Nutritional informatics involves using data and information technology to solve problems related to nutrition and health. Few schools offer master's degree programs in this relatively new subfield, but interested students can consider enrolling in a master's degree program in clinical nutrition or biomedical informatics, some of which may offer courses in nutritional informatics.
A master's degree in clinical nutrition provides students with research training in health and nutrition and introduces them to innovative technologies and procedures in the field. A master's degree in biomedical informatics provides training in computational biology, with applications in clinical research, treatment models, program evaluations, public health, and medical discoveries. Both of these programs require students to complete a thesis or research project prior to graduation. Some courses may be taken online.
In order to apply for a master's degree in clinical nutrition, you should have a bachelor's degree and prior coursework in chemistry, anatomy, physiology, biology, and nutrition. You will also need to be a registered dietician. For a biomedical informatics program, students need a bachelor's degree along with prerequisite coursework in biochemistry, computer science and statistics for biomedical informatics program.
Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition
Students are trained to think critically, creatively and scientifically, to design and evaluate nutrition protocols and to apply their talent and leadership skills to their jobs.
Over the course of the program, students are expected to immerse themselves in the current nutrition literature and stay informed of research discoveries. They conduct independent research and work with health practitioners to gain experience creating holistic treatment protocols for patients of all ages, cultural backgrounds, and medical conditions. Coursework builds on undergraduate prerequisites and may include some of the following topics:
- Human metabolism
- Carbohydrates, fats and proteins
- Vitamins and minerals
- Nutritional epidemiology
- Nutrition informatics
Master of Science in Biomedical Informatics
In biomedical informatics programs, students learn to computationally evaluate information systems and design novel organizational schemes. Students who are particularly interested in nutritional informatics can apply these skills to the subfield. Required coursework generally emphasizes human body systems, health care, research methods and discoveries, current technology, and information systems. Common classes include:
- Public health
- Electronic health records
- Health policy
- Evidence-based medicine
- Medical terminology
- Modeling and database systems
Popular Career Options
Students who earn master's degrees in clinical nutrition are prepared for a wide range of careers in government, health care institutions, and private companies. Job titles include:
- Clinical dietitian
- Clinical specialty team member
- Food industry specialist
- Nutrition instructor
- Nutrition consultant
In the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the BLS reported that employment of medical records and health information technicians is expected to increase by 11% between the years 2018 and 2028, a rate which the BLS categorizes as much faster than average. In May 2018, the median annual wage was $40,350, with the lowest ten percent making less than $26,550 and the highest ten percent bringing in more than $66,260 each year (www.bls.gov).
Continuing Education and Certification Information
Students who are interested in nutritional informatics may consider becoming registered dieticians (RDs). Master's degree candidates who are not yet RDs can often fulfill the didactic requirements as part of the M.S. coursework. They must also complete an accredited internship and pass the Commission of Dietetic Registration (CDR) exam. Depending on the state and the student's career goals, additional certification exams, licensure or registration may be required.
Graduates of master's degree programs in clinical nutrition or biomedical informatics can apply to doctorate programs in clinical nutrition. These programs provide students with advanced research training and clinical experience, and they offer students the opportunity to collaborate with academic scientists and health care professionals.
In conclusion, students who want to pursue graduate study in nutritional informatics can consider master's degrees in clinical nutrition or biomedical informatics, both of which prepare students for careers in the field or future education.