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Graduate Degree Programs in Nutritional Biology

Nutritional biology is a field of study encompassing nutrition, life sciences, and others. It may be pursued as a standalone graduate degree program or concentration in a related major, with advanced science courses to prepare students in careers in nutrition, research, and public health.

Nutritional Biology Graduate Degree Programs

Prospective graduate students will need a strong academic background in biology, chemistry, and nutrition to prepare them for coursework, research, training, and a thesis in advanced nutritional science, biochemistry, physiology, public health, and more. The program can take up to four years to complete for the Master of Science and more for the Ph.D., and similar programs may be offered under nutritional sciences or as a concentration under a biological science major.

Nutritional Science Courses

Nutrition courses make up a large part of the nutritional biology curriculum. They study how food and drink affect the human body, including health effects and the impact of essential nutrients, and the biological properties that convert food into energy and body tissue. Depending on their individual interests, students may take courses such as nutritional biochemistry, clinical nutrition, community nutrition, culture and nutrition, diet, and demographic-specific nutrition.

Biology Courses

Closely interlinked with nutritional science are courses focused on biological processes in which nutrients play a vital role and vice versa. These may include physiology, metabolism and other bodily processes, epidemiology, genetics, and many more. Students will have to conduct extensive research and many science courses will have laboratory components.

Food Systems Courses

Because of nutrition's connection to food, food must be studied on various levels by the aspiring nutritional biologist. In addition to the more scientific courses focusing on diet, digestion, and metabolism, students will need to understand food safety concepts, food service organizations, dietary interventions, and food as it relates to behavior, culture, and well-being. With a foundation in food-related courses, nutritional biologists will learn how food can contribute to malnutrition, disease, and other health problems.

Statistics

Statistics is the science of gathering and interpreting large amounts of numerical data and recognizing trends and patterns which can be applied to a variety of scientific, social, and other problems. The nutritional biologist will need to take graduate-level statistics if they have not already satisfied their program's requirement. Understanding this discipline will allow them to study statistical populations and infer practical information for research and problem-solving purposes.

Public Health Policy and Practice Courses

Nutritional biologists often work in clinical settings, organizations, and government agencies to enact large-scale social change. As such, they must know how public health policy operates, how to conduct research within the population, and how to apply an interventional strategy. Courses in public health policy help prepare students to take on health and nutritional problems within society.

Careers Available with a Graduate Degree in Nutritional Biology

Nutritionist

Nutritionists work with clients in various organizations and institutions to educate them about food, nutrition, and health, and they may supervise a client's nutritional intake. Since the title 'nutritionist' is not regulated, it is helpful to take the necessary steps in becoming a certified nutrition specialist, or C.N.S. An advanced degree in nutritional biology provides a comprehensive understanding of nutrition, diet, and human physiology that this role requires.

Dietician

Dieticians help people choose the best foods to fit their lifestyle and health objectives, and they may help to diagnose and treat diseases nutritionally and help build a diet plan for their clients. The dietician is more closely regulated than the nutritionist, requiring further credentials such as licensure and internships before they can practice as a registered dietician or R.D. They may work in health care settings, in food service, or in organizations, and a nutritional biology background allows them to understand the complex processes by which diet affects the body.

Dietetic Technician

Dietetic technicians work under the supervision of dieticians to provide food service and nutritional programs. Their duties include meal preparation and planning, education about food and nutrition, and nutritional counseling. Having an interest in the culinary arts would be beneficial in this position, and coursework in diet, nutrition, and human biology places cooking and eating in the context of health.

Exercise Physiologist

Exercise physiologists create physical exercise and fitness programs to aid in the recovery of ill or injured patients. Many are self-employed, but others work in healthcare settings and most work full-time. The nutritional biology experience in life science, anatomy, nutrition, and other disciplines is needed for success in this fast-growing position.

Epidemiologist

The epidemiologist is a public health professional who studies the trends and causes of human disease and injury. They collect data, conduct research in the field, and receive appropriate training to safeguard them against infectious disease. They work in labs or offices, generally for government health departments, or in medical and institutional settings, and holding relevant graduate degrees prepares them for the challenges of their field.

Genetic Counselor

Genetic counselors determine a person or a family's risk for genetic conditions, disorders, and birth defects. They usually work full-time in medical facilities, laboratories, and physicians' offices. To become a genetic counselor, you'll need to complete your master's degree and get board-certified, as a foundation in biology, biochemistry, and genetics are required.

Biochemist

The biophysicist studies the chemical properties of organisms including their biological processes. They work in labs and offices, doing research, conducting experiments, and interpreting the data. To pursue this advanced position, you will need a doctoral degree and likely some temporary experience in a research role, though master's degree holders are eligible for some related positions.

Biophysicist

This role is like the biochemist, except that it focuses on the physical properties of organisms and their related biological processes and components. The biophysicist also carries out experiments and collects data in laboratory and office settings. While a master's degree may be sufficient for some positions, you may need a doctoral degree or relevant experience, like lab work, for others.

Job Title Median Salary (2018)* Job Growth (2016-26)*
Nutritionist (Outpatient Care Centers) $66,840 11%
Dietician $60,370 11%
Dietetic Technician (General Medical/Surgical Hospitals) $32,590 10%**
Exercise Physiologist $49,270 10%
Epidemiologist $69,660 5%
Genetic Counselor $80,370 27%
Biochemist $93,280 6%
Biophysicist $93,280 6%

*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

**Nutritioned.org

Nutritional biology degree programs can last four or more years and include courses in advanced nutrition, biological science, food systems, public health, and more. The graduate will be able to pursue a variety of public health and research positions such as nutritionists, epidemiologists, and exercise physiologists.