Overview of an Associate's Nutrition Degree
An associate-level nutrition program will open the door to long-lasting, sustainable careers for students to pursue, such as positions as dieticians and nutritionists. As more and more people understand the importance of eating right, the more robust and dynamic a career as a registered dietitian becomes. You will find countless opportunities with a variety of employers, from hospitals to local schools, and you can even start your own burgeoning business. With an associate degree, you will be able to land entry-level positions in the field that will lead to higher degrees and career advancement. A wide variety of niches exist within the nutrition industry, including weight management, nutrition and disease, food and culture, food preparation, and human nutrition.
Academic nutrition programs require current students to complete a curriculum with classes focused on knowledge in food science and the support of patient's physical well being. A student's classes will include general education and nutrition education and some of the subjects might include the following.
- Applied Nutrition
- Clinical Nutrition
- Food Science
- Weight Management
- Health and Wellness
- Community Nutrition
- Public Health
- And More
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An associate nutrition degree is a wonderful way to begin a career in nutrition or health and wellness. Many entry-level positions in nutrition only require an associate degree. By beginning with an associate degree, you can start working in the industry and gain the necessary experience straight out of school. You can even work on your bachelor’s degree while you work in community nutrition. Completing associate degree programs in nutrition will allow students to earn more money than someone with a high school diploma and you will be able to continue your higher learning with a bachelor’s degree in less time while improving your job outlook.
An associate degree in nutrition will provide you with limited opportunities. To advance your career, you will require a bachelor’s degree or professional certification to become a registered nutritionist or a dietitian. If you only have an associate degree, you will also be limited in the types of certificates you can complete, and you will have highly limited earning potential. If you wish to make significantly more money and be eligible for promotions and better job opportunities, you will require a bachelor’s degree. Keep in mind that some credits from an associate degree in nutrition may not transfer to top four-year colleges and universities so consider your long-term higher learning plans before you commit to one associate degree program over another.
Certificate vs. Associates
An associate degree is often offered by community colleges with a regional, national, or professional accreditation. Be sure they have program partnerships with regionally-accredited four-year colleges and universities so that all of your credits will transfer to a bachelor’s degree if you choose to complete one in the future. An associate degree only takes two years to complete as a full-time student.
You only require a high school diploma or its equivalent to complete a certificate in nutrition. This is different than becoming a certified nutritionist. You can only become a certified nutritionist or dietitian by completing an associate degree followed by the professional certification exam. If you already have a bachelor’s degree in a non-nutrition related field, a certificate is a great way for you to shift careers. If your state requires nutritionists and dietitians to be licensed, some certificates will not make you eligible for state licensure. Choose wisely and know your state requirements.
What Nutrition Associates Degrees are Available?
- Associate of Science (AS) in Nutrition
An AS in Nutrition is designed for nutrition jobs held in a traditional health employment environment. This might include a hospital, health agency, or medical office. You will learn more technical and scientific-related subjects than some other associate degrees.
- Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Nutrition
An AAS in Nutrition works with program participants to teach them the best ways to educate and teach others in regard to food choices, wellness, and healthy behavior. You might also work with members of the local community or patients in a medical or wellness facility.
- Associate of Arts (AA) in Nutrition
With an AA in Nutrition, you will focus more on public speaking, writing, and communication courses than science-based associate degrees do. You will complete a more general education in the liberal arts than a specific niche or scientific degree program.
An associate degree requires a high school diploma or its equivalent. If you wish to complete an associate degree from the most reputable colleges and universities in order to ensure your credits transfer to a four-year degree bachelor’s degree program in the future, you will require a higher GPA. You should also demonstrate positive community involvement, work experience, and extracurricular activities to increase your chances for entry into the best programs.
How long does it take to earn a Nutrition Associates Degree?
If you are able to dedicate yourself to an associate degree in nutrition as a full-time student, you will be able to complete a program in two years. If you elect to take summer courses, you can finish in less time. If you take an online program while you work or care for family members, it could take longer than two years. Generally speaking, all associate degree programs are designed to be two-year programs.
Potential Careers in Nutrition with an Associates
- Dietetic Technician
A dietetic technician works directly with registered dietitian nutritionists to complete tasks that require assistance. You might help prepare food and plan menus for people who have special nutritional requirements. Employers will vary but may include nursing homes, hospitals, or long-term care facilities.
Average Income: $41,500
- Food Technologist
A food technologist works in food and beverage research and development. They might work with existing products to improve upon the quality or the way they are packaged, stored, and processed. You will be required to closely follow government and industry regulations at all times.
Average Income: $56,800
- Nutrition Associate
A nutrition assistant works with patients or clients to help educate them on nutrition and healthy eating. You will evaluate the existing eating and drinking habits of your patients or clients and establish a new plan for healthy meals and lifestyle changes. You will provide guidance and follow up with progress reports.
Average Income: $41,900
- Nutrition Educator
Nutrition educators work to market, develop, and implement education programs and services to patients or customers. You might work in one of many healthcare or medical facilities, such as hospitals, doctors’ offices, schools, retirement communities, corporations, or more.
Average Income: $37,400
- Weight Loss Counselor
As a weight loss counselor you will work with clients or patients to determine the root cause of their weight challenges and develop a plan to overcome any potential obstacles. Each plan for weight loss will be customized to each person that will include an exercise routine and a well-balanced diet.
Average Income: $22,000
Options to Advance
You may be able to achieve entry-level positions with an associate degree in nutrition. If you wish to excel in the industry and to earn at least an extra $15,000 a year, you must complete a bachelor’s degree. You can even start your own nutrition business with an associate degree. However, to improve your credibility and to be able to become a certified nutritionist or dietitian, you will require a bachelor’s. If you wish to achieve managerial or executive positions, you will require a master’s degree. Basically, the higher the degree you complete the more money and better job opportunities you will experience.
Best Associate of Science in Nutrition Programs
Cincinnati State has a pre-nutrition science program that is specifically designed for students who wish to continue on to a bachelor’s degree. If you wish to pursue a bachelor’s degree in nutrition or dietetics at some point in the future, this is the associate degree for you. In this program, you will be required to complete over 30 hours of outside activities, such as food shows, wellness activities, meetings, and more.
- Associate of Science Degree in Pre-Nutrition Science
San Diego Mesa College
San Diego, California
San Diego Mesa College has a nutrition program for individuals looking for a career in nutrition and dietetics. Once you complete this degree, you could pursue a few different pathways in the industry. You can select a program that is specifically designed for students who wish to transfer after completion of the associate degree in nutrition. You will be able to transfer to a four-year college or university to become a registered or certified nutritionist or dietitian.
- Associate of Science Degree in Nutrition
- Associate of Science Degree in Nutrition and Fitness
- Associate of Science Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics for Transfer Degree
North Shore Community College
North Shore Community College offers an AS in nutritional science and diet technology. This is the ideal program for individuals who wish to become a dietetic technician. You could work as a research assistant, consultant, or registered dietitians. You could also work for a food service business, wellness organization, community outreach programs, or a healthcare facility. Keep in mind this is a community college. You will have to transfer to a four-year college or university to complete a bachelor’s degree.
- Associate of Science in Nutritional Science and Diet Technology
Community College of Denver
The Community College of Denver offers both an AAS and a certificate in nutrition. You will be prepared to act as a food educator in various nutrition areas, such as wellness, food choices, and healthy behaviors. Keep in mind this is a community college. You will have to transfer to a four-year college or university to complete a bachelor’s degree.
- Associate of Applied Science in Nutrition
- Certificate in Food, Nutrition and Wellness
Glendale Community College
Glendale Community College has an associate degree and a certificate program in nutrition. You will also have the opportunity to pursue a number of different AA degrees that are designed specifically for students who wish to transfer upon completion of their two-year degree. Glendale Community College has a partnership with ASU to make transferring easier and more affordable.
- Associate in Applied Science in Exercise Science and Personal Training
- Certificate in Nutrition for Fitness and Wellness
- Transfer Associate of Arts in Nutrition (Dietetics)
- Transfer Associate of Arts in Nutrition (Food & Nutrition Management)
- Transfer Associate of Arts in Nutrition (Human Nutrition)
- Transfer Associate of Arts in Nutrition (Nutrition Communication)
Traditional Schools Offering an AS in Nutrition
Nassau Community College
Garden City, New York
The AS in Food and Nutrition degree at Nassau Community College helps program participants to pursue careers in dietetics and nutrition education. You will work in a laboratory in addition to classroom coursework participation. The college prides itself on hands-on experience. This is a community college. You will have to transfer to a four-year college or university to complete a bachelor’s degree. Nassau Community College has partnerships with a number of such schools to make transferring easier and more affordable.
- Associate of Science in Legal Studies
- Associate of Science in Food and Nutrition
Huntington University of Health Sciences
Huntington University of Health Sciences is a higher learning institution fully dedicated to health science degrees. This program works to promote healthy nutrition best practices, good nutrition decisions related to health and disease, and much more. You can also pursue bachelor’s degrees and graduate degrees in health sciences.
- AS in Applied Nutrition
- AS in Integrative Nutrition
- Diploma in Comprehensive Nutrition
- Diploma in Women’s Nutrition
Central Arizona College
Graduates of the AAS degree in Dietetic Education at Central Arizona College will be eligible to take the Registration Examination from the Commission on Dietetic Registration to become a properly Registered Nutrition and Dietetic Technician (NDTR), as required in some states to practice legally. Keep in mind, this is a community college. Central Arizona College has a partnership with ASU to make transferring easier and more affordable.
- AAS in Dietetic Technician
South Seattle College
South Seattle College offers an AA and an AS degree in nutrition-related fields. Many program participants utilize these programs to pursue degrees in healthcare after the completion of their two-year associate degree. The programs work closely with the University of Washington to provide a more seamless and enjoyable transfer experience.
- AA in Human Nutrition
- AS in Sciences for Pre-Majors
Paradise Valley Community College
At Paradise Valley Community College, you will have the opportunity to work in nutrition and dietetics upon graduation. They also partner with ASU to make transferring easier and more affordable for those who wish to complete a bachelor’s degree at a later date. You will learn about healthcare, food service management, leadership skills, government laws, and more.
- AAS in Dietetic Technology
Healthcare Degree & Career Paths