Jesus Trujillo, a registered dietitian with healthcare consortium Kaiser Permanente, says the profession is flexible because RDs are trained in all aspects of nutrition. The ability to switch settings based on professional preference, such as clinics, classrooms and offices, allows RDs to showcase the value of nutrition in the prevention and treatment of illness to groups, individuals or even an entire community. Trujillo thinks of himself as a “nutrition expert,” but to remain an expert in the field, it’s important to prioritize continual learning and development.
“There’s always new research in nutrition, and it’s hard to keep up,” adds Peggy Fullenkamp, a pediatric dietitian who graduated from ASU with an online Master of Science in Nutritional Science (Dietetics). This non-thesis program is available to registered dietitians with at least one year of professional experience who are seeking to continue their education and advance their skills as practitioners. Based on the scientific foundations of nutrition, this online master’s program reinforces essential skills in project management, interpretation of research literature, critical inquiry and problem-solving to prepare RDs to take the next step on their career path.
There are an assortment of professional possibilities you can pursue upon graduating with an online MS in Nutritional Science (Dietetics). Below are just a few potential positions where having your master’s degree can help you to be a more viable candidate.
1. Dietitian and Nutritionist
Regardless of where they work, be it a hospital, company or in private practice, dietitians and nutritionists seek to promote health and control disease through food service or nutritional programs. Planning and coordinating programs that use food and nutrition to help people manage disease and live a healthy lifestyle require that you have a background in health science along with refined skills in providing counseling and care. Whether working with individuals or a group facing a certain health risk, dietitians and nutritionists offer care by advising on what foods to eat and those to avoid, leading to improved overall health.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for dietitians and nutritionists is close to $60,000. Most employers require a graduate degree along with job experience in the specific area of study related to the position. Certain states also may require an additional license to practice. The requirements for licensing typically include at minimum a bachelor’s degree in food and nutrition or a related area, supervised practice and an exam.
Job growth in this area is significantly higher than the national average, with a 14 percent estimated increase in opportunities between 2016 and 2026 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This amounts to around 16,000 projected job openings. This large increase is most likely due to a greater awareness of the role food can play in preventing and treating diseases such as obesity and diabetes.
2. Postsecondary Educator in Health Specialties
Deciding to transform your professional experience into an opportunity to educate young minds by becoming a college instructor can you give you the ability to teach as well as spend time working on research. Selecting a specialty to teach in, whether public health, nutrition, medicine or something else, allows you to position yourself to instruct, mentor and supervise future health professionals. A large part of this occupation includes making time to plan your course, create a syllabus, prepare course materials and grade assignments and exams.
The occupation of postsecondary educators is projected to grow by 15 percent from 2016-2026, according to the BLS, although the majority of this growth is estimated to take place for part-time positions. While your salary will reflect a workload built around part-time teaching to be able to work in your field or conduct research, full-time college educators can earn a median wage around $99,000, according to the BLS.
Typically, postsecondary teaching positions require candidates to have a Ph.D., but a master’s degree and relevant work experience can potentially be enough to qualify for a teaching position at certain educational levels. Regardless of graduate degree, having hands-on work experience can be beneficial for those applying to teach in health specialties to show your level of expertise.