Nutritionist/Dietician -- Good job to go for in a few years?

Another in my ongoing series of occasional posts about my wife and careers.

She says some kind of nutrition counseling or something would be up her alley, and I agree.* But of course one wonders whether something is a “growth industry” or not. I have no idea how to figure this out via google. (The obvious search terms found in this very query turn up nothing useful.)

What do you think? If someone went to school for two years right now to get a second bachelor’s in dietary science or some such thing, are they going to graduate finding out there are no jobs available?

It’s sciency, involves helping people (more or less directly depending on the exact job), is not, we gather, very mathy, and she already has a great deal of interest and some experience and success with the subject. For example She’s already acting as a mentor for two separate groups of people online in health and nutrition. And another phenomenon I label here as “success with the subject” is that she has, for a few years now, through critical thought, careful planning and dedicated follow-through, nutrition*-scienced her way to a very fit body. She’s kind of my hero in this regard actually.

**and exercise

Occupational Outlook for Nutritionists and Dieticians, US Department of Labor.

ETA: stats updated for 2012

Thank you!

As people live longer and more healthy lives there will be definite need for those professionals; she could even specialize in gerontology.

Are you referring to counseling training (you said “nutrition counseling”). Or becoming a licensed dietitian (with the requisite degree)? I think Nutritionist and Dietitian are different things.

I have a relative who has both undergrad and master’s degrees in the subject, and is a state-licensed dietitian. She currently specializes in transplant patients, and has never spent a day unemployed (since 1981). Anecdotal, but it appears to be a very solid career with well-above average pay scales.

I have a friend who is a dietician, and she found a job at a hospital fairly easily. Her dream was to work on improving school lunches.

I think a lot of said jobs, however, are in nursing homes providing general oversight on prepared meals and generally allowing them to check the box saying they have an on-site dietician. That may or may not sound appealing.

Another option that might fit her criteria if the Nutrition/Dietitian thing doesn’t work out is Occupation Therapist Assistant. I know a person who recently graduated with a 2-year degree in this, and seems to just slide into jobs that pay pretty well - $26-$29/hour, full benefits. He just recently moved from one economically depressed area of the country to another, and it took him about 2 weeks to find a new job that paid more and he liked better than his old job.

Until he did this, I had no idea you could get a 2-year degree that paid that well. He also has the option to go for another 2 years and get rid of the “assistant” on his title and I gather make more in the $50/hour range.

I think the job outlook and pay is similar for physical therapists.

Occupational Therapists generally require a Master’s degree, though there are many programs that do a combined BS/MS program, so it’s not as long.

Physical Therapists now require a doctorate (there are PhD Physical Therapists, but most clinical practionioners have a Docotorate of Physical Therapy, DPT).

Nutritionist/dietician is used interchangeably, but to be a Registered Dietician requires completing a rigorous and very competitive clinical internship program. You can do that with a BS, though most go on for a Masters.

Yeah, but “Assistant” for either (I think - OT I know for sure, PT I’m reasonably sure of) doesn’t take nearly as long, makes decent money, and has a huge number of job openings. That was the point I was trying to make.

We found a lot of job postings with the word “nutritionist” in the title that only required a bachelor’s in, I forget, “nutrition science” or words to that effect.

However, as it turns out, this may all be moot. She has been scared off by the chemistry requirements. Based on advice from a biologist friend of hers, she gathers that chemistry involves math at the level of algebra. She got a D in algebra long ago, after a lot of crying and some minor violence against her tutor (me). She won’t touch math.

This is unfortunate. Everything she loves turns out to involve math, except arty crafty things, which you can’t make a career out of.

Look at this here degree plan for an Athletic Training program.

It has a “biostatistics” course requirement, but no other math course at all. My reading of this is that the scary sounding name “biostatistics” hides what is actually a “math for nonmajors” style of course. What do you think?

Found the course description:

Sounds like real math.

The math in question is very, very basic… we’re talking square functions tops. 99% of the Chemistry tutoring I did in college turned out to be Math tutoring, and it broke down into:

  • student can’t remember things such as "when you move a number to the other side of the equation, its operator becomes the opposite (i.e., + becomes - and viceversa, * becomes / and viceversa)
  • student can’t recognize the variable unless it’s already called X. Student is unable to recognize [Na[sup]+[/sup]] as a variable because it “includes more than one symbol”.
  • student can’t turn a written problem into equations.
  • student can’t recognize a system of two linear equations unless the variables are called X and Y.
  • student can’t recognize Y as a possible name for a variable. Student believes the only possible name for a variable is X.

Is your wife that bad?

The “real math” in statistics is, yes, real math (stats is its whole field), but anything that’s not basic arithmetic will be taught in the course. The formulas are along the lines of “the average X is equal to the sum of all the values x divided by the amount of values n”. I had a couple years’ worth of stats and the biggest complication was remembering when to use n and when n-1 in otherwise-identical formulas.

Actually, no, not as I recall it. That’s encouraging.

Maybe some trouble with turning written problems into equations, but if I had to guess I’d say in basic chem courses there are probably just a limited number of “types” of problems like this, in other words, that there is a tractably limited set of patterns that are used to generate problems of this kind. Wishful thinking?

Oh, and there are some equations that any chemistry student will be expected to remember. Often you run into situations where you think you have “an equation with two variables”, where what happens is that you’re supposed to use one of these two in addition to the information given in the problem:

  1. The Noble Gases Equation, AKA Gases Equation:
    PV = nRT (Pressure times Volume equals number of particles times a constant which depends on the units used times the absolute temperature; if units are atmospheres, liters, moles and K, the constant is 0’082 atmL/molK… I haven’t used it in over 20 years!)

  2. For any aqueous system,
    (the Water Constant)

Re last post: you’re correct, there will be a limited range of problem “types”.

Absolutely- I was more commenting to the part that said that you can go to be an OT in just 2 years after being an OT assistant. Plus, PTs take a lot longer than OTs, since they are at the DPT level.

IF you want to try and change her mind, you should tell her you were a very poor teacher and it was a bad decision to attempt to tutor a loved one. Tell her if she got proper instruction, it will be difficult but she can handle it just fine. Seriously, what you need to do here is take total responsibility, so she can try again without the additional baggage if “if I do succeed with someone else it’s an insult to Frylock”. Limiting yourself from an appealing, fairly well paying career based on one required class because 20 years ago your boyfriend couldn’t teach you math, is not a sensible way to go through life.

Most people who are intuitively adept at math absolutely cannot teach it to someone with deficient foundation skills and anxiety. Find a tutor or program geared for adults with math anxiety. Your local community college could be an excellent resource.

I wasn’t a poor tutor, though, and she and I both know it. I can’t convincingly take responsibility.

(I teach foundational math classes right now, and do a good job at it. My basis for the claim is that students who conceived of themselves as completely unable to do math often pass the class.)

And of course it’d be a terrible idea to tell her “Limiting yourself from an appealing, fairly well paying career based on one required class because 20 years ago your boyfriend couldn’t teach you math, is not a sensible way to go through life.”

On reflection, though, it is possible there could be ways to de-emphasize the “I’ve already tried this and failed” aspect of the whole situation by emphasizing the possibility that now, 20 years on, with others besides 19-year-old Frylock to help her, things could well be different.