Becoming a nutritionist is a very rewarding and enthralling choice in life as you help people to lead a happier and healthier life. In order to pursue a nutritionist career, you require a bachelor’s degree in nutrition or a health-related field or a nutrition certification. If you want to delve deeper into a nutritionist’s life, a nutrition degree is a compulsion as it lets you take on a master’s nutritionist degree.
In this article, we will highlight on how to become a nutritionist through earning your degree, the nuances involved and the final heads-up for becoming a dietician. We shall also touch on the various courses, timeframe, the transition from a nutritionist to a dietician and the various concepts relating to education and degree in the field of nutrition.
Bachelor’s nutrition degree
In the course (pun intended) of pursuing a nutritionist degree, you are taught to converge your focus on a person’s nutrition per se. A bachelor’s degree is a compulsion for anyone who wants to become a registered dietician. You will study in depth about the process of digestion, calorie intake, the nutritional value of foods in general and how cooking and food processing can alter the nutrition obtained. In addition, you gain a solid backing in the theory of nutrition as well as getting a practical dealing with patients. Good things in life are meant to be shared. As such, you gain a thorough understanding of how to become a nutritionist and/or dietician as well as how to educate people on the significance of inculcating good eating habits into their lives by focusing on the nutrition value of foods that they consume on a daily basis.
Some of the most important courses that any bachelor’s degree student has to undertake include:
- Introduction to food science: Studies the physical and chemical properties of food.
- Introduction to human lactation: You get to understand the nutritional benefits of breastfeeding.
- Nutrition counseling: You are taught on how to counsel people tainted with issues regarding nutrition.
- Cultural and social aspects of food: Gives you an insight into the links between culture and eating habits.
Furthermore, you take up additional courses such as aging and assessment of nutritional values.
Master’s nutrition degree
A master’s degree in nutrition allows you to plunge into the more complex and involving areas of nutrition. One of the most noteworthy points to be stated here that you need not have a bachelor’s degree in nutrition in order to pursue a master’s. One can pursue a master’s degree in nutrition by having a health-related bachelor’s in any of the following:
- Food science
As it is pretty evident, a master’s degree program welcomes people with various educational backgrounds. The structure of the program is framed to give you a holistic approach towards nutrition as it focuses on the various interlinking aspects of the field. And yes, a master’s degree puts special emphasis on research.
Like any graduate degree, a master’s in nutrition gives you the opportunity to pick a specialization based on your goals or preferences. Here are some of the best specializations you can choose from:
- Nutrition and Clinical Health Psychology.
- Nutrition and Human Development.
- Nutrition and Public Health.
- Women’s Health.
A master’s degree specialization typically makes you undertake the following courses which synchronizes with the nutritionist degree requirements:
- Probability and Statistics: It gives you mathematical approach to study of nutritional parameters in food and also net intake among people or groups.
- Nutrition Research Methods: You are trained to undertake the various ways in which nutrition research is conducted.
- Eating disorders: Examines the eating disorders prevalent in adults and children.
- Epidemiology: Studies the causes, symptoms and prevention of various communicable diseases.
It is pretty obvious that pursuing a master’s degree involves more than just mere classroom lectures. You get hands-on experience with foods, cooking, field work and management. In addition, you also get to take on an internship and thesis.
Difference between a Dietitian and a Nutritionist
Many people use the terms “dietitian” and “nutritionist” interchangeable. While the two are undeniably related at a very close level, they are not the same.
The most distinguishing factor between the two is basically the set of legal restrictions that each of them carry. Only those nutritionists who are registered with the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) are entitled to call themselves as dietitians. More precisely, they are registered dietitians (RDs).
In simple words, a dietitian is a nutritionist but a nutritionist is not a dietitian without the registration. As such, nutritionists are less protected under the law and do not enjoy professional liberty as much as dietitians do.
How long does it take to become a nutritionist?
Getting a bachelor’s degree is the standard degree level that is needed to be attained in order to become a nutritionist. A bachelor’s degree typically takes 4 years to complete. You can also earn your degree in a shorter time through some online programs.
If you decide to pursue a master’s degree, it typically takes 2-3 years for completion.
In some states, however, a nutrition certification or an associate degree will suffice in order to attain your nutritionist license. This can be achieved at a maximum of 2 years.
Online Nutrition Degree
For reasons best known to you, you might find it convenient to pursue a degree in nutrition online instead of attending a classroom. Though most degrees in science require to be taught via lectures in a classroom, nutrition is a class apart. Most nutrition schools offer you the provision of getting your degree by taking online courses, right from certification and all the way to master’s. So technically, it fulfills all the nutritionist degree requirements.
These online programs are designed to give you a great deal of flexibility in a school program. Additionally, you have the luxury of studying at your own pace and keep in sync with the ongoing schedule at your feasibility. Not to mention, online degree courses typically cost lesser than the classroom programs and the career perks are the same for both means.
Since online degree involves you not attending lectures, it becomes more of a challenge to choose the right course for yourself. Nutrition has a host of different concentrations for you to choose from. You can pick yours solely based on your interests. You can easily examine whether your school focuses on your area of interest and as such, you can check in.
Most established nutritionists who have earned their degree through online courses stress heavily on the elective courses. In fact, they often suggest picking a school primarily based on the elective courses they offer. By comparing these courses, you get a full-fledged perspective on how much you can gain out of the school you are going to pick for your degree.
License and Certification Requirements
This is of prime importance because the licensure and certification differs across the various states in the country. While some states require exams to showcase your skills, knowledge and understanding, others require you to attain certain certifications or even update existing ones. Do ensure that you meet your state’s protocol and requirements before you start practicing.
For becoming a dietitian or more specifically, a registered dietitian (RD), you need to be registered with the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CRD). CRD is more than enough to meet the licensing and certification requirements in many states. This includes:
- A bachelor’s degree from an approved and accredited school’s program.
- The completion of an officially supervised practice program.
- Pass a national examination.
Salaries and Opportunities for a Nutritionist
Now that you have deiced upon taking up a career in nutrition and making it your livelihood, you must be naturally curious about the salary you can typically earn.
Nutritionists tend to earn an average annual salary of $58,920 as per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This depends on various parameters such as your location, experience, specialization and work. You would be glad to learn that this is an ever progressive and in-demand field and as such, you can always rake up more earning opportunities for yourself. Most typically, the salary of a nutritionist features an upper limit of around $82,000 and a lower limit of $35,000. You actually earn more than a healthcare educator.
Want to increase your base pay?
Well, there are several ways you can do so. For one, you can end up taking a master’s or doctorate in a specialized area and dive into the depths of it. Consequently, you are deemed an expert in your field and people would be more than willing to turn up to you.
You can also choose to practice and gain your own level of hands-on professional practice. This might require some patience but it is very rewarding nonetheless. As you build your own reputation in your practice, you can expect more clients to line-up at your door!
Can you become a nutritionist without a degree?
While we highly recommend you to take up a bachelor’s degree in order to become a nutritionist, we do understand that you might have some limitations that might inhibit you from pursuing a degree. You can learn the craft and science of nutrition through online courses offered by legitimate organizations. These online courses are designed to train you to take on work that is usually done by a qualified nutritionist. Also, you can get employed in private firms pertaining to nutrition. With some years of experience, the state may even recognize and approve you as a registered nutritionist.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Anything associated with career is bound to have a wide array of FAQs and the career choice pertaining to a nutritionist is no different. Below are some of the most important and common queries regarding a nutritionist and its associated topics:
Q) How long does a bachelor’s and master’s degree in nutrition take?
A) A bachelor’s degree in nutrition typically takes 4 years. A master’s degree in nutrition typically takes 2-3 years to complete.
Q)What degree do you need to take up a nutritionist career?
A) A bachelor’s degree in nutrition or any health related field would suffice to pursue a career as a nutritionist.
Q) How do you become a holistic nutritionist?
A)After the completion of a bachelor’s degree in nutrition or a related field, you can take up a master’s in holistic nutrition. Else, you can get a license post graduation, continue education and get certification.
Q) What are the classes I need to take for becoming a nutritionist?
A) A bachelor’s degree in nutrition primarily consists of classes such as food science human lactation, nutrition counseling, aging, cultural and social aspects of food etc.
Q) How do I become a dietitian?
A)In order to become a dietitian, you need to first become a nutritionist by attaining a bachelor’s in nutrition or a related field. Subsequently, you need to register yourself with the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CRD).
Q) Do the licensing and certification requirements differ from state to state?
A) Yes, each state holds a separate set of license and certificate requirements in order for a nutritionist to practice.
Q) Can online nutrition courses make me a nutritionist without a degree?
A) Yes, online courses from legitimate nutritional organizations can train you to pursue a nutritionist career.
Q) How can I find a nutrition school near me?
A) Check out the official website of your nearest university and see if they offer a nutrition degree. Ensure that the school offering a nutrition degree is accredited with the respective regional accreditation board. In case of master’s, the school should be accredited with organizations such as the Commission for Accreditation for Dietetic Registration.
Q) How long are the online nutrition courses that can make me a nutritionist?
A) Online nutrition courses designed to make you a nutritionist typically last a maximum of 2 years.
Q) Do the courses in a nutrition degree teach me about naturopathic nutritionist?
A) Yes, relevant courses such as food science are designed to give you a heads-up regarding naturopathic nutrition.