By Christina Meyer-Jax, MS, RDN, LDN, CLT, RYT
As we understand more and more about the critical relationship between food choices and individual health, the field of nutrition continues to expand. If you’re a healthcare professional, this also makes it an exciting time to strengthen your credentials with an advanced degree in nutrition.
Registered dietitians, registered nurses, chiropractors, medical doctors, and other healthcare practitioners can all benefit from an advanced degree in nutrition.
I’ve been a professional in the field of nutrition for 25 years. I’m also the chair for the Master of Health Science in Functional and Integrative Nutrition program at Northwestern Health Sciences University. In the following, I’ll describe four reasons for attaining an advanced degree in nutrition.
1. Create New Directions for Your Career
Are you content in your current professional role? Are you looking for a possible change?
Depending on your education, credentials, and profession, as well as the state in which you practice, gaining an advanced degree in nutrition could open up avenues like the following.
Do any of these fit with your professional ambitions?
Healthcare. Possibilities include being a health coach or having a nutrition-based clinical practice within a concierge or boutique clinic, medical center, hospital, chiropractic office, long-term care facility, or other clinical care setting.
Wellness. Examples include health coaching in fitness centers or wellness retreats. There’s also the possibility of being a nutrition expert in the natural products or dietary supplements industries.
Public health, policy, and organizational leadership. Your nutrition credentials can create opportunities in research and development, community health and wellness education programs, and corporate employee wellness programs.
Food-related industry. There are numerous potential roles for people with nutrition expertise in the food and beverage industry, the restaurant industry, culinary institutes, and corporate food service establishments.
Higher education. With that advanced degree in nutrition, you could also pursue teaching positions in higher education as well as the expanding opportunities for doctoral-level studies in nutrition-related areas.
2. Strengthen Your Current Practice to Be a More Effective Practitioner
For some healthcare practitioners, an advanced degree in nutrition can empower them to add nutrition-based care to their scope of practice.
More people today are consciously seeking alternatives to prescription drugs and invasive medical procedures.
Healthcare professionals with nutrition expertise can help people identify possible ways to address health problems — or prevent them — through diet.
Plus, you could also gain a new segment of clients or patients with your added expertise.
3. Deepen Your Expertise with the Latest Evidence-Based Approaches to Nutrition
Are you already a practicing dietitian with an undergraduate in nutrition? With an advanced degree, you can add valuable knowledge to what you learned in college. More specifically, you can gain insights that improve your ability to implement personalized nutritional interventions and recommendations.
This is especially true if the advanced degree you attain emphasizes functional nutrition. Functional nutrition represents a progressive, highly individualized approach to improving people’s health and wellness through diet.
Practitioners of functional nutrition see food as medicine. They bring an evidence-based perspective to how specific dietary choices can alleviate current health issues, prevent others, and enhance overall health.
4. Stay More Competitive in the Job Market
According to the Commission on Dietetic Registration, “Effective January 1, 2024, the minimum degree requirement for eligibility to take the registration examination for dietitians will change from a bachelor’s degree to a graduate degree.”
If you’re currently a registered dietician, yes, you’ll be exempted from the new requirement.
However, earning an advanced degree in nutrition can help strengthen your qualifications and make you a more attractive job candidate. This is an important factor as nutrition-related positions grow more competitive and employers state that a master’s degree is “preferred” or in some cases “required.”
There’s also the fact that earning an advanced degree in nutrition can increase your earning potential and enable you to be more effective as a nutrition-based healthcare practitioner (see No. 3).
Take the next step and start exploring graduate programs in nutrition
If you’d like to make a positive change in your current role as a healthcare professional, you now can see how an advanced degree in nutrition could help.
Do any of the reasons above resonate with you? If so, then I suggest you take the next step and start exploring graduate programs in nutrition.
Christina Meyer-Jax, MS, RDN, LDN, CLT, RYT, is a passionate believer that good food matters for everyone. She is the Program Chair for the Master of Health Science in Functional and Integrative Nutrition at Northwestern Health Sciences University.