What to Major in to Become a Nutritionist

Nutrition has become an important subject in America, and this focus on better food sources and a proper diet influences other industries, such as the medical and agricultural fields. Several colleges and universities around the country offer accredited undergraduate programs in which students can major in nutrition and related subjects.

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What Should You Major in to Become a Nutritionist?

Typically, nutritionists only need a bachelor's degree to practice, though some states require professional registration as well. Both on-campus and distance learning bachelor's degree programs in many areas of health and nutrition science are available. While no particular undergraduate major is required to become a nutritionist, some may prepare students better than others. Undergraduate majors for prospective nutritionists may include:

  • Natural health
  • Holistic nutrition
  • Dietetics
  • Physiology and metabolism
  • Nutrition
  • Health and fitness

Graduate-Level Study

There are several areas of concentration and research available to master's and doctoral students in nutrition as well. Students in graduate programs in nutrition may focus on:

  • Biotechnology
  • Sports nutrition
  • International and community nutrition
  • Agricultural and environmental sciences
  • Biochemical and molecular nutrition
  • Public health and education
  • Medical nutrition
  • Holistic nutrition
  • Molecular toxicology

The American Dietetic Association: Registration and Resources

Professional registration through the American Dietetic Association (ADA) is recommended, if not always required, for nutritionists since it can lead to more desirable jobs, salaries and professional opportunities. Registration requires the completion of a practicum at a local laboratory, healthcare facility or food production company. This requirement is usually completed as part of an undergraduate or graduate degree program.

The ADA also provides a listing of schools by state with at least one degree program in health and nutrition, including degree type, average class sizes, tuition rates and contact information. Students may also look up accredited internship sites available in their state on the ADA's website, www.eatright.org.

Membership in the ADA offers continuing education opportunities for registered nutritionists to maintain an active certification. Other benefits include access to research studies, travel discounts, networking with other professionals and career information. The organization also invests in the future of the profession by offering student members scholarships between $500 and $3,000 annually.

Employment Opportunities for Nutritionists

Nutritionists fill vital roles in private industry and public service. Nutritionists may find careers in research, education, public health and consultation services. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual salary for nutritionists and dietitians as of May 2009 was $53,230. The BLS anticipates the employment rate for nutritionists to grow nine percent between 2008 and 2018, and those with advanced education and ADA registration may find themselves with the most desirable qualifications.

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