So, I’m pretty much done with my Masters of Nutrition & Dietetics degree from Sydney Uni! *cheering* It didn’t feel all that long ago that I wrote about my undergraduate science degree experience, which you guys loved by the way!
What were the similarities and differences with an undergrad versus a post-grad degree? What did I learn? What does it really involve? Read on to find out…
(1) Is it the same as an undergraduate degree?
Short answer: NO!
From my experiences at the same university, I would say my undergrad and postgrad experiences were completely different. I found undergrad content very intellectually challenging, however, I definitely felt like a little bit of a number in my B Sci. With a cohort of almost 70, sitting in the same room day in and day out – lecturers knew who you were and they certainly cared a lot more about you and your work – which was awesome! It also meant you could build closer friendships too, because you wouldn’t lose someone to a different tutorial stream. And they really do take attendance randomly, so you pretty much had to show up all the time.
I would say the content is much more practically focused, including the coursework. It is focused on how this knowledge or skill actually translates to your practice as a clinician or as a researcher (the two broad categories I’m going to refer to, however, there are SO many different realms dietitians work in!)
Click here to find out the many different ways a dietitian can help you.
There was a greater focus on professionalism and a lot more beyond university opportunities to network with professionals and engage in professional development activities (networking events, webinars, symposiums etc) to help guide you towards your future career as a dietitian.
(2) What do you learn in a dietetics degree?
My particular post-graduate degree builds upon a solid foundation of understanding about science, food and the human body. We learned about food science, how to analyse the diet, business and professional skills (including how to set-up a business/private practice), research methodology, medical nutrition, community and public health nutrition and food services. In particular, medical nutrition involved quite a lot of “practical” learning. Lots of role-playing to be assessed on and to develop our nutritional counselling skills for when we had the opportunity to speak to real patients. (Fun fact: the first patient I ever met cried!)
By the way, if someone ever asks me to role-play a patient again, I may just scream!
I think the core skills I learned from the degree beside just acquiring knowledge about nutrition, was active or reflective listening, nutritional counselling and goal setting with patients and project management (whether that be in a healthcare setting or for research).
(3) What does it involve?
The Masters of Nutrition & Dietetics is a 2-year course made up of 1 year of coursework (as described above) and 1 year of practical work. The first year you’re attending classes from 9-to-4 with a 1-2 hour break each day, subjects delivered in 2-3 hour blocks typically, for 4-5 days per week. There was a good combination of individual and group assignments, however, we all often struggled to meet up to work on group tasks. As soon as we were done with class most people had to travel some distance to get home, or (like me) have to dash off to work. With only 1 hour breaks, it was often very challenging to make headway on a group assignment!
The practical year is made up of a 20-week dietetic placement (in the USA these are called internships) across at least 4 placements sites. 10 weeks clinical (hospital or outpatient clinic setting), 6 weeks community or public health and 4 weeks food service (typically food provision in hospitals). As usual, you learn a lot more practising your work than just sticking your head in the book! The other semester you complete a research project either at the University or with one of their affiliated hospitals, which results in a mini-thesis of sorts.
Here I am with my little research project, ready to submit!
So, what’s next for me…?
Probably the most frequently asked question over the past few weeks has been “So, what now?” Well, for the first time in my memory, I’m not too sure. I always knew what I wanted after high school, so this is the first time I have a bit of uncertainty around my future adult life!
A short break whilst furiously writing up job applications is surely on the cards. Sometimes securing a position in health can take a while, however, I’m being open-minded to the less traditional roles dietitians can take.
And stay tuned! As this dietitian to be will be transformed into a dietitian, very soon. Exciting things are on the way…