Licensed nutritionists don't just provide counseling for people looking to lose weight. They work in hospitals, school cafeterias, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities to design menus, create rehabilitation plans, and propose strategies to improve health. Aspiring nutritionists must enroll in a bachelor's program with a curriculum approved by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, complete an internship and pass a licensing exam. The career path starts with taking the right course work to provide a strong foundation for practice.
Much of the course work in a nutrition degree program involves the science of nutrition itself. Most programs include introductory courses to nutrition and dietetics, as well as intermediate and advanced nutrition. Some programs break down the study of nutrition into special topics or populations, such as nutrition and physical fitness, medical nutrition therapy, applications in human nutrition or nutrition in the life cycle. This course work provides the basic foundation for students to use in their professional practice and to continue their studies.
To truly understand nutrition, students must know how it affects the processes in the body, such as how carbohydrates can affect hormonal balance or how protein can influence muscle repair. Therefore, students who study nutrition must take several courses in the natural sciences, including biology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology. Some programs may require several classes in a particular science, such as general chemistry, biochemistry and organic chemistry. This training helps students understand how food and nutrients impact the body's organs, tissues and systems, as well as how they influence the processes that take place in the body, such as the metabolism or the formation of disease.
Food Service Management
Every nutrition program includes at least one course in food service management, if not several courses that explore the different aspects of food service. Nutritionists may pursue careers in food service management at schools, healthcare facilities, sports training facilities, or even hotel chains or restaurants. This course work provides the training for developing menus for large groups of people, as well as how to manage inventory and assure the freshness and safety of foods.
Community is a focus for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics when approving nutrition programs. Course work may include classes in nutrition education or counseling, or there may be a course called community nutrition. These classes teach students to educate the public on the importance of good nutrition and how that is defined. Community nutrition classes focus on working with community groups and government services to put nutritional programs in place or to create educational programs.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook: Dietitians and Nutritionists
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition: Becoming a Registered Dietitian
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Registered Dietitian (RD): Educational and Professional Requirements
- The University of North Carolina Greensboro: Nutrition Major - B.S.
- Arizona State University: School of Nutrition and Health Promotion: Didactic Program in Dietetics Student Handbook
- Arizona State University: School of Nutrition and Health Promotion: Becoming a Registered Dietitian
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