Nutrition is a generic word that encompasses nutrition science, public health, dietetics, sports nutrition, food science, food research, and clinical nutrition. The list is more expansive than the aforementioned branches of nutrition as a science. This report will provide an overview of some of the types of degrees associated with nutrition. Generally, most college programs focus on biology, anatomy, food science, diet and disease, and principles of nutrition.
From the perspective of nutrition as a science, it is advisable to select a program that has received accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). ACEND serves and protects students and the public by assuring the quality and continued improvement of nutrition and dietetics education programs.
When reviewing college programs, you will see that there are choices under the nutrition umbrella. Students need to formulate a potential career path when researching the various nutrition programs due to the diversity. Here are some of the potential concentrations at the undergraduate level:
- Food and Nutrition Management: Students develop an understanding of how different food industries operate (commercial, institutional) and how to manage each type of operation.
- Nutrition Communication: Students develop expertise in the communication of health and nutrition information. Nutrition courses provide expert content to enable students to provide evidence-based information to consumers and health professionals.
- Food Studies: Students develop expertise in food and food production through coursework in nutrition, food systems, sustainability, and food marketing.
- Dietetics: Learn about nutrition with an emphasis in dietetics, which prepares you for a career as a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN). A registered dietitian (RD) or registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) must complete multiple layers of education and training established by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics.
- Wellness: This program combines studies in nutrition with health studies and is structured to help you earn the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) credentials. You must pass a 165 multiple-choice examination. It is a competency-based exam used to measure possession, application and interpretation of knowledge in the Seven Areas of Responsibility for Health Education Specialists.
- Business and Industry: Includes courses such as food science, sensory evaluation, and food product development.
- Culinary Science and Food Service Management: As a student in this degree program, you will apply your culinary knowledge to nutrition, food science, and research methods.
As outlined, the variety of nutrition degree options allows you to tailor a Bachelor of Science degree to suit your career objectives. For students pursuing careers in dietetics, courses in behavioral and clinical nutrition and food systems management provide the academic preparation required for dietetics practice. A nutritional sciences option will entail courses in science and research in order to prepare students for graduate study or professional school. A public health track will prepare students for entry-level positions in public health and nutrition at state and other health departments, in research, and in industry.
In 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected a 15% job turnover or change through 2026 or 9,900 jobs. As of 2016, there were 68,000 working in the profession with a median salary of $58,920 per year or $28.33 per hour. The BLS reported that most salaries for nutritionists and dietitians ranged from $35,240 – $80,950 with the highest incomes in California, Alaska, and New Jersey. The majority of nutritionists and dietitians work in hospitals, outpatient centers, or nursing care facilities.
Please see our report on the Top 40 Bachelor’s Degree Programs in Nutrition