Guide to Nutrition Degree Programs
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Pursuing a bachelor's in nutrition at a university is best for undergraduates, but online programs are a good option for graduate students.
Compare your skills and interests to those of other students pursuing careers in nutrition.
Explore the courses you may take as you complete your degree in nutrition.
See which jobs require specific accreditation before choosing your nutrition program.
Learn How You Can Study Nutrition
Online Nutrition Programs vs. On-Campus Programs
At the undergraduate level, online nutrition programs are not ideal. Although a significant amount of nutrition coursework is theoretical and can be learned in online nutrition schools, traditional brick-and-mortar schools provide students with lab components in areas such as physiology, organic chemistry, and biology. Online students will miss out on these core components of nutrition programs, so you should opt for a campus-based program if possible. Also, online nutrition degrees don’t offer students unique track programs that can be found in some brick-and-mortar schools.
Graduate students, however, may find that an online nutrition program is a viable option since they have usually completed all necessary lab requirements and are focusing on the more advanced theoretical components of nutrition, as well as nutrition research.
See if Nutrition is the Right Fit for you
Before you enroll in a nutrition degree program, consider your personal interests and strengths to see if this degree path is the best option for you. Consider the following list of questions:
- Am I curious about how the foods I put into my body affect my health?
- Do I want to help others achieve better health through nutrition and diet?
- Do I have strong communication skills, which will enable me to advise patients on how to improve their nutrition?
- Is science my strong suit, allowing me to succeed in the study of human biology and food chemistry?
- Would I be comfortable working with patients with advanced diseases, such as terminally ill and diabetic patients?
If you answered affirmatively to a majority of the questions above, a nutritionist degree is an option worth pursuing. Students who choose to enroll in a nutrition degree program should not only be able to grasp the science behind nutrition, but also have effective coaching and teaching skills to educate patients on the importance of following dietary instructions.
Find Out How to Earn a Nutrition Degree
Students who enroll in a nutrition degree program can expect to take a variety of science courses that will help them understand the process of human digestion, metabolism, and food absorption. Additionally, nutrition students can expect to take a number of theoretical and health administration classes.
Discover what you will do in college
If you choose to enroll in a nutrition degree program, you should anticipate taking a combination of science and health-related courses. Since the foundation of nutrition is centered on scientific areas like human physiology and the chemical composition of various foods and other supplements, you can expect to participate in a variety of laboratory experiences. Additionally, nutrition students may also be required to partake in a clinical internship or practicum during their junior or senior year to observe professional nutritionists and gain experience working directly with clients in the field.
See what nutrition courses you will take
In any nutrition program, you will take these courses.
Introduction to Health Science
Anatomy and Physiology
Food Safety and Microbiology
Nutritional Analysis and Assessment
Nutritional Planning and Management
Nutrition Across the Human Life Cycle
Consider specializing within nutrition
If you are considering a nutrition degree program, know that there are several areas of specialization you can pursue. While some schools offer basic nutrition degrees, others offer more concentrated courses of study in areas like sports nutrition, dietetics, public health, and food science and technology. Based on your career goals, choosing to pursue one of these specialty areas may be a strong choice. Taking a series of more concentrated courses can help to better prepare you for becoming a nutritionist, not to mention it allows you to stand out from the sea of other applicants for highly specific jobs.
Choose the Nutrition Degree You Want
Nutrition degrees are available at the following levels:
Find Out What You Need to Know About Accreditation
When researching nutrition programs, you will find that some schools offer a specific degree track in dietetics that is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). Dietetics is the study of using foods to improve health and to treat disease. ACEND provides accreditation to nutrition programs that prepare students to obtain the credential of Registered Dietitian (RD) or Dietitian Technician, Registered (DTR). Other nutrition programs, even within the same school, may prepare you for graduate-level nutrition research or food service administration careers, for which ACEND accreditation is not necessary.
Discover the Job Landscape for Nutrition Professionals
While nutritionist and dietician are the most common professions for those with a nutrition degree, you can also pursue jobs as a health educator or food scientist. As a nutritionist, dietitian, or health educator, you can expect to regularly assess the diet and health of individuals. Nutrition is also an education-intensive career, requiring you to teach patients in approachable language what foods they can safely eat according to their medical conditions. For example, you can expect to teach diabetic patients not only about sugar control but also about other nutritional components that can negatively affect their health, such as starches and carbohydrates. You will also spend a great deal of time helping patients create meal plans, taking into consideration the cultural and economic factors of each patient.
As reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), career opportunities for students pursuing a nutrition degree are on the rise. The profession is projected to see 20 percent growth in employment, which is significantly higher than the 14 percent seen with most other occupations. If you choose to pursue this career path, you can anticipate earning an average salary of $53,250 per year.