Nutrition and Dietetics
What is Nutrition and Dietetics?
Nutrition is the study of the action of the biologically active components of food and their role in maintaining human health. Nutritionists study the role of nutrients, the body’s requirements for nutrients throughout life, and the effects of inadequate intakes on health and well-being.
Dietetics is the application of nutrition to help people achieve and maintain health throughout their life-span. A Registered Dietitian is an integral part of the health care team who helps people meet their nutritional needs in health and illness through diet counseling and nutrition support.Important Topics and Issues
This is an exciting time to study nutrition and dietetics. There is substantial evidence that what we eat affects our health and quality of life. Dietary factors are implicated in four of the ten major causes of death in the United States. Obesity is now considered endemic nationwide and is linked to the increasing prevalence of diabetes which may be controlled through careful dietary planning. Concerns about the safety of the food supply have also increased and there is a major federal initiative to improve food safety procedures. Additionally, food security is a growing problem for limited-resource families. The URI Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences addresses these and related issues through our teaching, research and outreach programs.
What are my career options in this field?
Students completing the Nutrition and Dietetics major have many career options available. Some students enter dietetic internship programs and become Registered Dietitians. Some go on to graduate school in Nutrition or enter a health-related professional program such as medicine or physician’s assistant. Other graduates go directly into the workforce in hospitals, colleges and universities, industry, governmental agencies, community health centers, fitness centers, and private practice.
For detailed information on careers in this field, go to theCareers Tab.
Is this field for me?
In the Nutrition and Dietetics major, you will complete either the Nutrition Option or the Dietetics Option. What is the difference?
The simple answer is that the Dietetics Option is for students who want to become Registered Dietitians and the Nutrition Option is for students who want to study nutrition but do not want to become Registered Dietitians. The courses you will take as a freshman are the same for both options; however, you need to decide which option to follow in your sophomore year.
During the spring semester of your freshman year, you will take NFS 110: Introduction to Nutrition and Dietetics. This course will allow you to explore the field, see the course differences in the options, and understand the different career paths ahead. Then, with some guidance from your academic advisor, you will be able to determine whether Nutrition or Dietetics is best for you.
Academic Strengths – You need to have a strong interest and background in science courses to be successful in this major. This is critical as you need to learn how the body works to fully understand nutrition. In addition, you will need to be able to communicate well, so strong oral and written communication skills are also important.
Personal Qualities – Perhaps the most important personal quality needed for this major is to enjoy working with people. Most careers in this field involve interacting with people by listening to their concerns, understanding their food choices, and communicating meaningful information. Being able to communicate effectively and sincerely is critical for almost all careers in the nutrition and dietetics field.
Job Market – There are many nutrition-related jobs in every state, and the number of jobs available will depend upon where you are looking and what kind of job you want. The area of nutrition is expected to continue to grow in the future because of the current emphasis on preventive health care. Becoming a Registered Dietitian has become very competitive in the last few years. It is important to talk with your advisor about the current requirements.
For more information about job opportunities, go to the Careers Tab.
How do I prepare for a career in this field?
Nutrition and Dietetics is a science-based field. You will need to understand how the body works to study nutrition. Therefore, you need to have a solid background in biology and chemistry or be willing to spend additional time learning this material as you complete our program. The field of Nutrition and Dietetics is also an applied science. You are likely to work in an environment with many people, sharing your knowledge and expertise while solving practical problems. A strong background in the social sciences and excellent written and oral communication skills are critical. Of course, a background in nutrition and foods is great, whether it be from paid or volunteer experience or simply from reading about the field in the many sources available.
High School – While in high school, students should take courses in chemistry (or physics) and in biology (general biology, anatomy, and/or physiology). Learn about people by taking courses in sociology and psychology. Sharpen your writing skills by taking courses in writing and that require the completion of many written assignments.
College – While in college you will take many nutrition and food science courses, ranging from general nutrition to scientific principles of food to nutrition in the lifecycle to nutrition assessment. Successful completion of these courses requires completing the prerequisite science, social science, and communication courses. Many of these courses include experiential learning to help you develop skills and apply your knowledge.
For more detailed information about the courses available in this field, go to the Curriculum Tab
For more detailed information about experiential learning in this field, go to the Experiential LearningTab
Graduate School – After earning a bachelor’s degree, you may consider attending graduate school. Students may decide to earn an advanced degree in nutrition, or may select another area (such as exercise science, business, education) to compliment their nutrition knowledge. Graduate school is limited to the top students who are interested in in-depth study of a field.
For more information about graduate schools in this program, go to the Graduate Studies Tab
What will I know and be able to do when I graduate?
Our major includes required courses in Nutrition and Food Sciences (NFS), natural sciences, and general education. The core of our major includes over 50 credits in nutrition and food science (NFS) courses. Additional credits in NFS may include field experience and special project courses which provide experience in the field. Students can tailor their academic program by selecting supporting elective courses in their area of interest. Thus, you may use your supporting elective courses to earn an academic minor or take courses from multiple areas to broaden your horizons.
The curriculum includes courses that provide the knowledge and skills to meet a series of learning outcomes. These learning outcomes are tailored from the national requirements to become a Registered Dietitian. Students completing the Dietetics Option will meet all of the learning outcomes identified by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, while students completing the Nutrition Option will meet those outcomes that pertain directly to this area. The learning outcomes cover the areas of scientific and evidence basis for practice, professional practice, and clinical and customer services. Achieving the major’s learning outcomes assures that you have the knowledge and skills to be successful in the field.
Where can I find more information?
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the professional organization for over 70,000 nutrition professionals. This website contains information for students on how to become Registered Dietitians, a career link for jobs, and membership information.
The USDA is one of the many government agencies that provide nutrition information to the public; nutrition.gov includes links to great current topics and resources in the nutrition field.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics
The Bureau of Labor Statistics is the federal agency in charge of tracking and predicting job information for the country. See what the forecast is for jobs and salaries in the field.
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics