Pursue an Online Degree in Nutrition and Fitness

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Nutrition

ONLINE FITNESS AND NUTRITION DEGREE

Earning a fitness and nutrition degree online could potentially be your entry-point to helping others make healthier choices! From learning what goes into a nutritious meal plan to understanding the biomechanics that come into play during exercise, your program could teach you more about the body and what it needs to perform at its best.

EARNING A FITNESS AND NUTRITION DEGREE ONLINE: THE BASICS

Online nutrition degree or fitness degree programs tend to focus on lifestyle choices that impact health, wellbeing, and performance. So, you could learn about interventions and methods for helping people address health concerns or reach personal goals like weight loss or athletic achievement.

You may also study human anatomy and body processes, like how food is metabolized or how muscles recover after exercise. You may explore the laws and ethics involved in fields like nutrition and fitness. And, you may even delve into business topics that could apply to your field – like entrepreneurship or marketing.

HERE’S WHAT ELSE YOU MIGHT LEARN IN YOUR ONLINE DEGREE IN NUTRITION AND EXERCISE SCIENCE PROGRAM:

  • Sciences related to the body, like physiology, anatomy, and biomechanics
  • Knowledge and techniques for personal training, strength & conditioning, coaching, and fitness instruction
  • The relationship between nutrition and athletic performance, including macronutrient utilization, body composition, sports products, and more
  • Nutrition throughout the human lifecycle, including the needs of infants, children, and woman who are pregnant or nursing
  • The science of food, including microbiology, nutritional analysis, and food safety
  • Strategies for nutritional assessment, intervention, and education

TYPES OF ONLINE DEGREES IN NUTRITION AND WELLNESS

From dietetics to exercise science, there are several types of degree programs that deal with the impact of lifestyle choices on the human body. These include:

  • Bachelor of Science in Dietetics: This program may be aimed at those who hope to pursue dietetic registration and/or licensure (state requirements may apply). The curriculum may cover foods and nutrition in health care settings as well as public or private food service. In addition, a bachelor degree in nutrition and dietetics online program may explore the science behind nutrition; the social, environmental, cultural, and psychological factors behind food intake and accessibility; nutritional needs throughout the human lifecycle, and more.
  • Bachelor of Science in Nutrition: This program teaches aspects of nutrition science, including digestion, absorption, and metabolism, how food choices can impact an individual’s lifestyle, and how to apply healthy eating concepts in an organization or community setting. A health and nutrition bachelor degree online program may also cover topics like food science and safety, planning a therapeutic diet, and even the administrative and professional knowledge you may need to pursue your career goals.
  • Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science and Fitness Training: This program may focus on the fundamentals of personal fitness training and exercise science, including topics like physiology and biomechanics, sports nutrition, techniques for strength training and conditioning, and more. Plus, you could focus on the motivational and instructional knowledge you may need to potentially lead fitness classes, train an athlete, or even coach a sports team.

DID YOU KNOW?

  • 59% of fitness trainers and instructors were employed in fitness and recreational sports centers, as of 2016. 11% were self-employed.[i]

ASSOCIATES DEGREE IN FITNESS AND NUTRITION PROGRAMS

Most of the fitness and nutrition degree programs you may find online are at the bachelor’s level. That may be particularly true of nutrition programs, since the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that earning a bachelor’s degree is required for pursuing a nutritionist career path.[i] That said, you may find associate’s degree programs that could help you pursue your goals. These may include:

  • Associate Degree in Applied Exercise and Fitness: This type of program may cover knowledge and skills areas like group exercise instruction, weight management and nutrition, and implementing cardio-respiratory and flexibility programs. In addition, you could study areas of business and finance knowledge that apply to gym operations or starting a fitness business.
  • Associate of Science in Applied Nutrition: You may pursue a foundation in nutrition knowledge, including the biological, behavioral, and social sciences involved in food choices, as well as the math that goes into calculating nutritional components. You could also work on soft skills and knowledge like critical thinking and communications. And, you could apply what you learn to various nutritional problems and scenarios.

EARNING A NUTRITION VS DIETETICS DEGREE: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

Nutrition and dietetics degree programs may be aimed at students with differing goals. A nutrition degree program usually covers areas like food chemistry, cell biology, and biochemistry – with a focus on the science of food and nutrition, of course. Students may learn how to provide a nutritional assessment and plan a diet that has therapeutic goals.

The field of dietetics shares a lot in common with the study of nutrition. However, a dietetics program may be designed for students with the goal of pursuing registration or licensure, such as the Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) credential. With that in mind, a dietetics program may offer courses that focus on community nutrition, food-systems management, and nutritional needs throughout the human lifecycle, with an eye on the field’s many complex issues and requirements.

SO, WHAT ARE NUTRITIONIST EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS?[II]

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nutritionists typically must earn a bachelor’s degree in dietetics, foods and nutrition, clinical nutrition, public health nutrition, or a similar area. Requirements may also vary by state. That said, many employers may prefer candidates with the Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) credential.

Education Requirements for becoming an RDN include:[i]

  • You must earn a bachelor’s degree accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND).
  • You must complete a Dietetic Internship (DI) with at least 1,200 hours of supervised experience.
  • To maintain your credential once you’ve achieved it, you must earn 75 continuing professional education credits every five years.

Keep in mind that while you could potentially earn a bachelor degree in nutrition and dietetics online, you’ll need to pursue a dietetic internship in person if you’re interested in working toward the RDN credential. Contact your prospective online program to learn more about how you could fulfill this internship requirement.

PURSUING A FITNESS CERTIFICATION VS. DEGREE[III]

Certification may be required for certain kinds of fitness trainer or instructor career paths. In addition, some employers may prefer to hire certified trainers and instructors. A variety of certification programs exist, and they all require a written exam which may test you on your knowledge of areas like human physiology, exercise techniques, ability to assess clients’ fitness levels, and more.

That said, pursuing certification is not a replacement for earning a college degree. Some employers may prefer candidates who hold an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in a health or fitness field – like exercise science, kinesiology, or physical education. And, some exercise science degree programs may be designed to help you prepare for certification – such as Certified Personal Trainer from the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Jobs for nutritionists and dieticians are projected to grow 15% between 2016 and 2026, a rate that’s much faster than average for all occupations![iv]

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A PROSPECTIVE ONLINE DEGREE IN NUTRITION OR EXERCISE SCIENCE PROGRAM

As you browse fitness and nutrition degree online programs to find your ideal match, here are a few considerations you may want to keep in mind:

  • Look for Accredited Online Nutrition and Fitness Programs: You’ll want to make sure the college or university you are considering is accredited by an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. This may ensure your school meets certain academic standards. However, besides institutional accreditation you may also wish to consider programmatic accreditation. For example, the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) accredits certain dietetics and nutrition programs. Choosing an ACEND-accredited program may be required for pursuing the Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) credential.[ii]
  • Flexibility…But Not the Yoga Kind: Earning nutrition or fitness degrees online may be the ideal path for students who need to fit their studies into a busy schedule, or who live far from colleges or universities offering these programs. Flexible features to look for may include mobile-friendly platforms, no set login times, and 24-7 support. Some online programs may even let you try a course to see if the learning format suits your style.
  • A Nutrition or Fitness Curriculum That Gets You Pumped. Are you eager to explore kinesiology, interested in best practices for food safety, or hoping to study the business side of the fitness industry as well as the science that goes behind it? Try to find a program that satisfies your interests and gets you eager to start learning.
  • Potential Student Outcomes and Career Possibilities. Is your prospective program designed to help students prepare for a particular career path, such as Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), or is it more open-ended? It’s important to find out if the degree you are considering could potentially help you pursue your career goals. Don’t be afraid to ask about reported outcomes for recent graduates, and always research your prospective career path to learn as much as you can about education requirements.

APPLYING TO ONLINE DEGREES IN NUTRITION AND WELLNESS

So, what might be required of you as you apply to a fitness, health and nutrition bachelor degree online program? While it’s best to check directly with your program of interest, here are some typical admissions requirements:

  • Academic Transcripts – Generally, you’ll need to send transcripts from high school and/or any previous colleges you have attended. Many schools require official transcripts, which must be mailed in a sealed envelope by your high school counselor or registrar.
  • Minimum Grade Point Average (GPA) – Some schools and programs state minimum GPA requirements for admissions.
  • ACT or SAT Scores – Some schools may require these, while others make test scores optional or waive them for students who have been out of high school for a while.
  • Letters of Recommendation – Some schools may request letters of recommendation from those who can attest to your college readiness, such as teachers and guidance counselors.
  • Personal Statement or Essay – If submitting an essay is required or optional, it may be a great chance to help your prospective school learn more about you, your interests, and your goals.

NUTRITION AND FITNESS CAREER PATHS AND POTENTIAL SALARIES

Nutrition and dietetics is a field concerned with the health of communities and individuals, and the economy is responding. The nutrition sector is growing by approximately 15% which is much faster than average. Pursuing an online degree programs in nutrition or dietetics may allow you to pursue a career in this thriving sector. But what are the job titles and earnings for those who are employed in this field?

By referencing the list that follows, you will see the salary information for 2017 collected by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). All the information provided below is based on the median annual salary data.

DIETITIANS AND NUTRITIONISTS

Dietitians and nutritionists are experts in the use of food and nutrition to promote health and manage disease. They advise people on what to eat in order to lead a healthy lifestyle or achieve a specific health-related goal.

Median Salary: $59,410 per year iv
Job growth through 2026: 15% (Much faster than average)
Typical Entry-level education: Bachelor’s Degree

HEALTH EDUCATORS AND COMMUNITY HEALTH WORKERS

Health educators teach people about behaviors that promote wellness. They develop and implement strategies to improve the health of individuals and communities. Community health workers collect data and discuss health concerns with members of specific populations or communities.

Median Salary: $45,360 per year v
Job growth through 2026: 16% (Much faster than average)
Typical Entry-level education: Health educators need at least bachelor’s degree. Some employers require the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) credential.

REGISTERED NURSES

Registered nurses (RNs) care for people and teach them and society about different health and medical conditions. They also give general day-to-day support to patients in their care. RNs can be employeed anywhere: from hospitals, hospices, and clinics to nursing care facilities, from doctors’ offices to private homes where they provide personal, on-site services.  

Median Salary: $70,000 per year vi
Job growth through 2026: 15% (Much faster than average)
Typical Entry-Level education: RNs need at least a diploma from an approved nursing program. Some employers require either an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing (BSN). RNs must also be licensed as professionals.

FOOD SERVICE MANAGERS

Food services managers oversee the operations of kitchens in places like restaurants, cruise ships, school cafeterias, hospitals, or anywhere food is prepared and served.

Median Salary: $52,030 per year vii
Job growth through 2026: 9% (As fast as average)
Typical Entry-level education: Food services managers need at least a high school diploma. Some employers may prefer that workers have some additional experience from a community college, culinary school, technical or vocational school, or a 4-year college or university.

DIETETIC TECHNICIANS

Dietetic technicians prepare food and create nutritional programs, with the supervision and oversight of a dietitian. They may also teach people about food and its nutritional values, and guide them in creating better eating plans.

Mean Annual Salary: $29,610 per year viii
Projected Job growth: 3% (Slower than average)

SOCIAL AND HUMAN SERVICE ASSISTANTS

Social and human service assistants provide psychological, rehabilitative, and social support to members of the public.

Median Salary: $33,120 per year ix
Job growth through 2026: 16% (Much faster than average)
Typical Entry-Level education: High School Diploma or the equivalent thereof

Interested in food science? Want to counsel people to better health?

From food service manager to health educator to registered dietitian, find an online nutrition degree program that is perfect for you! By exploring the programs shown here, you could take the first step to pursuing a career in nutrition. Get started!

(i) bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dietitians-and-nutritionists.htm#tab-4
(ii) bls.gov/opub/mlr/2013/article/mabli-malsberger.htm
(iii) bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dietitians-and-nutritionists.htm
(iv) bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dietitians-and-nutritionists.htm
(v) bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/health-educators.htm
(vi) bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm
(vii) bls.gov/ooh/management/food-service-managers.htm
(viii) bls.gov/oes/2017/may/oes292051.htm#nat
(ix) bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-and-human-service-assistants.htm

© Education Connection 2019. All Rights Reserved.

EducationDynamics maintains business relationships with the schools it features.

Sources for school statistics is the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.

This is an offer for educational opportunities that may lead to employment and not an offer for nor a guarantee of employment. Students should consult with a representative from the school they select to learn more about career opportunities in that field. Program outcomes vary according to each institution’s specific program curriculum.