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What is Nutrition Science?
Nutritional science focuses largely on dietary concerns and health issues surrounding food, eating, and medicine. This is a multi-faceted field that is rooted in chemistry, biology, and the social sciences. With a nutrition science degree, you can conduct nutrition-related research studies, create community and public health programs, or work in medicine or the food industry.
From fitness trackers to medical extraordinary breakthroughs, these technological advancements are allowing people to becoming more conscientious of their health everyday. With all of these health-based technological advancements, nutritionists and dietitians are needed in variety of industries and settings. It is no surprise that employment in this field is expected to grow 16% by 2024.
No matter what your career in nutrition and dietetics is, your goal is to promote health, understanding, change, and a better quality of life. You can accomplish that goal in a variety of ways, depending upon which industry you choose to work in.
What are my degree options in nutritional science?
Degree programs in nutritional science are specifically designed to train students to work as a nutritionist, educator, researcher, and a number of other careers that focus on how science and health work together. Depending on your career goals, there are a number of different degree options to choose from. Our list of schools will help you find the right program that meets your needs:
Nutrition scientists can conduct research studies for government, public, or private organizations. As a society we are always looking for ways to improve our quality of life, and the goal of a research nutrition scientist is to figure out how we can do that. These studies can be conducted from a sociological, chemical, or biological orientation.
When most people think of research studies about nutritional science, they are likely thinking of studies about various nutrients’ biological and chemical reactions in our bodies. This type of research examines how vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients (or lack thereof) affect the body throughout our lives. They often also address how certain foods can either prevent or exacerbate illnesses, and what it typically means when we crave certain types of food.
Sociological research focuses on addressing and providing solutions to issues involving correlations between socioeconomic status and diet and health. These studies can provide valuable insight into existing government assistance programs, and locations that are considered “food deserts.” Food deserts are areas (often urban) with no convenient and affordable access to good-quality, fresh foods. The green areas of the USDA map below are locations that are both low income and have low access to a supermarket (more than 1 – 10 miles away).
Nutrition scientists continue their education well beyond earning their degrees and certifications. Even if you do not want to solely concentrate on research, it is important to be knowledgeable of the discoveries made in this field.
Community & Public Health
While research studies can ultimately benefit the community, many nutritional science professionals choose to interact with the public in a more direct way. They do so usually by creating and/or implementing educational workshops and meal plans. Nutritional scientists can focus on educating or helping a specific type of population like geriatric, low income, or women, infants, and children (WIC).
Workshops allow you to educate people about what their bodies need in order to function properly, what healthy foods are, and where to find these foods. You could also create balanced meal plans for schools, prisons, or for congregate meal programs for the elderly like “Meals on Wheels.”
Animal nutrition is yet another area that nutrition scientists are needed in. In this sub-field, you can help pet owners and animal professionals alike understand what nutrients an animal needs in order to thrive. This knowledge can be especially helpful in rescue scenarios, and the animal does not have easy access to foods that are in their natural diet. Research done by animal nutritionists allows animal caretakers to know what nutrients that may need to be supplemented so as to prevent them from becoming ill. As an animal nutritionist or dietitian, you can work as a private consultant, with veterinarians, in research and academia, zoos, animal welfare organizations, or with animal food companies.
Medicine & Healthcare
A bachelor’s degree program in nutrition science can give you a solid foundation in subjects like biology, biochemistry, molecular biology, chemistry, physics, statistics, and physiology. With this knowledge, many students choose and are able to go into medical, dental, or veterinary school. You can also continue your education in other areas of healthcare like physical therapy, pharmacology, or become a physician’s assistant.
Food nutritionists can play a variety of roles within the food industry. In addition to being consultants and food-purchasers for a food organization, a food nutritionist can work as a customer service, production, or marketing representative. For example, if you work for a baby food company, you can work with the production team to research and ensure that their product will have enough nutrients necessary to aid in a baby’s proper development. You could also assist the marketing team by helping them correctly promote their products’ ingredients, allowing them to highlight why their food is essential for babies. With several years of experience, you can also oversee other dietitians and nutritionists in a management role.
Other Nutrition Science Applications
Nutritional science professionals can conduct research or act as consultants for individuals and private organizations like fitness centers, corporations, and athletes. Conversely, there are those who work on a global scale, assisting non-profit and government programs tackle widespread hunger, health, and food supply issues in other countries.
Nutrition scientists can also choose to focus on food-only science – there are plenty of careers that look only at the chemical aspects of food. For instance, there are careers in agriculture that deal with food science, horticulture science and natural resources that are perfectly suited for those who have experience and interest in nutritional science. Agricultural and food scientists can earn over $62,000 a year.
Nutritional science is a vast and rapidly growing field with a plethora of applications. Be sure to check out our guide that explains the what the difference is between a nutritionist and a dietitian, and explore the rest of our website to learn even more about working as a professional in this diverse field.