ISSUED: 29 June 2022
MEDIA CONTACT: Dana Costa
SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — The Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) board has granted Candidacy for Accreditation to Shepherd University’s new Bachelor of Science in nutrition comprehensive. The accreditation is for a proposed Didactic Program in Dietetics and will be in effect for four years, until June 13, 2026.
A Didactic Program in Dietetics prepares students to meet the knowledge requirements for dietetics practice. A report from ACEND outlining the terms of the accreditation says a site visit for full accreditation must take place between July and October 2025. Students who are currently enrolled and future enrollees will be considered graduates of an ACEND accredited program.
“This was a long-awaited decision that I think is very supportive of the program,” said Dr. Arnetta Fletcher, assistant professor, and program director of nutrition. “It allows students to complete educational opportunities in nutrition and dietetics.”
The nutrition program launched in the fall 2021 semester and during the planning stages was designed to meet accreditation standards set by ACEND.
“This opens many doors for students in this area,” Fletcher said. “It is an affordable option for students to pursue careers in dietetics that will lead to eligibility to sit for the registered dietician examination.”
Fletcher said earning a dietetics degree opens the door to a wide range of career opportunities in state and federal government and the private and public sectors.
“Students with a dietetics degree can choose a position within hospitals, clinics, or other healthcare facilities educating patients about nutrition,” she said. “They could also participate in sports nutrition and corporate wellness programs where they’re educating patients about the connections between food, fitness, and health. There are food and nutrition-related businesses and industries—big-name companies such as Nestle and Kellogg—that employ dieticians. Students could work in communications, consumer affairs, public relations, marketing, product development, and consulting with chefs in restaurants and culinary schools.”
Nutritionists also work at places such as universities, nursing homes, doctors’ offices, public school systems, resorts and travel destinations, and athletic departments or facilities.
“There is another area known as freelance dietetics, which allows dietician professionals to create their own niche in the field of nutrition to meet our healthcare needs,” Fletcher said. “It’s a very diverse field that has numerous opportunities.”
Fletcher said there is a shortage of dieticians nationwide and a public health pledge to increase the number across the nation by 11-12 percent by 2026 to address the rising healthcare needs of various communities. As of May 27, 2022, the median salary in the United States for dieticians, as reported by salary.com, is $66,040, but the range typically falls between $60,115 and $72,568.
According to Fletcher, Shepherd now has the nearest didactic program in the immediate quad-state region.
“We’re well-positioned for students in these nearby areas, whether it’s West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, or Virginia, to seek opportunities within this program,” Fletcher said.
Listen to an interview with Dr. Arnetta Fletcher here.
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