Nutritionists, also known as dietitians, are food and nutrition experts who advise others on what to eat to stay healthy and achieve certain health related goals. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the three major fields for nutritionists are clinical dietitians, management dieticians, and community dietitians. Since the field is specialized, almost all individuals working as dieticians must possess a degree in nutrition or dietetics. In most cases a bachelor's degree in the field is the minimum requirement to gain an entry-level position. Fortunately there are a number of top online colleges offering a undergraduate and graduate degrees in the field.
Nutrition Course Work Basics
Online colleges for nutrition typically offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in nutrition, food science, or dietetics. Bachelor's degree programs provide students with a complete understating of how food components interact with the human body. In most cases students must complete a set of basic-level courses in mathematics, physical and natural sciences, human anatomy, biology, chemistry, English and composition before moving on to major-specific courses. Online courses pertaining to the subject generally include the following:
- Advanced Nutrition and Metabolism: This course teaches metabolism and physiological actions of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and water in the human body.
- Nutritional Biochemistry: Students learn about the physiochemical aspects of energy metabolism and also various nutritional disorders, including metabolic and genetic disorders.
- Food Safety and Microbiology: This course covers the basic principles of food safety and sanitation, and teaches students about various microorganisms that cause foodborne illnesses.
- International Nutrition: Students in this course develop an understanding of the nutritional status of the world's populations and the consequences of malnutrition and health development.
While bachelor's degrees typically focus on establishing a foundational knowledge of nutrition and its effects on the human body, master's degree programs provide students with an advanced knowledge of the science behind nutrition or how to implement nutritional programs within a certain environment. Nutrition programs at the master's level may require students to pick an area of emphasis such as children's nutrition or nutrition in hospitals. In most cases a doctoral degree is only needed if the student wants to teach at the post-secondary level. In addition to having a degree, most states require that nutritionists be licensed. According to the BLS, one way to become licensed is to earn a Registered Dietitian (RD) credential.
Careers for the Nutrition Graduate
One of the most common careers for an individual possessing an online degree in nutrition is in clinical dietetics. Clinical dieticians work in hospitals and other long-term care facilities to create individual and group nutritional programs based on the health needs of patients and residents. Some may even work specifically with patients who have a certain disease or condition, such as kidney failure or an eating disorder. They also work with doctors and physicians to ensure that the nutritional needs of patients are being met. Another career option for nutritionists is as a management dietitian, a professional who manages food service operations for schools, hospitals, or large corporation cafeterias. They are usually responsible for buying food, carrying out business-related tasks, and overseeing cafeteria staff.
According to the BLS, the median wage of all dietitians and nutritionists was $52,250 in May 2010. The bottom 10% of earners in the field earned a median annual income of less than $33,330, while the top 10% of earners brought in more than $75,480. About 80% of those working in the industry do so full-time. State, local, and private hospitals employ 32% of the workers in the field, according to the BLS. Employment in this occupation is expected to grow 20% from 2010 to 2020, which is faster than average for all occupations.