Can I Become a Dietitian With a Health Science Degree?

dietitianDietitians and nutritionists are food and nutrition experts. They help people achieve a healthy lifestyle through healthy diets and nutritious food choices. Some of these health professionals are self-employed, while others work in schools, cafeterias, hospitals, nursing homes, and even grocery store chains. Can someone become a dietitian or nutritionist with a health science degree?

Education and Training

Most dietitians and nutritionists have a college degree in dietetics or clinical nutrition. Some have a degree in food service management or a similar field of study. Students can usually find these degree programs in a university college of health sciences. There are also many good programs online.

Nutrition, chemistry, biology and physiology are common courses of academic study for a food-related health science degree. However, dietitians and nutritionists need a variety of vocational skills as well. Among them are strong analytical, organizational and communication skills.

Most dietetic graduates complete hundreds of supervised training hours through internships after college graduation. However, some degree programs offer this type of training as part of the normal coursework. While most dietitians have a bachelor’s degree in a food-related health science field, some pursue advanced degrees. This can open the door to career advancements or help them retool for new opportunities.

Licensing and Certification

Most states require dietitians and nutritionists to meet licensing and certification requirements. These include a bachelor’s degree in a field related to food and nutrition, several hours of supervised training and a passing score on a uniform standard exam. The Registered Dietitian (RD) credential is another way to obtain a license since the qualifications are the same for both.

Students can receive RD credentialing through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. RD educational programs are authorized by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND), the academy’s accrediting agency.

Salary and Job Outlook

According to the “Occupational Outlook Handbook,” a United States Department of Labor publication, dietitians earn a median annual salary of $53,250. Most dietitians are employed in full-time positions, but a small percentage work part time. Self-employed dietitians who work as consultants have the most flexible schedules.

A growing interest in the role of diet in health and wellness has increased the demand for dietitians and nutritionists, especially in medical settings. As the baby boomer population ages, there will be a greater need for these health professionals in hospitals and nursing homes. The Department of Labor estimates their employment to increase 20 percent by the year 2020.

Dietitians, nutritionists and similar occupations, like health educators, have rewarding careers. Not only do they teach people about healthy food and nutrition, but they also play a role in helping them achieve their specific, health-related goals. Advanced degrees and specialties, such as medical nutrition therapy and meal planning, provide additional challenges and rewards for people who choose to work in this particular health science field.