LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 5, 2022) — The University of Kentucky Department of Dietetics and Human Nutrition (DHN) recently launched a flexible, online Master of Science degree to satisfy an impending requirement for future registered dietitian nutritionists.
“Starting January 2024, in addition to completing a supervised practice program, future dietitians must hold an advanced degree before they can sit for the registration exam,” said Dawn Brewer, associate professor in UK DHN and director of graduate studies.
This new requirement, mandated by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Commission on Dietetic Registration, aims to improve dietitians’ earnings, as well as their advancement and esteem in the health care industry. And while UK DHN has offered an on-campus master’s degree for more than 15 years, the new online option will accommodate many more working throughout the field.
“The online master’s in nutrition and food systems differs from our traditional program in that a thesis is not required,” Brewer said. “Instead, students complete an evidenced-based practice project based on their personal passions and professional goals.”
The practice project, where online students develop a unique community program or address a nutrition-related clinical issue, is indicative of the real-world approach students experience in all UK DHN courses.
“In addition to award-winning instruction, our faculty regularly direct grant-sponsored community projects funded by the CDC, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other federal and state agencies,” said Tammy Stephenson, chair of UK DHN. “These multidimensional research activities allow our students to learn from front-line practitioners, gain meaningful expertise and strengthen their marketability across many industries.”
While all DHN graduates develop a specific set of applied expertise, their career paths vary across health care, government, education, nonprofit and many other industries.
The paths to the online master’s degree may also vary. Depending on their schedule and desired pace, students may complete the degree in 12 to 24 months. Current UK dietetics students may begin the online program during their undergraduate coursework by applying for the University Scholars Program.
“This program can fit dietitians in training or registered dietitian nutritionists currently in practice who are looking for advanced training with a graduate degree,” Brewer said. “But it is also a great fit for health care and food systems advocates seeking leadership roles in their profession.”
The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers." We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.