Lisle, Illinois ~ All college students love food, but undecided college majors may want to try loving it a bit more – especially if it leads to a job.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment of dietitians and nutritionists is expected to grow 20 percent faster than the average for all other occupations within the next eight years.
Universities need to prepare students for this growing market. The Nutrition programs at Benedictine University, featuring the only program in the country with a combined Master of Science (M.S.) degree in Nutrition and Wellness/Dietetic Internship program, are designed to help meet the demand for these jobs and help satisfy America’s fixation with incorporating health-conscious products into their lifestyles.
Americans, like most people, want to look good and feel good. For the looking-good part, we exercise, buy fine clothing, style our hair and paint our faces.
For the feel-good portion, more people are not only turning to nutritional supplements, but also to organic and natural foods, driving a demand in health care and the food and beverages industry for jobs in nutrition.
The public has an increased desire to be informed on all nutritional issues. That is particularly true relative to the processing and content of some consumables, which recently have raised alarms with potentially dangerous levels of toxins found in items such as orange juice which are subject to the use of additives or processing techniques deemed “generally safe” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Ironically, during Nutrition Awareness Month in March, America experienced one of its biggest public outcries in recent years because of the perceived unhealthy risks of ammonia-treated beef, distastefully referred to as “pink slime.”
Consumers are even more attuned to not only proven means of healthy nutrition and fervently seeking out innovative methods and products to meet their needs, but also have an eye out for and a willingness to abandon a product or service they perceive violates healthy practices.
Such demands are creating a surge for qualified workers within the bioscience industry. Abbott Laboratories in April broke ground in Ohio for a $270 million, 250,000-square-foot plant to make three nutritional drinks. The plant is expected to hire 240 workers.
The public relies on professionals like food inspectors, nutritionists and agricultural scientists to say what is safe to consume and what the public should limit or avoid, which becomes even more important for products like dietary supplements that are used by 69 percent of U.S. adults, according to a survey by the Council for Responsible Nutrition.
The majority of adults surveyed (85 percent) said they feel confident that nutritional supplements are safe and effective. The most common supplements are vitamins and minerals, which are taken by 67 percent of adults polled in the survey. This obsession by consumers is helping drive the demand for nutrition professionals.
Benedictine University’s Nutrition programs offer students the chance to fill this growing need.
Successful completion of the combined M.S./Dietetic Internship program qualifies students to take the examination to become a registered dietitian. The undergraduate Nutrition major, known as the Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD), leads to a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in Nutrition.
“Benedictine University was one of the few places in the United States where you could focus on public health and nutrition at the same time,” said 2010 alumna Kristina Davis, who earned dual master’s degrees in Nutrition and Wellness and Public Health. “Since many of the public health problems in the United States currently are linked to nutrition, it made sense to me to pursue degrees in both fields.”
Davis was selected as a Prevention Science Fellow, a one-year federal fellowship through which she worked on development and implementation of the 2010 “Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” the “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans” and “Healthy People 2020.”
Her fellowship led to a position as a research specialist for the American Hospital Association Health Research and Educational Trust, where she manages and supports national hospital-based interventions to reduce hospital acquired infections.
Nutritionists and dietitians are in demand as health care and public officials implement programs like First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign to combat childhood obesity. Nutritionists help shape and educate consumers on the government recommended dietary guidelines for healthy living.
Benedictine alumni serve in a variety of roles in the nutrition field, including clinical dietitian, neonatal and pediatric clinical nutrition specialist, public health case manager, clinical services manager, quality assurance manager, food and nutrition services director, consumer affairs specialist for a major grocery store chain, product buyer, nutritionist, corporate health promotion and wellness specialist, weight loss counselor and exercise physiologist.
For more information about the Nutrition programs at Benedictine University that are helping to fill a growing need, visit www.ben.edu/nutrition.
Benedictine University is an independent Roman Catholic institution located in Lisle, Illinois just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois and Mesa, Arizona. Founded in 1887, Benedictine provides 55 undergraduate majors and 15 graduate and four doctoral programs. Benedictine University is ranked No. 1 among the country's fastest-growing campuses between 2002-2012 in The Chronicle of Higher Education's list of private nonprofit doctoral institutions, and Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the fourth consecutive year in 2014. Benedictine University's Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) program is listed by Crain's Chicago Business as the sixth largest in the Chicago area in 2014.