Master’s in Nutrition Sciences: Advancing Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Career Paths
December 11, 2020 | edX team
Like most other healthcare professions, the field of nutrition requires a deep set of knowledge, skills, and real-life learning experiences in a clinical setting. For mid-career registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) and professionals working in dietetics or related fields, a master’s degree in nutritional sciences can unlock a wide array of career advancement opportunities.
Students from the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) master’s degree program in Nutritional Sciences demonstrate these outcomes. A recent survey showed that nearly 60% of the program’s enrolled students had at least four years of work experience (30% had 10 or more years), and job titles ranging from CEO and CFO to clinical dietitian and wellness dietitian in fields such as public health, food service, wellness, private practice, clinical nutrition, and more.
In this article, we explore the top reasons professionals like those in UT Austin’s program pursue a master’s degree in nutrition science, including:
- Gaining Deeper and Broader Knowledge
- Becoming a Trusted Leader
- Increasing Professional Satisfaction
- Boosting Earning Potential
Gain Deeper and Broader Knowledge
Employers are increasingly looking for expertise as they hire more dietitians to lead their health and wellness programs. Whether it’s working in nursing homes, serving pediatric patients, designing a program to fight obesity, or providing outpatient care, your knowledge and critical thinking skills will be key to your success.
Almost all healthcare professions have increased entry-level educational standards based on an expansion of knowledge and the need for deeper and wider expertise. Graduate-level coursework is becoming an increasingly common requirement for careers in health education, nutrition, and dietetics. A master’s degree in nutritional science reflects that expanded knowledge, which is another big reason that dietitians cite as an advantage for going back to school to pursue advanced coursework. One UT Austin survey respondent said that their goal was to gain an “increased knowledge base and strengthened foundation” in the field of nutrition. Another replied that they sought a “more solid nutrition science foundation.”
Education programs such as UT Austin’s master’s degree in nutrition science help you gain knowledge with real-world applications and complete specialized coursework in biochemistry, functional nutrition, health promotion, and disease prevention. You’ll emerge equipped to immediately impact the field and influence awareness of nutritional health in any setting.
Become a Trusted Leader in the Nutrition-Care Process
Years ago, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, in collaboration with the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND), convened a special group called the Council on Future Practice to consider recommendations to elevate and professionalize the nutritional science and dietetics professions. Their Visioning Report, issued in 2017 in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, culminated with a master’s degree requirement for entry into the field. The new rules kick in on Jan. 1, 2024, and there is a growing recognition that a master’s degree is the new bar for education level.
Among the range of reasons for the recommendation? That an advanced educational requirement would raise the professional esteem of registered dietitians and nutritionists who are serving as part of larger healthcare teams. Too often, the report said, registered dietitians and nutritionists have been “seen as assisting in, rather than leading, the nutrition-care process.” Without an advanced nutrition degree, there was a sense that there was little science behind advising patients about making healthy eating and food choices, on weight management, or eating disorders. That perception, the report said, can not only sideline qualified nutrition professionals from being able to deliver optimal patient care and dietary counseling, but can also negatively affect career advancement.
Increase Professional Satisfaction and Fulfillment
When the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) surveyed many of its members about what motivates them to pursue additional professional certificates, the top motivator was increased pride and personal satisfaction (90% of respondents).
Never underestimate the power of a learning experience to jolt you out of a comfort zone. For current nutritionists and dietitians, completing a master’s degree in nutritional science can unlock higher earnings and job promotion prospects, but the process itself can be just as powerful. Several UT Austin students in the nutritional science master’s program said that “self-discovery” was a driving factor behind their decision to earn their degree.
Increase Earning Potential
Others see a master’s in nutrition science as a chance to bolster their resume, start a new company, or qualify for a specific job title or professional path.
The job outlook is promising for people with a career in nutrition science. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects job growth in the field of dietitians and nutritionists to increase 8% by 2030—much faster than the average growth rate of all U.S. occupations total. Practitioners of nutrition and dietetics also work in advocacy, sports nutrition, and nutrition counseling.
When considering whether to get a master’s degree, one of the top questions is how the credential will potentially increase your earnings over time. Healthcare professionals typically earn a significant wage premium for a master’s degree, according to BLS.
Further bolstering the potential return on investment for a master's degree is the fact that the degree provided by UT Austin is designed to be as affordable and accessible as possible.
Power Up Your Passion
Working as a nutritionist or dietitian in this field means that you are passionate about the powerful role that food plays in preventing disease and improving people’s health and wellness. Pursuing a master's degree is a way to advance your professional career options and ensure you can follow your passion.
Learn more about how an advanced degree in nutritional sciences from a top-ranked university can help you launch a new career, get ahead, and gain professional licensure.