What Should You Do If You Don't Get Matched to a Dietetic Internship?
Receiving a 'No Match' on Match Day is disappointing, but not uncommon. Dietetic Internships (DI) are notoriously competitive, so if you didn’t receive a match on Match Day, know you are not alone! Not receiving a match doesn’t mean the end of your dreams of becoming a Registered Dietitian (RD) - there are a number of different avenues you can take in the mean time to better your chances of matching in the next round.
Let’s explore some of the Plan B options if you did not receive a match!
While it may be tempting to spend the week feeling down, the work isn’t over yet! Second round matching opens the Thursday after Match Day, and you will want to take advantage of second round - in fact, a lot of matches are made during second round!
At 11am, programs participating in second round matching will be released to applicants who did not receive a match on D&D Digital. Your DPD director can be a huge help here, as programs will often let them know about open spots and your director can give you guidance for applying to these programs. Applicants can submit their DICAS application to programs with openings. If you can, take the time to update your information in DICAS and your personal statements to reflect these programs. Some programs won’t require or expect this during second round matches, but it shows you took the time to look into their program and are serious. Always be sure to check the websites of programs you will apply to, to see if there is anything extra you need to include in your application. Many second round programs are first come, first considered, so being prompt and organized during these few days is key!
Note: for detailed information on how to nail your DI application, check out our blog post titled "How to Strengthen Your Dietetic Internship (DI) Application".
I did not match during the first round*. It was disappointing, but I knew my backup plan would be to try for the second round. I used the list on D&D Digital and the programs my DPD director told me may be a good fit to guide my selection of which programs to apply to. On Thursday morning I updated my personal statements and resubmitted DICAS as soon as possible, and by Thursday afternoon I had a request for an interview! The program director thanked me for being prompt and for taking the time to tailor my personal statement to their program, as many applicants had not done that in the past. I was offered a match to their program on the spot, and I think taking the time to gear my application to their program is what helped me land a match. Oh, and did I mention my interview took place while I was on a camping trip and in the woods, with spotty connection? My unconventional match story just goes to show that having an open mind and being prepared goes a long way, and you can still get a match even when you think the odds are against you.
There are a couple certifications you are eligible for with a four-year degree in dietetics. The first is a Dietetic Technician, Registered (DTR). A DTR works along with a dietitian to plan menus, prepare meals, manage budgets, and much more. They typically work in hospitals, but can also be in schools, long-term care facilities, and even prisons! To become a DTR you will have to take a credentialing exam, so it’s best to take this exam when you are fresh out of school.
Another certification you are eligible for with your degree is a Certified Dietary Manager (CDM). A CDM runs the food service operations in a hospital, school, nursing home, school, and so on. This is a managerial role involving paperwork, payroll, hiring, and scheduling, etc.
If you are interested in fitness or want to be a sports dietitian, getting certified in some kind of fitness training could be a great step while waiting for the next application cycle. Some fitness certifications include: Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) from American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA), or the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). You could also be a group fitness instructor through the National Association for Fitness Certification (NAFC) or the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). Having a fitness certification means you could work in a gym, hospital or rehab facility, in grade school athletics, and more.
ISPP or Future Education Model
Individualized Supervised Practice Pathways, or ISPPs, are available only to those with a DPD verification statement who did not match during the first round. ISPPs are similar to distance programs in that students are responsible for securing their own accredited preceptors. They take a lot of work to plan, but give you a lot of freedom in your internship. You can learn more about ISPPs here.
The Future Education Model is a fairly new method for completing a dietetic internship. This model is designed with a graduate degree component so applicants can meet the new 2024 graduate requirements. You can learn more about the Future Education Model here.
Beginning in 2024, individuals wanting to sit for the registration exam will be required to hold a Master’s degree in the area of their choosing (nope, your degree doesn’t even have to be in nutrition!). If you didn’t receive a match, you may want to consider getting your degree in the meantime. This will help you get a head start on meeting that requirement, and may be a good option for individuals who do not wish to complete their dietetic internship and master’s degree at the same school or during the same time.
If you choose not to get your DTR or CDM certification, there are still some employment opportunities you may be eligible for with your degree! Nutritionists at WIC hold a bachelor’s degree in dietetics, community health, or food and nutrition. Depending on location, they may require licensing and supervised training. You may be able to find a position working under a WIC nutritionist that you qualify for.
Another potential employment option is as a dietary aide. At my university a lot of dietetics students were dietary aides during undergrad, so chances are you are perfectly qualified for this type of work. Dietary aides are involved in food preparation for patients, and have to be mindful of allergies, restrictions, therapeutic diet needs, and more. They are most commonly employed in hospitals and nursing homes.
Foodservice is always an option, and if you worked in food service during undergrad you may be able to apply for more supervisory roles now. Another great option is to find some local dietitians to intern for or shadow. I took a gap year between graduating and applying through DICAS. During this time I remotely interned for two dietitians who own a business together. Although this position was unpaid and remote, it was an invaluable experience that helped me add some dietetics experience to my resume that I didn’t have before.
Keep your head up
We know how frustrating it is to work so hard and not get a match, but remember - a lot of perfectly qualified applicants receive a 'No Match' every year. Dietetic internships are competitive, with just a 60% match rate. There isn’t one best pathway to becoming a dietitian, so get out there with your head held high and find the pathway that works best for you!
* Elizabeth White's experience with the DI process.
By Elizabeth White, MS/DI at Eastern Illinois University.
Edited by Jacob Martin, RDN
If you’re interested in increasing your clinical nutrition knowledge, take the time to check out our Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) Guide of 100 Common Conditions for Dietitians. This reference guide is over 70 pages long and is the perfect resource for nutrition and dietetic students, dietetic interns, those studying for the RD Exam, or even Registered Dietitians. The Guide curates the MNT recommendations from all available peer-reviewed sources into one searchable, downloadable document. This resource can be invaluable for your growth as a RD or future RD!
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