Best Online Degrees in: Dietetics and Nutrition
Explore a Bachelor's Degree in Dietetics and Nutrition
Online degrees in dietetics and nutrition involve the study of food for use in treating disease and staying healthy. Students in this field learn about the nutrients in various foods, how food is processed in the body, and how to develop the most appropriate meal plans for people with various health concerns. Through online programs, students can access the same course content they would receive on a traditional college campus from their home computers on a schedule that works best for them. This degree program is a good fit for students who have a passion for helping others live a healthy lifestyle and develop sound eating habits, or who have a background in the food services industry and would like to move up in the field.
Some of the most popular online degree programs in dietetics and nutrition are available at the bachelor's level. Bachelor's degrees in nutrition traditionally take four years of full-time study to complete. Some colleges offer accelerated programs that allow students to finish their degree in dietetics and nutrition in a shorter timeframe. Program length is also impacted by any credits you transfer in from other schools, from AP courses taken in high school, and CLEP testing out of certain basic courses, and if you must attend the program part-time due to work and family constraints.
At the bachelor's level, the curriculum in an online dietetics and nutrition program includes general education courses in English composition, speech communication, mathematics, the social and behavioral sciences, humanities, and fine arts. Course work also includes the hard sciences, including biology, human anatomy and physiology, general and organic chemistry, biochemistry, and microbiology for health sciences. In addition, students may take some of the following core courses in dietetics and nutrition:
- Food Science. This course explores how food is preserved and processed, and the additives that are placed in foods. Students also learn techniques for food safety and touch on topics like food regulation and legislation.
- Nutrition Science. In this course, students study the structure and composition of food, including the chemical and physical components of food. An emphasis is placed on principles of metabolism and digestion, as well as the changing nutritional needs people experience through their lifecycle.
- Clinical Nutrition. In this course, students are introduced to working with patients and clients in a clinical environment. Student learn methods of assessment, strategies for working with patients and clients who exhibit certain diseases or symptoms, and how to develop diet plans that provide appropriate nutritional support for people with those ailments. Depending on the course, students may be introduced to different diseases, disorders, and conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, eating disorders, and those with urinary tract problems.
Students complete a wide array of assignments in an online dietetics and nutrition program. Instructors may ask students to write sample diet plans based on the needs of mock patients, or describe in depth what regulations certain foods must meet to become fit for human consumption. Courses in the hard sciences often entail lab work, and students must demonstrate their ability to work with lab equipment and study food science concepts, such as how and why food spoils and can cause illness.
Even at the undergraduate level, students may be required to complete a practicum in clinical nutrition. This practicum entails field work at an approved site, where students get to observe dieticians and nutritionists in action, and build practical skills in developing and evaluating diet plans, performing nutritional assessments, and documenting what they learn on the job.
Building a Career
To become a dietician or nutritionist, most people must earn a bachelor's degree in an area such as dietetics, foods and nutrition, food services systems management, or a similar area; however, many do have advanced degrees, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). These professionals may train for their careers by completing an internship built into their degree program or completing an internship after college. The majority of states require dieticians to be licensed, a process that requires a bachelor's-level college education, field experience, and passing an exam, the BLS explains.
Some individuals choose to become certified as a Registered Dietician (RD) through the Commission on Dietetic Registration during the process of gaining state licensure or merely to boost their job prospects, as some jobs may require RD certification. The median yearly salary for dietitians and nutritionists was $53,250, the BLS notes. However, remember that earning a degree does not guarantee you a job, and that your salary will vary depending on your location, the size of your employer or client base, your experience, and the level of responsibility you have.
Food and nutrition professionals may serve as clinical dieticians in hospitals, nursing homes, weight loss centers, and in private practice. Other careers in dietetics and nutrition include food service directors, sports nutritionists in fitness facilities, and food and nutrition consultants. Some dieticians and nutritionists opt to work in community health, serving as dieticians for community programs like the WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) program.