Types of Nutrition Science Degree Programs

The purpose of this article is to discuss the different types of degree programs that you can choose in nutrition science. This article also will talk about job growth in nutrition science generally, and the different types of careers you can choose, such as nutritionist and dietician.

The Centers for Disease Control estimate that as many as ⅓ of the US population are obese. This is a significant problem in the US today, and is a major reason for why you may want to choose a career in nutrition science.

With a bachelor’s or master’s degree in nutrition science, you will be able to enjoy a rewarding career as a nutritionist or dietician. Nutritionists and dieticians have an expert level of knowledge in using food and nutrition to promote healthy living and to reduce and manage serious diseases. Nutritionists and dieticians do most of the following as they work with patients or clients:

  • Assess the nutritional and health needs of each client
  • Counsel them on their nutrition problems and on the importance of healthy eating
  • Come up with unique meal plans while taking into account both cost and the preferences of the client
  • Evaluate how well the plans are working and change them if needed
  • Promote good health by talking to different groups about the importance of a good diet, and how there is a relationship between eating right and reducing incidence of obesity and disease
  • Write regular reports to keep track of the patient’s progress

Many in this field provide highly customized meal plans for a specific person’s condition. For instance, a nutritionist may teach a client who has diabetes about how to put together meals that are healthy for the blood sugar.  Or, you may work on a low fat and low sugar diet for people who are at higher risk of heart disease.

Many dieticians and nutritionists are self employed, and others work as consultants for many types of health organizations.

The demand for more nutritionists and dieticians is poised to grow in the near future, with 16% increase in demand according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. BLS thinks that with so many people suffering from obesity in America, there will be more need to care for people who have serious weight and health problems.

They also believe that as the baby boom generation ages and is looking to stay healthier for longer, there will be higher demand for nutritionist services. It also is expected that many employers will hire more nutritionists to work with their employees to keep them healthy.

By engaging in preventative medicine, many employers will be able to greatly reduce their health care costs. This is becoming absolutely critical as health care costs continue to rise. By making sure employees are living a healthy life, employers can cut down on the costs of expensive medical procedures. In that way, hiring nutritionists and dieticians can be a very good investment.

After you graduate from your degree program, you can increase your job potential by earning the Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) credential. It is not always required to become an RDN, but many of your potential employers will prefer that you have it.

To get your RDN, you need to at least complete a bachelor’s degree and a dietetic internship, which has at least 1200 hours of supervised work in the field. To apply for an internship, you will want to go through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which has many excellent internships from which to choose.

You also decide later on to get more certifications in specialities that you want. The Commission on Dietetic Registration has many speciality certifications on oncology, renal nutrition, pediatrics, and sports.

For professionals who want a career in nutrition science to become a dietician or nutritionist, there are several excellent online accredited degree options to weigh:

Master of Science in Applied Nutrition

The online master’s degree from Northeastern University is made for students who already have a bachelor’s degree in health sciences, dietetics or a related field. The online version of this program allows you to earn your master’s degree while you continue to work in your health field.

This accredited nutrition science program is led by leading practitioners of nutrition science. The faculty includes licensed dieticians, exercise scientists and also a clinical psychologist. Together, the staff will provide you with a solid foundation in metabolism, nutrition, health promotion and prevention of disease.

The core curriculum is complemented by Northeastern’s highly regarded nutrition practicum that allows you to work with experienced fitness specialists, dieticians and nutritionists.

You also may choose from four specializations:

  • Obesity and Eating Disorders
  • Nutrition Education
  • Nutrition and Fitness
  • Business and Entrepreneurship in Nutrition

Class work includes these:

  • Advanced Nutrition and Metabolism
  • Medical Nutrition Therapy
  • Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
  • Clinical Health Behavior Change
  • Applied Research in Nutrition
  • Pediatric Nutrition
  • Exercise Physiology
  • Sports and Fitness Nutrition
  • Nutrition in Practice

Master of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics

Earn this online master’s degree in only 2.5 years from Arizona State University. The program is based upon scientific principles of nutrition, and also reinforces needed skills in project management, interpreting research literature and solving complex problems in nutrition science.

This nutrition science program culminates in an applied nutrition project at the end of the program. This will allow you to design and evaluate a nutrition intervention program in the workplace. You will use the skills that you have developed in nutrition assessment, lifestyle management and chronic disease prevention.

These are the classes that are required in this MS degree program:

  • Research Methods I and II
  • Analysis of Variance Methods
  • Research Statistics
  • Intermediate Statistics
  • Applied Nonparametric Statistics
  • Applied Multivariate Analysis
  • Vegetarian Nutrition
  • Pediatric Nutrition
  • Evidence-Based Nutrition

Master of Public Health in Nutrition

For a unique MPH in Nutrition degree, consider University of Massachusetts – Amherst for your online master’s degree. This program is specially designed for experienced nutritionists and dieticians as well as health and nutrition educators.

This program is fully online and is accredited by the respected Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH).

The program requires 44 total credits to graduate, and the core courses include both public health and nutrition:

  • Biostatistics
  • Environmental Health Practices
  • US Health Care System
  • Epidemiology
  • Nutritional Epidemiology
  • Nutritional Problems in the US
  • Nutritional Assessment
  • Community Nutrition

Completing this MPH degree also requires you to finish a 200 hour field experience in public health nutrition. You will be supervised by a practicum advisor.

Master of Science in Nutrition, Healthspan and Longevity

This outstanding Master of Science program is offered by the University of Southern California, and may completed full time in only two years. Completing the degree successfully requires you to complete 46 credit hours; this includes 28 hours of classes, 12 hours of supervised practice and six hours of research.

After you graduate, you will be qualified to sit for the national registration examination to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN).

Required classes include:

  • Nutrition, Genes, Longevity and Diseases
  • Fundamentals of Clinical Nutrition Screening and Assessment
  • Communicating Nutrition and Health
  • Fundamentals of Nutrition: Macronutrients
  • Food Production & Food Services Management with Lab
  • Advanced Therapeutic Nutrition with Lab
  • Current Topics in Clinical Nutrition: Healthspan and Longevity
  • Micronutrients, Health and Longevity
  • Directed Research – Portfolio
  • (1200 hours total) Field Practicum – Supervised Practice
  • Research Methods
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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