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Master of Professional Studies in
Nutritional Sciences

Experiential Track

MPS in Nutritional Sciences Experiential Track (Pathway to RDN Credential)

The Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Nutritional Sciences program offers an optional Experiential Track that is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) as a Future Education Model Graduate Program. The Experiential Track is a competency-based curriculum that integrates the online MPS in Nutritional Sciences graduate course work with three semesters of supervised experiential learning in clinical, community, or foodservice and food systems management (minimum 900 hours) for RDN eligibility. The Experiential Track supervised experiential learning semesters are full-time as you will be taking graduate courses while also completing experiential learning approximately 3-4 days/week. The Experiential Track is not a part-time program.

The Experiential Track can be completed in-residence or at a distance.

  • In-residence: Requires students to live within a drivable distance to one of the two geographic locations for supervised experiential learning: University Park, PA, and surrounding area OR Harrisburg/Hershey, PA, and surrounding area. All field placements are arranged by the program and applicants may indicate preference of location.
  • Distance: Students can live anywhere in the U.S.; students must locate their own supervised experiential learning sites as part of the distance location option.

Upon graduation, you will receive a Verification Statement and will be eligible to sit for the RDN exam. Please be sure to check the state-specific licensure requirements page.

Experiential Track Curriculum (Total of 39 credits)

The Experiential Track of the MPS in Nutritional Sciences is a full-time, 24-month program that integrates advanced-level online graduate course work with supervised experiential learning areas. The total number of credits required for completion of the Experiential Track is 39 (minimum). This track requires completion of the 30 MPS in Nutritional Sciences credits plus a minimum of 9 additional credits. Check out the Courses page for the full descriptions of the course work.

The program runs from summer semester year one through spring semester year two. During year one, you will begin by taking two online graduate courses in the first semester (summer), followed by three consecutive semesters of graduate course work and supervised experiential learning (NUTR 895A–C).

During these three semesters (fall, spring, and summer), you will participate full-time by completing online graduate course work and supervised experiential learning courses. If you are applying as in in-resident student, you are expected to relocate to the assigned location for the duration of all three supervised experiential learning semesters. If you are applying as a distance location student, you will remain in your own geographic location for the duration of the program, including all three supervised experiential learning semesters. During year two, you will complete two online graduate courses in the fall and the capstone course in the spring.  Year-two courses are online only, and in-residence location students will not be required to remain in-residence.

Please note: In-residence students will be assigned to NUTR 895 courses based on site availability and student ability to meet competencies.  For in-residence and distance location students, additional 895 courses may be assigned if additional time is needed to meet competency requirements.

Experiential Track Requirements

Note: To be eligible for the optional Experiential Track, your undergraduate graduation conferral date must be before the start of the program, which is the first day of classes. If you have questions or need clarification, please contact the program prior to applying.

In addition to the standard prerequisites and application requirements, which can be found on the How to Apply page, these additional items are required if you are interested in the MPS in Nutritional Sciences Experiential Track:

Work/Volunteer Experience — Applicants must have a total of 500 hours of appropriately documented work or volunteer experience completed within two years of application. Of the 500 hours, 300 hours must be in a nutrition- or dietetics-related field. You will be required to complete the Experiential Track of MPS Program (ExpMPS) - Supplemental Information Form to document your work/volunteer experiences. This form will need to be uploaded with your Graduate School application.

Supervised Experiential Learning Plan of Study Form (Experiential Track - Distance Location only)

The Supervised Experiential Learning (SEL) Plan of Study Form is only required if you are applying to the Distance Location of the Experiential Track. You will use this form to document information about the supervised experiential learning sites that you’ve secured prior to application. The form includes facility information, preceptor contact and credential information, documentation of signed affiliation agreement, start and end dates for the SEL, and total hours to be completed at each SEL site. Please contact the program to obtain this plan of study form and for guidance on the process of securing your own SEL sites and on completion of this required form. This form will need to be approved by the program prior to application and then uploaded with your Graduate School application.

Prerequisite Course Work — For admission to the Experiential Track of the MPS in Nutritional Sciences, the basic prerequisites from undergraduate studies include:  

  • 3 credits in physiology (or 6 credits in anatomy & physiology I and II)
  • 3 credits in biochemistry
  • 3 credits in organic chemistry
  • 3 credits in introductory nutrition (equivalent to or more advanced than NUTR 251 at Penn State)
  • 3 credits in lifecycle nutrition
  • 3 credits in nutrient metabolism (macronutrient and micronutrient)
  • 3 credits in medical nutrition therapy

Note: If any of these courses were completed more than 10 years prior to application, they may be accepted at the program director's discretion. The exception is that if medical nutrition therapy was taken more than 5 years prior to application, due to recency of content, it may be accepted at the program director’s discretion.

Students with a bachelor’s degree from an ACEND–accredited Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD) will be required to upload their DPD Verification Statement with their Graduate School application.

Experiential Track Application Process and Deadlines

To be considered for the MPS in Nutritional Sciences Experiential Track, you will use Penn State's Graduate School application and the same process used to apply for the MPS in Nutritional Sciences. Applicants will indicate interest in the optional Experiential Track by answering a question on the application and note a preference for geographic location. The Dietetic Internship Centralized Application Services (DICAS) will not be used for application to this program.

The Experiential Track will accept students once per year. The application deadline is February 15. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until the class is filled. Applicants will be notified of selection for interviews via email as soon as their complete application has been reviewed. Interviews will take place in-person or via video conferencing.

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