What is Nutrition Science?

Nutrition science is a field that continues to evolve. With developments in research and dietetic practice, health and wellness have taken on a new level of importance.

More people are choosing to take charge of their health, and the need is high for healthcare providers who can help with a range of nutritional concerns. Dietitians and nutritionists are influential in motivating people to exercise and incorporate healthy foods into their diets.

To learn more about nutrition science and how to work in in this field, click on the links below.

  1. Nutrition Science Defined: What It Is And Why It’s Important
  2. How Do I Earn A Degree In Nutrition Science?
  3. What Can I Do With A Degree In Nutrition Science?
  4. What Qualifications Do I Need To Work In Nutrition Science?
  5. What Fields Are Related To Nutrition Science?

Nutrition Science Defined: What It Is And Why It’s Important

Nutrition science focuses largely on dietary concerns and health issues surrounding food, eating, and medicine. It’s a multi-faceted field that is rooted in chemistry, biology, and the social sciences, with many areas of specialization. Nutrition science also includes the study of behaviors and social factors related to food choices.

Nutrition science is also a broad field with many areas of specialization. These areas include food and wellness, community nutrition, exercise science, and nutrition education.

Those who study nutrition science often become dietitians or nutritionists. Dietitians and nutritionists are experts in the use of food and nutrition to promote health and manage disease. They advise people on what to eat to lead a healthy lifestyle, or achieve a specific health-related goal.

How Do I Earn A Degree In Nutrition Science?

While it is not required to have a licence to work in some aspects of nutrition, the career options are much more limited for those without. 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.

If you’re interested in earning a degree in nutrition science, you have a few different options, as outlined below:

  • Associate of Science in Nutrition: An AS in Nutrition is a two-year degree that prepares graduates for entry-level positions in traditional health settings.
  • Bachelor of Science in Nutrition: A BS in Nutrition is a four-year program typically designed to prepare graduates to work as a Registered Dietician. Graduates typically go on to work as a nutritionist, health educator, or coach, or as a health promotion consultant in schools, health care facilities, corporations, wellness facilities, or the fitness setting.
  • Master of Science in Nutrition: An MS in Nutrition is a two-year program designed for students with a bachelor’s in a life or physical sciences, including registered dietitians (RD/RDN), registered nurses, and other healthcare professionals. Graduate-level programs in nutrition often include a research component and culminates in a thesis.

Now that you’re familiar with your degree options, check out the accredited programs below:

Featured Nutrition Science Programs

Purdue University

Accreditation: HLC, NCA

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American University

Accreditation: MSA

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Ashford University

Accreditation: WSCUC

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Sacred Heart University

Accreditation: NEASC

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Benedictine University

Accreditation: HLC, NCA

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California Baptist University

Accreditation: WASC

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What Can I Do With A Degree In Nutrition Science?

For those who choose to study nutrition science, the career options are wide-ranging. From fitness trackers to extraordinary medical breakthroughs, these technological advancements are allowing people to become more conscientious of their health everyday. Due to these health-based technological advancements, nutritionists and dietitians are needed in variety of industries and settings.

With a degree in nutrition science, your career path depends on your area of interest in nutrition. Dietitians can work in a private practice or healthcare facility as well as corporate facilities, kitchens, research and development organizations, and non-profit organizations. They can also work with a specific population group, such as children, the elderly, minorities, or the physically challenged.

It is no surprise that employment in this field is expected to grow 15% from 2016 to 2026, according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is much faster than the average for all occupations. An interest in the role of food and nutrition in promoting health and wellness has increased, creating more jobs.

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.

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What Qualifications Do I Need To Work In Nutrition Science?

Certified nutritionists and registered dietitians must adhere to specific requirements administered by the state agency where that license is to be held. These requirements vary by state so it’s important to know those requirements before seeking employment.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “forty-seven states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia currently have statutory provisions regulating the dietetics profession or associated titles such as dietitian and nutritionist.”

Many degree programs prepare students for certification exams. When researching schools, it’s a good idea to verify that the program offers courses covering topics tested by your state’s licensing board.

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What Fields Are Related To Nutrition Science?

Nutrition science is a broad discipline with many subfields. While enrolled in a nutrition science degree program, you’ll likely learn about these subfields and how they relate to one another. Below are a few subfields related to nutrition science that offer unique job and research opportunities:

Research Studies

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 nutrition 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 (source: United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, data for May 2017).

USDA food access research atlas
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 nutrition 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 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

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, where 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 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 and pharmacology, or become a physician’s assistant.

Food Industry

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

Nutrition 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 nutrition science. Agricultural and food scientists can earn over $62,000 a year.

Nutrition 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.

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