This article was written by Elizabeth Zulick, PhD, MPH, assistant teaching professor and faculty director of Northeastern’s healthcare and biotechnology programs, and Lori Bechard, PhD, RD, lecturer and faculty lead for Northeastern’s MS in Applied Nutrition.
“I am interested in nutrition, but don’t want to be a dietician in a hospital setting. What else can I do?” If this sentiment sounds familiar, you’re not alone. The good news is that the nutrition field offers a variety of lucrative and exciting career paths for qualified individuals, particularly those with advanced degrees. Read on to learn more about the nutrition industry, job outlook, and the skills required to advance in the field.
The Nutrition Industry: Trends & Market Outlook
Increased attention to disease prevention through better dietary habits has heightened the demand for skilled nutrition professionals and health educators. As such, it’s projected that nutrition jobs will increase 11 percent from 2018 to 2028—more than twice as fast as average. Growth in this field is being driven by efforts to decrease spending on healthcare and increase health outcomes by educating the general population on healthy behaviors and prevention. Other changes in the healthcare field, such as wider access to healthcare, social media trends, and increased interest in all-natural lifestyles, have also influenced this increased demand for trained professionals.
In response to this growing demand for health educators, nutritionists, and community health workers, Northeastern’s College of Professional Studies has developed an online Master of Science in Applied Nutrition degree program. This program is designed to give learners the tools they need to be successful within the field while helping to build their professional network and provide opportunities for hands-on learning.
What is Applied Nutrition?
Applied nutrition focuses on translating theory and research into healthy lifestyles to promote better health outcomes and prevention of disease. Advanced programs in applied nutrition are designed to build on existing clinical knowledge and are best suited for individuals with undergraduate degrees in health science, dietetics, or related areas.
Northeastern’s MS in Applied Nutrition program focuses on evidence-based nutrition practices, holistic health and wellbeing, research, and the application of skills to individuals and communities. Graduates of the program will be prepared to work in a variety of healthcare roles, including as a nutritionist, nutrition counselor, wellness coach, health educator, health advocate, nutrition researcher, and more.
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Skills for Success in the Nutrition Industry
Working in the nutrition field requires the ability to communicate clearly with many people from diverse backgrounds, including clients, patients, and the community. Additionally, nutrition professionals must be able to navigate the ever-changing industry landscape while being able to separate facts from fads and fiction. One of the goals of Northeastern’s MS in Applied Nutrition Program is to empower learners to not only shape the nutrition field as a practitioner, but also to understand the complex world of nutritional practices and related fields. This program strives to teach learners how to look at each person in their practice holistically, applying cross-disciplinary approaches to patient or client health and wellness.
Nutrition is a foundational pillar of integrative health and wellness. In the MS in Applied Nutrition program, learners explore how to interact with diverse patients or clients within a variety of settings, and how to utilize a holistic model for patient care by incorporating strengths-based perspective, cross-cultural communication, resilience, advocacy and problem-solving. This approach allows graduates to be lifelong learners, truly open to the constantly changing world of nutrition.
Navigating the Complexities of Nutrition: An Everyday Example
Eating for optimal health would seemingly follow a prescriptive set of guidelines, similar to what the U.S. Department of Agriculture promotes. But navigating the nuances of nutrition research studies is a complex endeavor, and human beings are unique in their expression of health and well-being. Understanding the meaning and application of these research studies that examine the integration of nutrition and health is paramount to the trustworthy promotion of practices that facilitate wellness.
Catchy headlines aim to summarize newly published studies in a soundbite. However, these often conflicting and confusing pieces of information do not tell the whole story. Northeastern’s innovative Applied Research in Nutrition course takes a deeper dive into these soundbites to examine the foundational research. Students in Northeastern’s program are encouraged to ask questions such as:
- Who is the population that was studied, and how might they be different from you or your population of interest?
- How were they studied—were they observed in a real-life scenario, or contained in a research microcosm to examine a specific intervention under conditions unlikely to be replicated?
- What outcomes were considered, and what outcomes were missed?
- And perhaps most importantly, how were the data analyzed?
Preparing for the Work Demands of Tomorrow
Health information is personal. Quick, captivating messages are appealing. A truly thoughtful approach to care, however, is more complex and will ultimately be more effective in achieving wellness. Whether keto or vegan or paleo is a good approach for you or your population will only be revealed by an in-depth examination of the available evidence and its limitations. Integrating information about tailored, healthful nutrition practices can support individuals striving to best nourish their unique selves. Northeastern’s program helps to prepare you to be the expert in this space by completing real-world, hands-on projects in preparation for the world beyond graduation. Students work with real companies on real problems, putting their knowledge and experiences to work. These projects prepare learners to work side-by-side with an array of multi-disciplinary practitioners to develop the assessment and intervention techniques required to excel in the wide range of roles and applications available in our global delivery system.
Interested in Learning More?
To learn more about the MS in Applied Nutrition program, explore our program page, which features program faculty and alumni, curriculum information, concentrations, and more.