Why Get an Applied Nutrition Degree?

The healthcare industry as a whole is expanding fast, with millions of new jobs being created every decade. One of the areas that is seeing particularly strong job growth is nutrition.

The role of nutrition and food in health and wellness is better understood today. Healthcare organizations want to hire professionals in the field who can help people who can encourage better eating and lifestyle habits in Americans and patients.

Nutrition has never been of such importance to our health as a country as now. No matter if the subject is nutrition labels, the obesity epidemic, organic farming, lack of fruits and vegetables in many communities, people want to learn more about making good health choices.

This is because people know if they live a healthier life and eat better, fewer people will be dealing with obesity, heart disease and many other serious conditions. This will lead to a reduction in healthcare costs in many cases, and longer lifespans with better life quality.

The focus on good nutrition, health and wellness are leading many professionals to earn a master’s degree in applied nutrition. This type of degree will give you the chance to increase your clinical knowledge in food and nutrition and to work in many exciting, good-paying positions in a strongly growing field.

Earning a master’s degree in applied nutrition will provide you with the knowledge and skills to do the following:

  • Share with consumers the vital scientific knowledge about nutrition that are consistent with modern health recommendations
  • Design and implement high quality nutrition education programs in schools, universities, government agencies and private companies
  • Use effective communication strategies, including consumer friendly health education and social marketing to stress the importance of good nutritional health
  • Design high quality clinical studies and use advanced research methods to better understand how disease and nutrition interrelate
  • Better understand the underlying scientific principles involved in nutrition in education and planning programs for better health and wellness

Career Paths in Applied Nutrition

Earning a master’s degree in applied nutrition can provide you with a very good career path, with excellent income and career growth potential. Below are some of the most common jobs you may be able to qualify for:

Nutritionist or Dietitian

Nutritionists and dietitians are food and nutrition experts and are skilled in promoting better health and the management of serious diseases. They provide food and nutritional advice to clients so that they can live a healthier life, avoid illnesses and diseases, and/or to achieve a specific health goal.

The most common duties for nutritionists and dietitians are:

  • Assessing the nutritional and health requirements of patients or clients
  • Provide counseling to patients on various nutrition issues and ways to eat healthier
  • Devise effective meal plans custom made for the client; it is important to take the costs of the food and the preference for the client into account
  • Evaluate how meal plans are changing health and weight and make any changes that are required
  • Continue to keep pace with the newest research of nutritional and food science

As a nutritionist, you will likely be responsible for devising custom made information for specific clients about health, nutrition, and wellness. For example, you may have a client who has type 2 diabetes. You will teach her how to cook healthy meals that can balance her blood sugar. Or, you may plan a meal program for a person who is at high risk for heart disease. In that case, you might devise a heart-healthy and low in sugar diet.

Most nutritionists and dietitians have similar job duties, but there are a number of specializations in this field. For example:

  • Clinical nutritionist: They provide medical nutrition services and therapy. Often employed in hospitals, long-term care facilities, private practice, clinics and other related institutions. Their major tasks are to provide healthy eating programs based upon the specific health needs of every client.
  • Community nutritionist: Develop eating programs and counsel the general public on health, nutrition, and eating. They sometimes will work with specific patient populations, such as elderly people or children. It is common for them to work in public health centers, government agencies or HMOs.
  • Management nutritionist: Responsible for planning healthy food programs. They often work in a larger food service setting: cafeterias, prisons, hospitals or schools.

After you earn an applied nutrition master’s degree, you can look forward to an excellent career potential. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that employment for nutritionists is going to increase by 16% by 2024, which is much faster than average.

Interest in the vital role that nutrition and food play in health has greatly increased in the last decade. This is particularly true as part of the general preventative health care movement in healthcare organizations.

The CDC reports that at least ⅓ of all American adults are obese. Many serious diseases, including heart disease, kidney failure and diabetes are related to obesity. There is no question that more nutritionists are needed to provide better healthy eating advice and counseling for many Americans.

Also, as Americans are getting older and lifespans are getting bigger, there is more need for healthy food advice.

Nutritionists enjoy a healthy median salary of $58,920 as of 2016. The top 10% can earn in excess of $82,000.

Online Master’s Degree Options

For professionals who think that a career as a nutritionist is a good fit, we recommend earning a Master of Science in Applied Nutrition from the University of New England online. This two year online degree program features highly relevant food and nutrition courses and several specialty areas for those who want to grow their career in certain nutrition subfields.

All nutrition students are required to take the six core classes. At that time, you may select five electives and a capstone course to earn your master’s degree. This is a highly customizable program that can be tailored to diverse career goals.

Critical features of this program are:

  • 36 credit hours
  • Two year typical completion time
  • 100% online
  • Recorded courses – learn from anywhere or anytime
  • No need to take the GRE for admission
  • Regional accreditation by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges

The master of science degree fulfills in part the academic requirements for the Certified Nutritionist Specialist (CNS) designation. To earn this prestigious credential, you are required to graduate from a university that is regionally accredited; take specific coursework, and experience 1,000 hours of supervised nutritionist work.

You may earn your master’s degree in obesity and health promotion; nutrition and disease prevention, or business, social media and entrepreneurship.

Required nutrition core courses include:

  • APN 601 – Trends and Issues in Nutrition and Global Food Systems
  • APN 605 – Nutrition Across the Lifespan
  • APN 610 – Research Methods
  • APN 615 – Nutrition and Metabolism
  • APN 620 – Nutrition Education and Health Behavior Change
  • APN 625 – Nutrition Practice for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention


The applied nutrition field is increasing in size quite rapidly, as there is 19% growth expected in the healthcare field in the coming decade. Many highly skilled and knowledgeable nutritionists will be needed today and in the near future to provide people with the advice that they need to live healthier lives and to lower their chances of major diseases.


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Written by Robert Sanchez
Robert Sanchez is HealthGrad.com's Chief Editorialist. Robert Sanchez has over 10 years experience in the Healthcare field and more recently has become an avid writer advising on career and job topics in this exciting field.

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