Is a nutrition degree worth it?
In general, the short answer is yes, it’s worth it if you want to become a Nutritionist. Also because the degree is a legal requirement to enter the profession. However, there are other considerations to make.
Because of the increase in sicknesses like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and specific cancers related to food consumption, there is a constant demand for nutritionists in the UK.
These stats paint an incredible picture:
So why is nutrition exploding so much?
Well, nutritionists use their knowledge of the human body and the science of food to change people’s relationship with food. This contributes to an improvement of their overall lifestyle, increasing their energy levels, and reducing the risk of diseases.
We know it can be hard to get clear and concise information about the worthiness of a nutrition degree, especially with the oversaturation of information on the internet. So if you are considering getting a nutrition degree, this article have you covered.
So the question is: what kind of training do you need to successfully do this profession?
This article will provide you with all the information you need to decide for yourself whether or not a nutrition degree is worth it.
We will discuss what is involved in getting a nutrition degree, the jobs available, and the advantages and disadvantages of getting the degree.
So, let’s get right to it.
Nutrition degrees are available at different levels of education, from a Bachelor of Science to a postgraduate degree.
These degrees enable students to develop skills in food development, physiology, nutritional information communication, and nutritional science.
A nutrition major will also enable students to discover the links between diet, disease, performance, and health.
Besides, students will also learn the fundamentals of health science, physiology, food science, biochemistry, and microbiology.
Nutrition students, through this degree, will understand the effects different diets have on the body and how the body uses nutrients. This process is key, as it is one of the major reasons nutritionists are in demand. Plus, there are multiple concentrations students can choose from, depending on their career goals, such as public health, general nutrition, and pre-medicine.
As stated earlier, students can take an undergraduate or postgraduate degree in nutrition. The Bachelors of Science nutrition degrees typically have degree titles like:
These undergraduate programmers prepare students for further study or a career in the nutrition field. Let’s look at some of the topics covered in a typical Bachelor’s degree program.
Nutrition degree programs at the undergraduate level include different science courses like biology, chemistry, anatomy, food science, mathematics, and psychology. The first year of a bachelor’s degree program normally has students delving into an introduction to human nutrition. Further down the line of their education, they cover advanced nutrition areas like food policy, diet and health, medical nutrition therapy, and clinical nutrition. Other courses offered include public health nutrition, metabolic biochemistry, human sciences, and nutrition through the human lifecycle.
Many degree programs offer specialist courses for students who want to explore a particular nutrition niche. Some nutrition degree programs require students to have practical experience in the field before graduation.
Additionally, many of these nutrition degree courses taught in UK universities are accredited by the Association for Nutrition, proving that graduated students have the skills and knowledge to deliver the work of a nutritionist.
These degrees are designed to provide students with different skills that will come in handy in the professional world. Outlined below are some of these skills.
As a nutritionist, you will analyze your clients’ conditions and provide appropriate solutions for them. Plus, you’ll need to assess updated medical records and research to provide your clients with the best care.
Nutritionists work with other medical professionals, and you need strong interpersonal skills to ensure there is little to no friction. You also need to be able to convey critical information to other health care professionals and your patients while providing high-quality care.
As a nutritionist, you will be tasked with training your patients to ensure they consume the right foods, and this involves creating a healthcare plan that they must follow. Also, a nutrition degree will enable you to be able to evaluate your patients and create the best care plan based on their dietary needs.
You will be juggling different tasks as a nutritionist, and you need to be organized to succeed in all of them. To be a successful nutritionist, you need to know how to manage your time and stay organized at all times because your patient’s health depends on it.
Research is a big part of any nutrition career path, and your degree will be your first introduction to carrying out extensive research. Besides, nutritionists need to know how to find up-to-date research and apply it to their practice.
The entry requirements differ depending on whether it’s an undergraduate or postgraduate degree. For undergraduate nutrition degrees, universities usually need students to have at least two A levels, including chemistry and biology, plus five GCSEs (grade A-C), including mathematics, English, and science.
An alternative requirement for undergraduate programs includes a Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC) diploma in applied sciences, science-based Higher National Certificate (HNC), Higher National Diploma, relevant NVQ, science-based Access course, or equivalent Irish or Scottish qualifications.
On the other hand, postgraduate degrees in nutrition require students to have at least a 2:2 in an applicable undergraduate degree like chemistry, nutrition, biology, physiology, and dietetics. However, every university has distinct entry requirements for both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, so it is critical to check carefully.
Undergraduate nutrition degrees typically take between three to four years to complete depending on the student’s pace. This degree also includes a placement year, where students will be placed in paid or unpaid internship nutrition-related roles. Postgraduate degrees, on the other hand, take at least one year of full-time study.
As opposed to what many people think, dieticians and nutritionists are not the same. For one, the term ‘nutritionist’ is not a protected title like ‘dietician.’ Also, a degree and career as a dietician are more regulated than that of a nutritionist.
Unlike dieticians who are designated a placement in care facilities by the Registered Dietician Nutritionist (RDN) body, nutritionists have to write and pass an advanced certification through the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists to be given the title of Certified Nutrition Specialist.
There is a myriad of job opportunities available to anyone with a nutrition degree, and we will discuss some of them in this section. So, let’s get right to it.
A nutrition degree enables you to understand the chemistry of food at a molecular level and how the human body uses the nutrients in the food. A career in food chemistry will enable you to enhance the preparation, processing, distribution, and storage of processed foods. You will also be tasked with creating unique new products and recipes.
As a clinical nutritionist, you will deliver your knowledge and expertise to public or private health facilities to enable patients to get better through good dietary and nutritional habits. You will be in charge of analysing your patient’s diet and medical history to determine how their nutritional habits can improve their health and alleviate the symptoms of prolonged illness.
You can deliver your knowledge and expertise in food chemistry to ensure that food products comply with health and safety regulations. As a food microbiologist, you will be in charge of researching microorganisms in food and helping to prevent the occurrence of foodborne diseases,
You can use your nutritionist degree as a step up to further your education and career as a dietician because even though they are similar roles, they are very different. As a dietician, you will be in charge of patients in healthcare facilities with diet-related conditions, like eating disorders, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, malnutrition, and chronic fatigue. Your responsibilities involve educating your patients, conducting nutritional assessments, and developing care plans to improve their health.
As a food safety auditor, your primary role is to assess food quality and ensure that it does not contain any hazardous materials. You will also conduct evaluations of food safety management systems, products, and premises to ensure that all types of foods are safe.
You can use your nutrition degree to get a job as a food production manager. Here, you will plan, maintain and supervise the food production lines and processes to ensure efficiency and high quality at all times. Additionally, you will work in close quarters with food production teams to develop recipes.
As a food scientist, you will conduct research on how different dietary habits affect human health, and as a food technologist, you will work on the growth and production of food products. This role will require you to oversee the quality and safety of food products, ensuring food production legislation compliance.
You can pursue a career as a home economist with your nutrition degree. As a home economist, you will assist people and communities in taking charge of their health and creating healthy habits. Also, you can work in hospitals, hotels, restaurants, and government agencies as a home economist.
As a health care aide, you will provide direct care and support to patients who are ill, disabled, or elderly. You can also use your nutrition degree to provide healthy meals and nutritional assistance to your infirmed, disabled, or elderly clients.
You can use your nutrition degree to become a consultant for individuals, companies, and large organizations that are interested in diet and nutrition. You will be tasked to provide guidance on the dietary and nutritional needs of their staff, customers, and the public.
As a public health nutritionist, you will be tasked with identifying the source of different nutrition issues in multiple communities and looking for ways to address them. You will also apply your knowledge and expertise in human nutrition, physiology, biochemistry, social sciences, and food systems to develop nutrition strategies that will improve the health of the populace.
With a degree in nutrition, you can get a job as a public health director. They are tasked with working with governmental bodies to assess, organize, plan, and manage programs that will improve the health and well-being of the population.
You can use your knowledge as a nutritionist in your regulatory affairs career, as you will be responsible for ensuring that organizations meet all federal, industrial, and international regulations that apply to their products. You will also manage the growth and analyses of governing controls over the delivery and production of food.
You can specialize as a sports nutritionist after you get your degree. This role involves providing nutrition guidance to athletes to improve their health and athletic performance.
You can further your nutrition education to the Ph.D. level, enabling you to guide and teach the next generation of nutritionists as a university professor. This career involves continuous research, ensuring that you provide the next generation with up-to-date information. You will also create curse work, teach and grade your students’ performance.
Fitness and wellness coordinators typically work at rehabilitation centres, recreation facilities, schools, and nursing homes, where they run education programs. These programs help promote better health and wellness through diet and nutrition.
You can use your nutrition degree to pursue a career in animal nutrition. As an animal nutritionist, you will use your knowledge of nutrition and animal science to develop diets and plans for different animals. However, this career requires further education before you can practice.
You can use your nutrition degree to specialise in nutritional therapy, which involves using diets, foods, supplements, and functional foods to improve health and alleviate certain conditions. As a nutritional therapist, you will work one-on-one with clients to provide them with the best care.
As a community health worker, you are responsible for identifying public health issues and educating communities on health and wellness. You will typically work in schools, non-profits, hospitals, and community centres.
You can use your nutrition degree to become a catering manager. As a catering manager, you will be responsible for overseeing daily catering operations in different environments, and your tasks can involve planning menus and monitoring the food quality. Additionally, catering managers typically work in medical facilities, catering organizations, hotels, and corporate settings.
Also read: a list of 20+ useless degrees
Nutritionists usually make between £15,000 and £25,000 annually for starting public roles and between £20,000 and £25,000 annually for starting public roles. Experienced nutritionists typically make between £30,000 and £55,000 per year.
On the other hand, self-employed nutritionists have extremely variable salaries that depend on location, the number of clients, and other factors. However, the best indication indicates that self-employed nutritionists earn an average of £22,000 to £28,000 yearly.
There are many advantages of getting a nutritionist degree.
A nutritionist degree will provide opportunities for different career paths while enabling you to understand how the human body works.
With a nutritionist degree, you will be able to learn and understand the chemistry and biology of food and how it relates to human health, enabling you to provide your clients with the best care.
Also, a degree in nutrition will enable you to stand out in the market – even though the nutritionist career is not as regulated, with a degree, you have the edge over the competition.
While a nutrition degree is worth it, there are scenarios where it might not be.
Being a nutritionist is not a legally protected title in the UK, and even though there are AFN-accredited degree courses, there is still a lot of misinformation about the career.
Additionally, your nutrition degree is not enough to be a certified nutritionist – you still have to take and pass an advanced certification through the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists.
If you decide that spending three to four years pursuing a nutrition degree is not for you, you can look into our online nutrition courses and training.
The Association for Nutrition (AFN) certified online nutrition courses are available and those will help you increase your nutrition knowledge, enabling you to pursue a career as a nutrition coach.
Highlighted below are a few of these alternatives: