Everyone eats food to survive, but some people have a deeper interest in nutrition and how it affects and relates to human health. If that describes you, you might consider pursuing a degree in nutrition, which can lead to a career as a dietitian, nutritionist or health educator.
Nutrition majors can find rewarding careers promoting healthy lifestyles and wellness. People who pursue an education in nutrition are generally interested in science and the human body. There are various career paths for nutrition majors, and usually a bachelor's degree is required and in some cases a master's degree.
|Career||Dietitian||Registered Dietitian||Health Educator|
|Education Requirements||Bachelor's degree||Bachelor's degree||Bachelor's degree, or master's degree for more advanced positions|
|Other Requirements||licensure, certification or registration required depending on the state||Certification from American Dietetic Association (ADA)||some employers require continuing education classes|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||16% (dietitians and nutritionists)*||16% (dietitians and nutritionists)*||12% (health educators)*|
|Median Salary (2015)||$57,910 (dietitians and nutritionists)*||$57,910 (dietitians and nutritionists)*||$51,960 (health educators)*|
Source: *Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
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Nutrition majors have various career options, including becoming a dietitian, a registered dietitian, or a health educator. A bachelor's degree is usually required, and in some cases a master's degree and/or a national certification.
Nutrition majors are well-suited to become dietitians. Dietitians are health professionals who focus on promoting health through diet. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nutritionists perform very similar work to dietitians (www.bls.gov). The BLS makes no formal distinction between the two job titles.
The specific duties of a dietitian depend on a few factors, including job setting. According to the BLS, dietitians and nutritionists can work for hospitals, food service companies, government agencies, public clinics and nursing facilities. They can also start private consulting practices. Duties can include creating meal plans for a specific patient, creating meal plans for a larger community, analyzing patient health history and giving food intake advice. They might specialize in fields like clinical dietetics or community dietetics, according to the BLS.
Statistics compiled by the BLS indicate that dieticians and nutritionists with bachelor's degrees or higher have an easier time finding work. For the 2014-2024 decade, the BLS projected that job opportunities would grow much faster than average, with 16% expansion, though job applicants need to follow state licensure, certification or registration requirements. As of May 2015, the median annual income for dietitians and nutritionists was $57,910.
Registered dietitians (RDs) are dietitians who have been certified by the American Dietetic Association (ADA). The criteria for becoming an RD include earning a bachelor's or higher degree in nutrition. These degree programs must be accredited or approved by the ADA's Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education (www.eatright.org).
Prospective RDs must also complete supervised, hands-on clinical practice in a setting where dietitians typically work, such as a hospital, doctor's office or government agency. An exam administered by the ADA and continuing education requirements after certification are also part of the process.
Health education is another area in which nutrition majors can use their training. Health educators can focus on different areas, but those with nutrition backgrounds can specifically focus on teaching people about a healthy diet. These professionals can work in schools, health care centers, departments of public health and nonprofit organizations, the BLS says.
The BLS indicates that while a bachelor's degree is sufficient for many entry-level health education positions, a master's degree may be necessary for more advanced positions. Some employers require their employees to take continuing education classes. Licensure and certification aren't necessary for a job in this field, according to the BLS. However, there are professional organizations, like the National Commission of Health Education Credentialing, Inc., that offer voluntary certifications like the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) credential.
The BLS predicted employment for health educators to grow by 12% from 2014-2024, faster than the average for all occupations. Job seekers may be helped by internship or volunteer experience. The BLS indicated that the median annual wage for health educators in May 2015 was $51,960.
A degree in nutrition can prepare you for work as a dietitian, nutritionist or health educator. Jobs in these fields all involve helping people to better understand how food and diet affect their health and providing advice and support to help them live healthier lives. This is a growing field with many opportunities available to graduates.