Growth in this sector is often based on a combination of on-the-job experience and education, so continuing to learn by earning additional degrees can be a key component to success. It also keeps you on top of new developments in health and nutrition.
One potential career path for individuals interested in health science is a registered dietitian (RD). Obtainable with a bachelor’s degree until 2024, when a master’s degree will be required, this position can help you build professional experience while also preparing for future career steps you may like to take.
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.
3. Wellness or Nutrition Director
Although individuals in this role can provide support and counseling in general health and nutrition for clients, most often wellness or nutrition directors spend their time developing, coordinating, and managing fitness and wellness programs and services. These broad responsibilities include generating a marketing strategy, supervising and training staff and overseeing facilities to ensure safety. The target goal of any program is to help keep the public as healthy as possible. People in this role can work at gyms or in fitness centers, among other places.
BLS data compiled by O*Net Online showed that this type of role, specifically fitness and wellness director, had a projected employment growth of 10 percent to 14 percent between 2016 and 2026. The 2016 median salary for wellness directors was around $78,000.
While most employers looking to hire for this position require a bachelor’s degree in health education or a related discipline, adding a postgraduate degree such as your master’s can help make you a more appealing candidate if applying for a position at a major corporation or government entity. Additional educational requirements can be required based upon the type of employer as well. For example, working in a health or fitness center might require that you have certification in personal training, nutrition or a related field.
4. Dietetics and Nutrition Manager
Also known as natural science managers, individuals in this role plan, direct and coordinate activities related to diet and nutrition, including research and development. This can lead to the creation and implementation of policies, standards and procedures related to the research being done. Work in this role can also put you in the lab, collaborating directly with scientists.
Although job growth in this position is below the national average, according to the BLS, the median salary is around $119,000. Job experience plays an important factor for those looking to get hired as a dietetics and nutrition manager, as well as your level of education. Often, a graduate degree is required for eligibility, and while a master’s degree is popular, certain hiring managers may be looking for candidates to have a Ph.D.
5. Sports Nutritionist
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the sports nutrition profession will continue to gain increased recognition due to the greater emphasis on nutrition education and awareness in athletics. Working with athletes to promote nutrition-conscious lifestyles is at the center of a sport nutritionist’s role. This is achieved through meal planning, menu development plans and nutrient education for the entire sports team, entity or individuals you’re supporting.
The average hourly pay for sports nutritionists is $23, with salaries getting as high as $74,000, according to Payscale. Primarily, employers looking to fill this position require a bachelor’s degree in a related field such as nutrition or exercise science. However, an advanced degree can position you for more opportunities in education, research and administration, not to mention bringing in more clients. In addition, holding any credentials beyond registered dietitian will help to set you apart from your peers when applying for a position.
Learn more about your potential careers in nutrition and dietetics
Considering what step comes next after becoming a registered dietitian can lead you back to your education and a graduate degree such as the online Master of Science in Nutritional Science (Dietetics) from ASU. Committed to a rigorous, high-caliber education, this degree program is designed with working professionals and students’ learning preferences in mind and can be taken as both a full-time or part-time program. Contact an enrollment advisor today to learn more about this online degree program.