

For a regularly updated list directly from DA, click here.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

ATAR Selection Ranks

For the purpose of this section, we’ve broken up ATAR scores by state and found the average selection rank for that state. Your school of choice will be able to provide their specific rank intake (based on previous years) for each degree and campus.

For Queensland (which previously worked on an OP score system) and New South Wales DA accredited dietetics university degrees, the average ATAR selection rank sits at about 85.00 and that should make you eligible for entry into an accredited bachelor’s degree (however remembering that depending on the popularity of the degree at a university, you may need even higher scores). Honours qualifications are often offered, however, have little to no impact on your ability to become accredited at the end of your studies. In our experience, the extra time it takes you to do honours doesn’t really equate to greater success post-university. However, can be a great option for anyone who wants to go down a research or education pathway in the future.

For Victoria, DA accredited dietetics university degrees, the only accredited program that you can currently enter immediately after high school is the Bachelor of Applied Science with the Masters’ of Dietetics Practice at LaTrobe University. The lowest selection rank for this course in 2019 was 70.00, whilst the highest was 96.40.

Much like Victoria, there is only one DA accredited dietetics university degree you can enter immediately after high school in South Australia, which is the Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics course at Flinders University. This course generally attracts a selection rank of around 90.

Prerequisites and Assumed Knowledge

When it comes to prerequisite (or assumed knowledge), once again, it IS going to differ depending on what you chose to do. However, we can tell you that, across the board, most accredited dietetics education programs will require you to be proficient in English as well as recommended studies in:

  • At least ONE science subject (e.g. chemistry)
  • Mathematics Methods and/or Specialist Mathematics

What About Master’s Degrees?

Well, if you are the aspiring dietitian that would prefer to go through a Master of Dietetics, it is imperative that you ensure your degree is in a relevant field and that it provides the right coursework in order to gain entry to your post-graduate. If you are unsure about this, your best bet is to contact the faculty or course coordinators of your chosen university to discuss your options.

Like all things, the specific requirements are going to be different but the consensus across the board is that most universities will require the following prerequisites to achieve entry into a Master of Dietetics.

  • A completed bachelor’s degree in a relevant field (e.g. Science or Nutrition)
  • Chemistry units
  • Relevant human biology and physiology units
  • Biochemistry units
  • Food and nutrition science units

So, if you want to achieve this qualification, the best practice is to ensure your course is going to provide what you need PRIOR to starting it.

Which Dietetics Course Is Best?

While we’d love to give you a definitive answer, there is no one “best course” as it is entirely dependant on your goals. With that in mind, our advice (as mentioned earlier) for choosing a university is to consider the following:

  • Who you are as a person and a student?
  • Your skills and interests, and
  • What field of dietetics you want to want to work in?

Outside of that, consider the actual university and what they are about. For example, Tyson studied at the University of the Sunshine Coast and Griffith University Gold Coast. Both universities were geared towards a sports focus, which was clear in the number of Accredited Sports Dietitians (as opposed to Accredited Practising Dietitians) that taught the subjects. Another great example is Monash University, which is well known for their works in FODMAP and food intolerances.

So, do your research and figure out which university is going to give you the most value in the future. However, understand that as long as you successfully complete any of the DA accredited courses you still all come out with the same eligibility to become an Accredited Practising Dietitian with DA.

Non-Accredited Courses to Avoid

So, if you are wondering where all the non-accredited nutrition courses fit into the mix, we can explain.

Courses become accredited once DA has evaluated the program against the National Competency Standards for Dietitians. Baring in mind that these standards ONLY apply to Accredited Practising Dietitians, there are courses that exist simply to become a Registered Nutritionist, as well as a number of natural and homeopathic professions. If you want to be a dietitian and are considering a course at the Australasian College of Natural Therapies, Endeavor College or anything that is NOT on the list above, it is likely that your course is not accredited and will not provide eligibility to enter the APD Program to receive full accreditation.

SO, THAT’S ALL?!

Short answer? Hell NO. Choosing and completing an accredited dietetics education program will get your foot in the door of the industry, but your graduation is not the end of your studies. In fact, it’s the beginning. So, what is really next for a dietetics graduate?

APD Program & Ongoing Accreditation Requirements

As aforementioned, dietetics graduates are eligible to register for the APD Program and complete the requirements before receiving full accreditation. The DA provides a great resource for ‘How to Join the APD Program’ here. Beyond that, every Accredited Practising Dietitian must undergo at least thirty hours of CPD every single year.

As well as that, the DA adheres to a number of stakeholders such as the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and the Australian Dietetics Council (ADC) who provide Professional Standards and Code of Conduct across many health fields. And so, to maintain your membership and accreditation status with DA, all practitioners must abide by these standards.

Yes, DA has been known to suspend and expel practitioners from the Register of Accredited Practising Dietitians for breach in conduct or use of illegal marketing (such as testimonials), so it’s best not to take their governance lightly.

WORK EXPERIENCE & YOUR FIRST JOB

Last, but most certainly not least, your first job. So, if you’re still reading at this point, we can assume that you’re very interested in dietetics and that you have the staying power to be successful.

Private Practice or Hospital Dietitian?

After university, your path can go a couple of different ways. Many dietitians end up in either a hospital or in a private practice setting, and both have their pros and cons. In a nutshell, if you are the kind of person who works well under close management and structured support, you might suit a hospital environment better. However, if you are a self-starter who prefers to ask your questions at the end of the day (and you are able to find your own mentor), private practice might be for you. At the end of the day, this is a very individual choice.

Universities still prepare most students for hospital work rather than private practice, however, we are starting to see a shift in this dynamic. It has still a very long ways to go to prepare dietitians properly for working in private practice, which is why we are looking at running a course on this very thing. You can also find out more a little more about the differences in our previous blog, The Difference Between Clinical and Private Practice Dietetics.

What’s the Point in Work Experience?

Work experience is what is going to set you apart from the rest of your cohort. Literally, anyone can get a GPA 7.0, but not every single dietetics graduate is going to have an extensive list of work experience on their resume. Outside of that, work experience is your opportunity to put your name out there and get networking in the industry. You need to make them go, “Damn, they’re keen” and ensure you are remembered as someone who is willing to do whatever it takes.

Our tips for getting work experience are:

  • Hit up every single dietitian on the DA and Sports Dietitians Australia (SDA) website and ask if they have any ad hoc tasks you can help with.
  • Don’t be precious about what field you do work experience in – anything is better than nothing.
  • Be willing to travel outside your area for opportunities

Finding Your First Role

Now, once you’ve finished your degree and you’ve got an abundance of work experience and volunteer hours on your resume, you’re ready to start looking for your first job knowing you’ve done everything in your power to succeed here.

When it comes to applying for a job, there are two steps to consider – application/resume and interview – so, we’ve broken it down for you.

Put your best foot forward on your resume and application process by:

  • Include relevant information only.
  • Find out who you are applying to and address it specifically to them.
  • Research the company and talk to their values.
  • Address the criteria of the ad throughout.
  • Save your cover letter and CV as a PDF clearly labelled with your name.
  • Apply literally everywhere – you can always find your “dream role” later.

Once you’ve scored the interview, make sure you for the following:

  • Be yourself – we can tell when you’re faking it!
  • Research the company (again) and go in with knowledge prepared
  • Ask for feedback if you are getting turned down, you can’t improve if you don’t know why you’re not succeeding.

OUR WORDS OF WISDOM

Tyson & Peta’s Tips for Success

We hope that this blog has helped any aspiring dietitians in high school find clarity and actionable advice to help the transition from student, to new grad to fully accredited dietitian. Of course, this guide would not be complete without words from the Dietitian Life duo.

Two things Tyson says to remember are:
  1.  Don’t come into your degree, or post-graduation with an idea of exactly what kind of dietitian you want to be or where you want to work… Have an interest but don’t be steadfast. So, if you’re coming in wanting to be a Sports Dietitian or a Hospital dietitian, don’t exclude yourself from other possibilities. Be open to the possibility the other areas of dietetics might interest you. It’s likely you aren’t aware of all of the possibilities, and we know that you 100% don’t have a concept of what it means to be a dietitian in all (or any) of the different areas just yet.
  2. You are not going to uni to get a perfect GPA, you are going to uni to get a job as a dietitian. So don’t neglect all of the opportunities outside of uni. These things help you make the connections to get you that job on graduation. I repeat, you are going to uni to get a job as a dietitian, not to get a perfect GPA.
And from Peta:
  1. Uni is just the beginning. Doing well at uni is not what is going to make you the best dietitian, but is an important part of being a really good dietitian. The knowledge that you learn at uni is not the same information you will share with clients – it is for you and you only. However, you need to know these basics to be able to master your craft later.
  2. The learning does not stop as soon as you leave university – be prepared for that. As a dietitian, you will be learning every single day of your life, so if you’re ready for that, then you’re definitely ready to be a dietitian.

Where Does Dietitian Life Come In?

Dietitian Life was created to better support, develop and connect dietitians across Australia and the world. It is a platform created by dietitians, for dietitians with a goal to lead and inspire the future of dietetics. Supporting and developing dietitians to provide better strategies, care and communication to their clients through authentic insights, learned experiences and actionable advice is what we are about.

Peta and Tyson are passionate about helping as many dietitians as they can. With their combined 20+ years of experience, knowledge, attitudes, ethics and honesty, they will help guide you through your journey from starting your dietetics degree to getting a job and excelling in (and loving) dietetics long term.

Check out our membership packages and FREE dietitian resources at this link.

Join our mailing list for monthly newsletters with the inside scoop on the latest at HQ, industry tips and tricks, the best of our social media here!

If there is anything else, we can help you with, now, during your course or beyond graduation, you can message us anytime, any day at any of our channels below. We are here to help you!