According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for nutritionists and dieticians is expected to increase significantly over the next ten years. Professionals in this field work in hospitals, long-term care facilities and as part of the food service team in a wide range of industries. Entry-level nutritionist positions typically require a bachelor's degree at a minimum; applicants with a master's degree can often command higher salaries and enjoy greater employability in the medical job marketplace. Choosing the right electives in these programs can often increase the employment opportunities available to graduates, allowing them to achieve their career goals more quickly. Here are five popular electives to consider when pursuing a master's degree in nutrition science.
Expressing thoughts and instructions clearly is of critical importance for nutritionists in the public arena. An elective course in communications can provide much-needed support for students in conveying their thoughts clearly in written or verbal form. Additionally, these courses can build confidence and can provide experience in public speaking for those considering a career in nutrition education. Topics covered typically include crafting an effective message, delivery methods and practice in presenting arguments before an audience or in one-on-one situations. Some courses may also cover social media and electronic communications, allowing students to become more familiar with these emerging technological venues and their uses.
A thorough grounding in the psychological and physiological aspects of eating disorders can provide added insights into these conditions for nutrition science majors. Classes will typically focus on the epidemiology and predisposing factors for these disorders and the intervention techniques that can be used to assist patients with bulimia, anorexia and other conditions. Students will gain a general understanding of the therapies available and the associated psychological disorders that can complicate treatment in some patients. The knowledge acquired in these courses can be applied in hospital and clinical settings to provide the most effective support for those suffering from these serious conditions.
Culture and Food
The relationship between culture, society and food is the focus of these electives. Coursework typically includes the study of various cuisines and food production methods as they relate to the cultures in place in countries around the world. Students may concentrate on the culture and cuisine of specific countries or in general regions, allowing them to acquire a big-picture perspective on the ways in which customs and traditions affect the preparation and consumption of food in these areas. Historical and contemporary approaches to these issues will also be explored to provide the most comprehensive background for students in the field of nutrition science.
Health Policy and Community Development
Nutritionists who plan to work in the public health field can acquire the skills necessary to achieve their goals by enrolling in health policy and community development electives. These courses provide a general overview of organizational behavior and the public policy process, allowing students to understand the steps necessary to effect change in these large-scale institutions. Finance, education and accessibility are also usually covered in these classes, which may include case studies and required field trips to see the regulatory process in action. By applying the fundamental principles acquired in these classes to real-world scenarios, aspiring nutritionists can make a positive difference in the quality of care provided for their patients.
Food Production Management
Understanding the ways in which food moves from farm to table can help nutritionists make more informed decisions regarding the right sourcing and preparation for various items on the plate. Some courses provide a general overview of farming, fishing and ranching processes in the U.S. and other countries. Others focus more narrowly on production methods used by manufacturers, restaurants, catering services and other food service providers. Safety and sanitation issues are also addressed in these courses, which are designed to provide students with the practical experience necessary to achieve success in food service industries and hospital settings.
By incorporating these popular electives into a master's degree program in nutrition science, students can acquire the skills needed to pursue their goals in this fast-growing field. Nutritionists can also put the knowledge acquired from these courses to work on behalf of their patients and their employers in the modern job market.