Diet and Nutrition School Program Information

Certificate and degree programs in nutrition and dietetics examine the science behind food and can lead to careers that help people be mindful of their diets. Certificates in diet and nutrition are available, as well as programs at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degree level.

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Essential Information

In an undergraduate certificate program, students gain core knowledge of how the body processes food. A 2-year associate's and a 4-year bachelor's degree program give students thorough knowledge of diet and nutrition and its underlying science. Graduates of an associate's program are qualified to take the certification exams for dietetic technicians or holistic nutritionists.

Some bachelor's programs are aimed at students who intend to apply to medical school, and with a bachelor's degree, an individual can test to become a registered dietitian. However, most dietitians hold a master's degree.

Master's-level programs are focused on research, and students often have the option to specialize in an area such as food science. In a doctoral program, students engage in research, using scientific methods to solve problems in food science and nutrition.


Certificate in Nutrition

Certificate programs in nutrition are for students interested in entering the nutritional and dietetic fields. The objective is to gain a general understanding of how the body processes food and ways to maintain wellness and prevent diseases. The certificate in nutrition does not qualify earners to be professionally recognized dietitians or nutritionists. Enrollees must possess a high school diploma or GED to register.

Coursework in nutrition certificate programs is fairly broad in scope, though many programs offer elective options that explore vitamins, sports nutrition, weight control, sports performance and more. Some common courses are as follows:

  • Controlling weight
  • Eating healthy
  • Fitness techniques
  • Nutrition basics
  • Physiology and anatomy

Associate Degree in Nutrition

These programs extend nutrition and diet knowledge and are meant for transfer to a bachelor's degree program. Students take general science courses as well as studying nutritional basics and exercise. Upon graduation from some programs, they are eligible to take the registered exam for dietetic technicians or the board exam for holistic nutritionists. A high school diploma or equivalency is mandatory for program acceptance.

Associate's degree programs in nutrition typically offer more electives in the field, and some programs include extensive studies in organic chemistry. Among popular program courses are shown below:

  • Exercise physiology
  • Health issues and weight management
  • Organic chemistry
  • Managing stress
  • Nutrition essentials
  • Nutritional Therapy

Bachelor's Degree in Nutrition

A general bachelor's degree in nutrition prepares students to take an exam to become a registered dietitian. A more focused bachelor's degree in nutritional science is for students intent on applying to medical or graduate school. Both areas deal with the science of food, nutrients, diet and wellness. The difference is that the former is meant for more immediate, entry-level positions, and the latter leads to higher-level, research-intense jobs.

Bachelor's degree programs in nutrition don't typically have program-specific entrance requirements. Applicants are required to hold a high school diploma or equivalency. ACT or SAT scores are commonly necessary for admission into the school.

Nutrition programs offered at the bachelor's degree level cover more advanced subjects like children's nutrition, maternal nutrition and the effects of food on society.

  • Human nutrition
  • Food science
  • Managing weight
  • Nutritional therapy
  • Dietetic internship

Master's Degree in Nutrition

Graduate-level nutritional studies focus on food science and diet in the community. The emphasis is on food development, quality and safety. It is research-intensive and allows students to choose an area of specialty, such as food science or human nutrition. Master's degree recipients complete a thesis or internship and may work for private agencies, government or universities.

A bachelor's degree in nutrition or a closely related field is necessary for program entry. Many schools additionally require the submission of GRE scores.

  • Diet and exercise
  • Ecology of nutrition
  • Research methods
  • Human metabolism
  • Nutrition in the community

Doctorate Degree in Nutrition

Doctoral-level degrees in nutrition are heavily grounded in research, and doctoral candidates must write, submit and defend a dissertation. Students at this level are expected to analyze and solve problems in food science and nutrition using the scientific method. Some programs offer specialization in different areas, including public health, biological engineering and nutritional epidemiology.

Admission requirements include a master's degree in nutrition or related subject and GRE scores. Some programs allow students to earn a master's in tandem with a doctoral degree.

  • Advanced nutrition
  • Chronic diseases and nutrition
  • Dissertation research
  • Health and metabolism
  • Nutritional research methods

Popular Career Options

Generally, a certificate in nutrition alone is not enough for a career in a related field. Allied health and fitness professionals commonly pursue a certificate in nutrition to supplement their prior credentials.

  • Fitness trainer
  • Health club staff
  • Personal food counselor

Graduates of an associate's degree program in nutrition may find jobs in assistance roles, helping licensed dietitians and nutritionists to develop nutrition programs and meal plans.

  • Dietetic technician
  • Food service manager
  • Weight loss counselor

Most dieticians hold master's degrees, and many specialize in food science. The following are popular career choices for those holding a master's degree in nutrition.

  • Community dietitian
  • Dietetic consultant
  • Food processor
  • Registered dietitian

With many specialization areas available to doctoral students, those who successfully complete a doctorate degree program in nutrition may choose from some of these career options.

  • Research scientist
  • Clinical dietitian
  • Pediatric dietitian
  • Community dietitian

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that the number of nutritionists and dietitians will increase by 16% between 2014-2024, according to the BLS website, www.bls.gov. The BLS also reports that the median annual salary for dietitians and nutritionists in May 2015 was $57,910.

Diet and nutrition school programs are available at multiple levels and allow graduates to work in a wide range of positions. With a myriad of employment possibilities available, it is a good field to pursue with growth slated for the next few years.

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