Wealth in health! – Career in Health and Nutrition

With fast-paced lives taking over the people in general, the field of health and nutrition is fast gaining importance. Knowledge looks at a career in the field

Sector overview

In certain urban circles, if you go to happen to ask, you will find that every other person is consulting some specialist or the other for a healthy lifestyle, and incorporating a nutritious diet in everyday life. It is true that with stressful work environments, the pressures of living in the city, and perhaps fulfilling one’s dreams leads to perhaps minute but myriad health issues which affect the body and mind in the long run. At such a time, a lot of people feel that it is best to leave it to the specialist, and have them tell you what to do, rather than break your head over figuring out your body type, and best food groups and when to eat what.

This idea has taken over the middle class with such a wave, that not only in the metros and other major cities, but also in the smaller cities and towns you will find specialists willing to offer their services. Consulting offices for personalisation are mushrooming everywhere and you can see all kinds of clientele availing the services offered by these consultants.

The promotion of holistic health has taken on a new turn, with almost every person trying to think of the correct things to do for a long and healthy life. This boost gets further impetus from healthcare centres and other nutrition and dietetics centres, all of which offer various services. Reports also say that the increased demand of practitioners in this sector has created over one lakh jobs in the past few years, and will be creating more in the future.

The other major factor that promotes health and nutrition as a field is the idea of preventive healthcare by improving food and dietary habits, the most popular ones being diabetes and blood pressure conditions.

To get there

To make a career in this field, there are several ways of entry. It is not like some of the traditional fields where students have to follow a singular linear path to achieve their goal. For being in health and nutrition, one has a few choices. Most programmes are offered after completion of class 12, as a certain level of maturity is expected in the students taking up the courses. There are degree, diploma and certificate programmes after class 12 and after graduation.

If a student decides way in advance, then the popular option is to take up science after class 12 with physics, chemistry and biology, and opt for a BSc degree in nutrition or a related field. There are also BSc degrees with Home Science that one can opt for, and take up the nutrition and dietetics specialisation in the third year. There is a BSc degree in Applied Nutrition as well. Many institutes in Mumbai offer various bachelor’s programmes, including SNDT Women’s University (SNDT) offering a BSc in clinical nutrition or Nutrition and Dietetics and University of Mumbai offering graduation BSc Nutrition and Dietetics.

Apart from that, there is a food technology courses after class 12 (science) which is of four years’ duration. You can also check out the various diploma programmes on offer and which one suits you the most.

Aspirants can also look for a postgraduate degree after their bachelor’s. There are two-year master’s programmes or one-year diploma programmes on offer. A few courses on offer include:

  • Certificate Course in Food and Nutrition
  • Certificate Course in Nutrition and Child Care
  • Certificate Course in Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Diploma in Applied Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Diploma in Food and Nutrition
  • Diploma in Nutrition and Health Education
  • Diploma In Sports Science and Nutrition (DSSN)
  • BSc Clinical Nutrition, Dietetics and Catering Management
  • BSc Food and Nutrition
  • BSc Food Science, Nutrition and Food Quality Control
  • BSc Nutrition and Dietetics
  • BSc Nutrition, Food Service Management, Dietetics

A student says

Mona Mehta, BSc Nutrition student

I feel that if you have an affinity towards health, and you think you can learn better about the human body, you should definitely consider this field as a career option. I would like to add that aspirants should understand that scientific understanding of the subject is really important in this field, and therefore you should not be disheartened by those who feel that they can figure everything out with the help of the internet.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the clients do not always comply with changes that nutritionists and dieticians suggest. They might agree at the meeting, but may perhaps not follow through. So the professional has to be creative in pushing the client to do the work. Also, several specialists inform us students that may people don’t always think about nutrition when they seem healthy. They turn towards nutrition and health when perhaps diagnosed with a particular condition. Therefore professionals have to be ready with their research and understanding of at least the major popular health conditions that the people face today.

Also, the clients might second guess or question everything a specialist says banking on what they have read up on the internet. That is something you have to work through patiently, there is no alternative.

Market and remuneration

There is a market. That is for sure. You need to know where you fit in best, and make the most of it. There are openings in healthcare centres, hospitals, slimming centres, gyms, and nutrition clinics among many others. There are also jobs for specialists in hospitals who look at the special foods that certain patients can eat, owing to their medical conditions. Those who pursue their courses from institutes which have affiliated business centres, are likely to be quickly absorbed for those businesses.

For those who are starting out, there are entry-level jobs where you deal with clients with simple needs and where you will be trained according to the USP of the organisation. After that, multiple paths might open up for you. The primary role is to advise the clients (or sometimes patients) on what they should be eating, how much they should be eating and when they should be eating to be healthier. Often, nutritionists also teach the clients ways to cook and handle food better to preserve maximum nutrients. The suggestions need to be made based on the person’s lifestyle (work timings, etc) and dietary habits (vegetarian, non-vegetarian and so on) as well as preferences and likes and dislikes. You have to provide a goal to the person and then ask for lifestyle changes where needed as well, to achieve that health-related goal.

With the average starting salaries ranging from Rs. 18,000 per month to Rs. 25,000 per month, this is considered quite a stable career option. Organisations also offer various incentives to employees based on different parameters. The salaries will hike up after a few years of experience.

An aspirant asks

Purvika Joshi, Class 10 student

My sister has offered me a lot of perspective on this field (she is an MBBS student) and I feel that I will be able to do well. I have already decided my career path, and if all goes well, and I am successful at securing admission, I will be in this field. My only worry is that I am very autocratic and often feel that it is my way or the highway. In such a case, will this be a drawback for this field?

A professional answers: I am glad that you are looking at this field very seriously as a career option, and you know you will do well. I must tell you that this trait can be a drawback in every field, not only this one. What I appreciate is that you already know of this trait of yours, but you need to take a step further and be willing to mould yourself into a team player, rather than an autocratic person. As part of your job, you will be dealing with and talking to a variety of people including colleagues, seniors, managers as well as clients. You have to be very sensitive with your communication, especially with the clients. They could have all kinds of problems with health as well as their self image. Your job is to let them know of the health problems and benefits of following a plan, and motivate them.

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