Overview of Dietetics Bachelor's Degree Programs
Dietetics degree programs are available at schools of all sizes across the country. The focus of the dietetics degree is to help students understand human nutrition, assess nutrition-related issues, and create nutrition and feeding plans for individuals or populations. Because dietitians work in so many different environments, the major involves a variety of classes. While the requirements differ from program to program, students in this major can expect to take classes in biology, chemistry, counseling, administration, and, of course, nutrition.
Dietetics Program Admittance Requirements
Some schools offer a dietetics major or concentration without practical experience. These majors don't usually have special requirements for admittance. Some schools offer a coordinated program that allows you to complete the practical experience hours while in school, for those who will be working in states that require licensing. Coordinated programs usually require a separate application after sophomore year (or 60 credits) that can involve a minimum G.P.A., interview, and references.
Dietetics Program Courses
The major is usually composed of courses that focus on a combination of science, health administration, and counseling topics. Some programs also involve practicum courses, which are placements where students receive supervised practical experiences.
This kind of class will generally explore the different nutritional needs of people over the course of their lives. It typically focuses on the effect of different factors (age, sex, etc.) on nutritional needs. Courses like this are important for future dietitians, who will often need to make nutritional plans that fit different populations. In some schools, this topic might be covered in a single course and in others it could be covered in a series of classes.
Some dietitians work closely with individuals to address their food-related issues. Counseling classes can introduce students to the skills necessary for working with these clients. Topics generally include nutritional disorders (like obesity, diabetes, and eating disorders) and how to address them. Skills for interacting with clients effectively may be addressed.
Some dietitians work in administering nutritional programs for organizations (like schools and hospitals). This kind of class might focus on addressing the needs of these organizations. Topics might also include leadership and career development skills.
Medical Nutrition Therapy
Therapy classes usually provide practical knowledge for assessing nutritional needs and creating plans to address those needs. Students in this type of class might learn about nutrition-related diseases and disorders and how they are approached through medicine and nutrition. These classes often focus on medical terminology and procedures.
Practicum courses that are available at schools with coordinated programs involve completion of practical experiences in the community. Students often go to different locations (schools, hospitals, elder care facilities, etc.) to gain practical knowledge in nutrition programs. Students will generally complete this course over multiple semesters to get the 1200 hours of experience required by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND).
How to Choose a Dietetics Program
If your goal is a career as a dietitian in a state that requires licensing, then the most important consideration for picking a program is how prepared it will leave you for licensure. If you choose a program without built-in practical experience, you could need to complete an internship before or after graduation in order to complete licensing requirements. Many schools will help you find internships as part of their career services programs. Coordinated programs with practical experiences will usually be accredited by ACEND and follow its requirements. Schools with practicum experiences may require attendance over summers, and you should keep your availability in mind when choosing this kind of program.
Dietetics Degree Careers
With increasing concerns about diet-related illnesses (heart disease, diabetes, etc.), the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted the need for dietitians will grow 15% between 2016 and 2026. It also reported the median income for dietitians in the United States was $60,370 in May 2018. While most people with dietetics degrees go on to become dietitians, there is a variety of jobs that fit in the category including: