On movie night, do you opt for documentaries like Food, Inc., Super Size Me, and Fed Up (with a bowl of unbuttered air-popped popcorn, of course)? Do you have a knack for research—and a healthy suspicion of the newest fad diet? Do you aspire to a career centered around food and health?
If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, you might want to consider __earning a Master of Science (MS) in Nutrition.
An MS in Nutrition qualifies you for numerous diet- and nutrition-related careers. Wondering how much you can earn if you pursue this degree? In this article, we’ll cover:
With curricula blending research and clinical applications, MS in Nutrition programs provide students an expert understanding of the ways food, people, and health interrelate. You can pursue this degree either in a traditional program or online.
MS in Nutrition curricula focus on nutrition planning and assessment. They usually include coursework in:
Students are typically required to complete a minimum number of supervised training, or practicum, hours at:
Through study and hands-on practice, students develop the skills to conduct effective dietary counseling sessions with individuals, families, and communities. They also learn how to offer guidance on making the best nutritional choices based on budget, preference, and lifestyle. They also build the skills to review current research in nutrition and health and to design research studies around pressing topics in the field.
When pursued without Registered Dietician (RD) or Registered Dietician Nutritionist (RDN) certification, an MS in Nutrition degree is most often a stepping-stone to a doctoral program or other professional studies in government, academia, or other organizations in the private sector.
Many people, though, pursue the MS in Nutrition to qualify for RD or RDN certification required for practicing as a dietitian and dietitian-nutritionist in most states. If this intrigues you, we have good news: the job outlook for dietitians and nutritionists is promising. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nutritionist and dietitian jobs are predicted to grow 7 percent through 2031. More than 5,000 new positions should be created over that period, with approximately 5,600 positions posting each year as a result of retirements, promotions, and similar labor market activities.
PayScale estimates that MS in Nutrition degree-holders earn an average salary of $61,000 per year. Salary can vary widely according to specialization, work experience, location, and employer.
An MSN degree with RD or RDN certification demonstrates a high level of commitment and expertise. That should provide an advantage in job searches. This degree should also give you a leg up against the competition when you pursue advanced positions in the public health, clinical, and research sectors.
An MS in Nutrition Degree opens doors to many career paths in the field of health and wellness. Some of the most common include:
Nutritionists typically work in private practice, hospital, and clinic settings, providing specialized dietary recommendations and plans to help individuals increase their wellbeing; lose, manage, or gain weight; and cope with disease. According to Payscale, nutritionists typically earna median salary of $50,000.
Dietitians help to improve individuals’ nutrition through dietary evaluations, meal plan development, and health monitoring. They assess and tailor meal plans based on their effectiveness, and may also talk to groups of people to teach them about nutrition. Payscale reports that dietitians earn an average annual salary of $58,000.
Clinical nutritionists work within healthcare institutions like hospitals and long-term care facilities. They assess a patient’s health needs and create plans to provide nutritional therapy in order to maintain or improve that patient’s health. Ziprecruiter reports that, on average, clinical nutritionists earn salaries of about $58,300.
Sports nutritionists work with athletes. They consider workout schedules, body condition, and fitness goals to create the best possible diet for optimal athletic performance. According to Payscale, sports nutritionists can expect to earn $57,400 per year.
Nutrition educators develop and implement nutrition education services and programs to hospital patients and employees, home care patients, outpatients, students, and the community. They typically work for government agencies. PayScale reports that a nutrition educator earns about $37,000 per year.
The top-paying careers for those who hold the MS in Nutrition include:
A certified diabetes educator teaches individuals how to modify their diet to their condition. According to Ziprecruiter, a certified diabetes educator earns $73,000 annually, on average.
A clinical nutrition manager evaluates patients and makes nutritional plans to support or improve their health. A clinical nutrition manager assesses patients over time and modifies the nutritional plan if necessary. They often work in healthcare or long-term care facilities. Clinical nutrition managers earn an average salary of $68,000.
Corporate wellness consultants typically work at gyms or spas, where they help customers determine the best diets and foods for their health. They may administer surveys or interview customers to help determine their needs. Ziprecruiter estimates that torporate wellness consultants earn an average salary of $70,000.
Registered dietitians assess a client’s nutritional needs and tailor dietary plans to each client’s needs and goals. They often work in hospitals or nursing homes, but may also offer independent client consultations. Registered dietitians earn an average salary of $67,000.
The salary figures above provide an estimate of what you might earn in different nutrition degree jobs, but many factors can affect your salary. Incomes and job opportunities vary widely by location.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highest-paying states for nutritionists are found in:
Not surprisingly, the best-paying jobs are located in places with the highest cost of living. You may only earn $64,300 (on average) as a nutritionist in Ann Arbor, MI, but your money will go a lot farther there than it will in, say, San Francisco (where, granted, you will earn, on average, $97,500 per year). MIT’s Living Wage calculator is a fun tool that lets you compare living wages in different locations across the United States.
The highest paying cities for nutritionists include:
Experience also impacts income, with salaries increasing as you accrue years of experience.
Specialized fields—such as a certified diabetes instructor position—tend to offer higher pay than more general dietitian or nutritionist jobs. Selecting a nutrition degree program that offers specializations can position you for higher-paying jobs once you graduate.
After earning your Master of Science in Nutrition degree, pursuing certification in your specialty area of practice can help you earn a higher salary. The Commission on Dietetic Registration offers Board Certification as a Specialist options in a variety of areas, including:
The requirements to earn your Board Certification as a Specialist differ by certification. All certification options require documented practice experience in the area of certification. Additionally, applicants must pass an examination in their specialty area. Taking the time to become certified demonstrates your specialized education and experience to employers and helps to qualify you for jobs that offer higher salaries.
If you’re thinking about earning a Master of Science in Nutrition, be prepared to dedicate a couple of years to your education. Most master’s degrees in nutrition take between one and two years to complete. Many factors determine the length of a program. The number of credits required, whether you study full-time or part-time, and the duration of any internships or supervised training requirements can all affect how long it takes to complete the program. Some master’s degree programs culminate in a thesis. Others focus on internships.
Online nutrition degree programs are ideal if you need to continue working while in school. These online programs typically have a low (or no) residency requirement. If you take an online program full-time, expect to spend about 2.5 years earning your online nutrition degree.
A master’s degree in nutrition may seem like the next natural step for your career, but only you can decide whether earning your master’s degree is the right move. While salary shouldn’t be the defining factor in choosing your career path, a nutrition degree does offer decent earning potential. If you have a passion for health and wellness and enjoy helping people, a career in nutrition might be just right for you.
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