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Nutrition and Dietetics is an exciting and growing field; diet is increasingly recognised as key in shaping the future of health and disease treatment and prevention. It is an ever-evolving field where new science and understandings are constantly realised. Dietitians work across a number of domains including clinical, community, food service, private practice and research. In order to gain recognition as a dietitian, individuals can undertake one of seven accredited undergraduate or ten accredited postgraduate Nutrition and Dietetics programs offered in Australia. The Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) is the national regulatory body responsible for ongoing review and accreditation of these programs. It is vital to attend a recognised university as this ensures fulfilment of the National Competency Standards, a requirement to gain employment as an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD). For further information regarding accreditation and competency standards refer to the Universities and Recognition of Qualifications page on the DAA website: https://daa.asn.au/becoming-a-dietitian-in-australia/currently-accredited-dietetic-programs/.

Program Selection

Deciding which university to attend rests on factors specific to each individual applicant. Below are some elements to consider;

– Nutrition and Dietetics is a challenging yet highly rewarding pathway to pursue. Whether opting for an undergraduate or postgraduate program it is wise to consider the proximity of your support network to your chosen university.

– Programs may have prerequisites in order to gain entry. Undergraduate prerequisites may include English, Chemistry and Math B while postgraduate prerequisites may include Biochemistry, Physiology, Anatomy and Nutrition Science. Research the university’s entry requirements and availability of bridging courses prior to applying. –

If you have a particular area of interest it is advisable to determine whether the university you wish to attend offers courses in this area, or has members of staff conducting research in that field. This will allow greater opportunity to explore your interests.

– University involvement in research may influence the research topics you can undertake in the latter years of your program. Enquiry into the faculty’s teaching and research staff, as well as the university’s research facilities, will provide an insight into its research focus.

– The cost of each course is variable, dependent on the electives that you choose and annual shifts in pricing. The greatest savings will be realised if you secure a Commonwealth Supported Place (CSP). The annual cost is approximately $20,000 – $25,000 for domestic full-fee paying students, and $8000 – $9000 for CSP’s. International fees range from $25,000 to $40,000 annually. Refer to the university website for specific information regarding annual pricing. Information regarding government assistance with fees can be found at http://studyassist.gov.au/sites/StudyAssist

– Practical placement structure and location varies between universities. For example, some universities offer full-time block placements, while others require you to attend part-time placements throughout the entire semester. A number of universities also require students to complete a rural placement.

– Costs associated with travel and accommodation for placements is at the students’ expense.

– Program structure and length varies between universities. Some universities divide the year into semesters, whereas other are divided into trimesters. The undergraduate programs run for 4 years, while the Masters programs vary between 1.5 to 2 years. Also consider if the university offers full-time and/or part-time enrolment. Universities are willing to provide additional information regarding their program. You can do this by contacting the universities directly through the school or faculty that offers the program. Speaking to current and previous students can also assist in decision making.

Student Feedback

Bond University – Caitlin Anderson

Realising I wanted to become a Dietitian was one thing, but being accepted into one of the most competitive courses in Australia was another. Receiving an offer letter in the mail from Bond University’s Master of Nutrition and Dietetics Practice Program seemed like a dream come true.

Since commencing the program in May 2014, I have had the opportunity of visiting, and working with, a variety of places and people; both interstate and overseas. Some first year highlights so far have been visiting the Solomon Islands for 2-weeks where we got to be involved in multiple areas of nutrition-related practice from clinical to community to food service, experiences that certainly couldn’t have been taught in a class room or from a text book.

Meeting several industry professionals has also been a privilege within the course. In October last year, we met Australian-renowned cook Maggie Beer, an incredibly inspiring experience to hear and discuss how she turned her life long passion of cooking into a career.

Recently, a group of three students visited Sydney to attend the CNIG meeting hosted by Dietitians Association of Australia and Campbell Arnotts. We were able to take away some handy tips on ‘working in the media’ from Dr Joanna McMillan (APD) and Andrea Brydges (Bite Communications). As the only student dietitians attending, this was a fantastic opportunity for us and a great chance to build upon our networks prior to graduating in May 2016.

Kristin Lawrence, University of the Sunshine Coast (USC)

What was your motivation to study at your university?

Honestly my first preferences were QUT and Griffith as they were ranked the highest when I put my QTAC preferences down. Thus I was under the impression these universities would provide me greater education and employment prospects. However due to my ranking and I was accepted by the USC. In hindsight I now know that USC offers students the same academic and employment opportunities as the other big guys, and the benefits of a nurturing and supportive teaching and peer network. To top it off, I had a lifestyle which included the best beaches, cafes and nature reserves in QLD.

Why did you choose nutrition and dietetics?

I developed a passion for health, fitness and nutrition during my adolescence and with my strengths in academia my teachers advised me to think about dietetics. Once I completed one week work experience with a dietitian at the Mater Hospital in Rockhampton I was certain that I wanted to be a dietitian. I just loved how as a dietitian we are in a position to make such positive impacts on the health and wellbeing of others. Would you recommend nutrition and dietetics degree to future students and why. All those considering dietetics should be aware that due to the substantial increase in graduating nutritionists/dietitians employment opportunities are very competitive. But I believe if nutrition/dietetics is what your made for then don’t be discouraged. Ask yourself: Do you have a strong interest in food and health? Do you want to contribute to an optimistic profession who work to promote nutrition for health and disease prevention and management? Are you a very motivated and innovative individual? Are you interested in chemistry, biology and physiology? Are you an effective communicator and/or enjoy being with others? Then nutrition and dietetics is for you! How would you rate your placement experience? I completed my clinical and foodservices placements at two regional hospitals. For me I transitioned into placement well due to the intense preparation USC provided in the lead up. Placement was challenging as I was outside of my comfort zone and had a novice level dietetic skills. However the dietetic teams at the hospitals and the university were very supportive, approachable and accommodated to my level of professional development.

What is/was the most valuable experience you have had at your university?

The opportunity to undertake a research honours whilst completing my undergraduate was the most challenging yet valuable experience for me. I gained valuable skills in academic writing, designing and conducting research projects and coping with high levels of stress. I also was fortunate enough to experience presenting my research at the National DAA and University conference. I developed strong professional and personal networks as well as self-confidence which I believe will be valuable for a prosperous future in dietetics.

Do you feel there are any improvements that can be made to your program?

I believe that the nutrition and dietetics program should follow a similar structure to other allied health programs which required students to go out and volunteer and/or attend practicals earlier in the program. This will facilitate development of important social and on-the-job skills which many students and new graduates struggle with as they enter the workforce.

Jacinta Sherlock, Latrobe University

Building a career is analogous to building a house; both require a solid foundation on which to be built upon. Over the past 3 years, I have had the absolute pleasure and privilege of laying the foundations of my career and studying within the Department of Nutrition & Dietetics at Latrobe University. From the humble beginnings of first year and continuing to this day, I have had remarkable opportunities to be involved within the department in various different teams and projects. Latrobe is at the forefront of innovative teaching. The course not only nurtures academic excellence, it fosters a rich learning environment and demonstrates a deep commitment to the growth of students’ professional identity. The extraordinary strength of the department can be attributed to the exceptional diversity among the academics’, all of who are leaders in their respective fields. With such a candid, dynamic and pioneering faculty, the ripple effect for students, cultivates a superlative learning environment rich with stimulating, applied and meaningful learning experiences. The academics continually facilitate engaging, highly interactive, reflective lectures, workshops and tutorials. The teaching within the Dietetics department at Latrobe extends well beyond the subject learning objectives; I would best describe it as a “learning experience”, which as students endows us with the ability to think outside the square, extended our learning, think critically, analytically and practically. Furthermore, every day I am surrounded by a high calibre of motivated peers, who contribute to an incredibly supportive, positive and collaborative learning environment, where I am challenged to develop personally, academically and professionally. Although Latrobe may be the newest and youngest dietetics course, the Faculty of Nutrition and Dietetics definitely has an expanding preeminence. Learning at Latrobe is incredibly stimulating, challenging, exciting and FUN. With each lecture, tutorial and workshop I attend, I feel incredibly grateful to be learning from an entire faculty of inspiring, devoted and supportive lectures.

Rebecca Baynes, University of Queensland

I graduated from the UQ Master of Dietetic Studies in 2014. I have always been interested in food and nutrition, having completed a Bachelor of Health Science (Nutrition) a few years prior. My main reason for applying to UQ was to upgrade my knowledge and skills to become a dietitian and be able to practice with an internationally recognised qualification. I also chose the UQ course as it allowed me to gain this qualification in 18 months, unlike many of the other Masters courses, which take 2 years. This shorter timeframe however does mean that it is an intense course and requires a lot of time and commitment to study and gaining the necessary practical experience. Having said that I always felt that there was plenty of guidance and support provided by the course coordinators, my lecturers and clinical facilitators whenever I needed it. One of the things I really liked about the program was that you commence clinical dietetic placements shortly into the first semester, which means that your practical dietetic skills progress in line with your learning and knowledge. This element of the course also means that you can continually apply what you are learning to ‘real life’ clinical practice. All of the practical placements organised through UQ, including clinical, community and foodservice provided me with plenty of opportunity to develop a diverse range of skills towards becoming a competent dietitian and have since helped me to stand out when applying for dietitian jobs. I would certainly recommend this course to anyone who is truly passionate about nutrition and dietetics, willing to apply themselves, and looking for ways and opportunities to stand out as an individual and future dietitian.

Much thanks to Nicole Tsolakis and Megan Bray for putting this article together.

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