Nutritionists and dietitians advise patients and clients on health and dietary needs and evaluate meal plans and develop new meal plans to promote healthy eating habits. Dietitians and nutritionists may work in hospitals, schools, and nursing homes, or may be self-employed and work as consultants for individual clients. They require communication skills to explain technical dietary requirements in an understandable way, and analytical and organizational skills to understand client goals and set up client-specific regimens.
In addition to core curriculum, nutritionist degree program course work may require science course work in anatomy and physiology, biochemistry, biology and genetics, and chemistry. Required nutrition course work usually consists of human nutrition, food chemistry, and nutrition assessment and planning. Advanced course work may cover sports nutrition, obesity and weight management, metabolic nutritional therapy, and dietetics.
- Human Nutrition. Human nutrition emphasizes the functions of nutrient sources required for optimal health. The course may cover dietary habits for general health and current issues in nutrition. Students are also introduced to the chemical properties of food.
- Food Processing. Food processing covers the principles and practices of canning, freezing, dehydration, pickling, and food manufacturing. The course studies concepts in preparation, processing, packaging, and additives. Advanced course work may study specific food processing such as meat or poultry, and their physical, microbiological, and functional characteristics.
- Food Chemistry.Food chemistry studies the chemical and physical properties of food and its use, quality, and preparation. Food chemistry usually coincides with a lab requirement where principles and experiments in lab chemistry are applied.
Most nutrition courses will correspond with required reading in current nutritional or dietetic research. Assignments may require students to develop meal plans or menus, or conduct laboratory study or extensive research into diet and human performance.
Degree programs in nutrition science prepare students for careers as nutritionists, registered dietitians (RD) or other dietetics professionals. Nutrition science students can choose from a Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD), which focuses on classroom study, or a Coordinated Dietetics Program (CDP), which combines classroom study with field experience. Some academic institutions offer concentrations in areas such as nutrition and dietetics management, comprehensive, sports nutrition, human nutrition and community nutrition. Aspiring registered dieticians are required to complete an internship, which is part of the DPD curriculum. Common courses include:
- Human nutrition fundamentals
- Biochemistry of nutrients
- Ethnic foods
- Human metabolism
- Nutrition counseling
- Dietetic principles of food production
Popular Career Options
A broad range of careers await graduates of nutrition science bachelor’s degree programs. They can acquire jobs in fields like community nutrition, sales, product development, healthcare facilities, sports nutrition and private practices. Some career choices include:
- Community nutritionist
- Home health care aide
- Registered dietician
- Nutrition consultant
- Dietetic technician