Students who are interested in pursuing a career in nutrition might wonder what level of education is needed to work in the field. At minimum, a bachelor’s degree is needed to work in nutrition science. However, if you wish to pursue a nutrition specialty and further advance your career, a master’s or doctorate degree will likely be needed.
There are many different nutrition degree programs available for aspiring dietitians and nutrition professionals, which we will go over below. In addition to a degree, your state will likely require you to be licensed, registered and/or certified to fully qualify for a position in the field. Make sure to research and prepare for your state’s requirements early on so you can plan your educational path accordingly.
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Associate’s Degree Program
Although students cannot become licensed nutritionists by earning an associate’s degree, they can use their educational experience to become employed as dietetic technicians or to build a foundation to eventually continue their education.
Associate’s degree programs include general studies courses such as math and writing. Nutrition-related courses will include weight management theory, community and sports nutrition, herbal sciences, and sustainability.
This type of nutrition degree usually takes two year to complete. Hands-on training through an internship may also be part of the coursework.
Bachelor’s Degree Programs
Depending on your career goals, there are several different degrees you can pursue. You may wish to work as a nutritionist, a researcher, an educator or in a number of other professions that focus on nutritional health and science.
Nutrition science degree programs usually take four years to finish. If you want to become registered or certified, you will need to complete this level of education. This degree route goes more in-depth on theories related to nutrition. Programs typically focus on biological, physical and social sciences, and you will learn about the relationship between nutrients and the body.
Undergraduate programs in food science, biology, microbiology, chemistry, biochemistry human anatomy, dietetics and community nutrition also can lend themselves to a career in nutrition. In fact, these subjects make up most of the coursework in a nutrition science degree program.
During your undergraduate education, you can choose a concentration to prepare you for your desired career path. Some of these concentrations include food service administration, nutrition education, public health nutrition and policy or physiology and metabolism.
Master’s Degree Programs
Master of Science nutrition degree programs allow students to build their skills and broaden their scope of knowledge. These programs take about two years of full-time study and allow individuals to delve into a specialty.
Students can also choose to focus on certain aspects of nutrition science such as research, consultation, administration, education or professional practice. Some typical coursework might include studies about eating disorders, epidemiology and biostatistics.
Doctoral Degree Programs
Earning a PhD. in nutrition requires less classroom time and more time spent on practical experience and research. For those that want to teach at the college level or conduct research in a laboratory, a doctoral degree program may be right for you. Professionals with a doctoral degree also often work in managerial roles in the private or public sector.