Nutritional Sciences

What Can You Do With a Master’s in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology?

What Can You Do With a Master’s in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology?
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Katherine Gustafson profile
Katherine Gustafson August 8, 2019

Here's your ticket to a wide variety of jobs in health and wellness.

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As the Director of Health and Wellness for Fitscript, maker of the only digital exercise tool for people with diabetes, Lauren Ventrella has established her career within the wellness boom. Today more than 50 million Americans participate in workplace wellness programs, and close to 70 million are health club members. For those with training in exercise, nutrition, and health and wellness, career opportunities are only growing.

By getting her Master of Science in Exercise Science and Nutrition at Sacred Heart University, Ventrella gained a range of skills and perspective she’s put to good use helping Fitscript staff get and stay healthy.

“I was equipped with a broad scope of knowledge to prescribe specific exercises to special populations, including those with diabetes, and to evaluate the needs of wellness programs,” she says. “My internship experience helped me learn how to create strong relationships with my clients and enhance the clinical skills that I use in my current position and any traditional clinical settings I may pursue in the future.”

There are many other career paths for those with a Master of Science in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology (MS NEP), from teaching high school to fitnessing training or working as an exercise physiologist. Programs are cross-disciplinary and prepare students to work in any area of wellness.


What is a Master of Science in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology?

A master’s degree program in nutrition and exercise covers the areas where various aspects of wellness intersect, such as disease management, sports physiology, and metabolic health.

Along with internships and graduate projects that give students hands-on experience, core courses include:

  • Research methods
  • Anatomy
  • Nutrition and chronic disease prevention
  • Clinical nutrition
  • Applied pharmacology
  • Applied biomechanics

MS NEP programs get students ready to pursue credentials and certifications, such as:

  • Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist (RDN)
  • Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS)
  • Certified Personal Trainer (CPT)
  • Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainer (CIFT)
  • Certified Group Exercise Instructor (GEI)
  • Certified Exercise Physiologist (EP)
  • Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)
  • Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE)

Who gets a Master of Science in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology?

Full-time students usually take one to two years to complete an MS NEP program. Within it, students must complete 1200 of supervised practice through an internship, or dietetic internship in some cases, and write a thesis on a research topic in the broad fields of nutrition and exercise physiology.

Given the commitment and requirements of the degree, those who pursue it typically have an academic or professional background in:

  • Biology
  • Food science
  • Human nutrition
  • Health education
  • Exercise physiology
  • Fitness training
  • Related fields

Typical admissions requirements a Master’s in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology program

While admissions requirements vary by graduate program, applicants typically must hold a relevant bachelor’s degree and provide their GRE scores on the general exam. Some master’s in nutrition programs may require specific undergraduate coursework such as kinesiology, anatomy and physiology, and nutritional sciences, as well as professional experience.


What jobs will you find with a graduate degree in nutrition and exercise physiology?

Those graduating from this a nutrition and exercise physiology master’s degree program will be able to pursue careers in many areas of health, nutrition, exercise, and wellness. Whatever your path, you’ll put your interdisciplinary graduate education to good use.

Nutritionist

As a nutritionist, you’ll assess clients’ dietary needs and design nutritional plans to improve their health and wellbeing. Nutritionists may work with sports medicine programs to optimize athletes’ training, help individuals lose weight, or teach young people the importance of eating healthy diets, among a variety of other specialities.

According to the Bureau of Labor StatistIcs (BLS), nutritionists make a median annual income of $60,370. Many seek Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) credential to acquire an advanced level of knowledge in the field and seek higher earnings as health diagnosing and treating practitioners. This field is growing fast—nutritionist jobs are set to increase 15 percent through 2026, twice as quickly as average.

Athletic or fitness trainer

This specialization might choose to work at fitness centers or hospitals, for government programs, or even for professional sports teams. Trainers work with a variety of individuals, from those in personal training programs, groups participating in an exercise class, or elite athletes competing at the highest level.

BLS reports athletic trainers can expect a median annual earnings of $46,630, while fitness trainers make a median income of $39,210 per year. The job outlook for fitness trainers is expected to grow 10 percent through 2026. For athletic trainers, employment is forecasted to increase 23 percent within the same timeline.

Exercise physiologist

A deep understanding of how the body functions and what best supports those functions is key to knowing which regimen will help a struggling individual best meet their fitness goals. Exercise physiologists specialize in designing exercise programs for people struggling with chronic diseases or conditions. In this profession, you may find yourself analyzing a patient’s medical history to assess their health risks during physical activity or creating a regimen for a patient suffering from cardiovascular disease.

Many within this profession are self-employed, while others work for hospitals, physicians’ offices, government programs, and other healthcare providers. Exercise physiologists’ earn a median income of of $49,090 per year, while the top ten percent of earners in the profession take home a median $78,810. Employment outlook in this field is expected to increase 13 percent by 2026.

High school physical education or health teacher

Those who are trained in both exercise science and nutrition are in a good position to teach high school students, whether they’re demonstrating the rules of flag football or explaining how the body breaks down food. But first, you’ll need to take a few extra steps, which includes obtaining teaching licensure in the state you which to work in. This will require you to pass exams on general education and topics related to your specific area of instruction. Later, you’ll need to take any continuing education or professional development courses set by your state.

High school teachers make a median annual income of $60,320, with the top ten percent of earners in the field bringing in more than $97,500. BLS reports average job growth, with an 8 percent increase predicted through 2026.

Wellness coach

In this path, you’ll help people enhance their overall health through diet, exercise, and mindset. This career is a good match for those with an MS in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology as its training prepares students to create long-term plans for improving client activity, diet, and mental and emotional health and offer guidance at every step until objectives are achieved. If you pursue this career, consider seeking National Board for Health & Wellness Coaching (NBC-HWC) certification. This will prove to potential employers that you’re well-prepared serve individuals of all health levels, and provide insight on a variety of health issues and conditions.

BLS classifies wellness coaches under the occupational cluster of community health workers. Professionals in this group make a median annual income of $39,540, with the top ten percent of earners pulling in more than $65,890. Job growth within this specialization is predicted to increase 16 percent into 2026, over twice the average of all U.S. occupations.


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