Human nutrition FAQs


What is Nutrition?

Human nutrition is the science of how the human body obtains and uses nutrients from food for maintenance, growth and renewal of body tissues necessary for life.

First and foremost, when we talk about nutrition here at Deakin, we mean nutrition science, which encompasses far more than just foods, nutrients and biology (although if that's where your passion lies, then that's fine too!).

Nutrition science also considers why people choose to eat the food they do, even after they have been advised that doing so may be unhealthy. The study of food habits and people's attitudes, beliefs, likes and dislikes overlaps with the social sciences of psychology, anthropology, sociology and economics.

To help you familiarise yourself with what we mean by nutrition science, you should have a look at this video (coming soon), which gives an overview of what to expect when studying nutrition at Deakin.

What does a Nutritionist do?

Nutritionists apply scientific principles and methods in the field of nutrition to influence the broad environment affecting food supply and eating behaviour, to enhance nutritional status and prevent chronic diseases. Nutritionists design, coordinate, implement and evaluate a range of population health interventions to improve the wellbeing of individuals, communities and the population as a whole, through better food and nutrition.

Who can call themselves a Nutritionist?

There are a diverse range of qualifications that can lead to people calling themselves a Nutritionist.

For example, a Nutritionist may have a Bachelor level degree with majors in nutrition, a postgraduate degree such as a Masters, Graduate Diploma or Graduate Certificate, or even a PhD specialising in nutrition.

At present there is no legal protection of the title 'Nutritionist', so some people will call themselves a 'Nutritionist' even though they do not have suitable qualifications.

As a means to combatting this, the Nutrition Society of Australia (NSA) has established a voluntary registration scheme. This Register of Nutritionists recognises and encourages high standards of professional training in nutrition and will help support the profession and its development into the future.

Further information about registration for Nutritionists can be found here.

What is the difference between a Nutritionist and a Dietitian and what does this mean for me?

Nutritionists apply scientific principles and methods in the field of nutrition to influence the broad environment affecting food supply and eating behaviour, to enhance nutritional status and prevent chronic diseases. Nutritionists design, coordinate, implement and evaluate a range of population health interventions to improve the wellbeing of individuals, communities and the population as a whole, through better food and nutrition.

There are a diverse range of qualifications that can lead to people calling themselves a Nutritionist. A Nutritionist may have a Bachelor level degree with majors in nutrition, a postgraduate degree such as a Masters, Graduate Diploma or Graduate Certificate, or even a PhD specialising in nutrition.

Dietitians are health professionals specialising in foods and nutrition who have received clinical training to prescribe special diets for medical conditions. Dietitians are trained to work in the clinical setting and currently it is their qualification which allows them to work as a Dietitian in a hospital, community or private practice setting. Dietitians are eligible for membership of the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) and to participate in the Accredited Practising Dietitians (APD) and/or Accredited Nutritionist (AN) program. The titles APD and AN are protected by law so that only qualified practitioners who have met certain requirements can use this title. Further information about this program is available on the Dietitians Association of Australia website.

The choice to become a nutritionist or a dietitian is one that can only be made by you and what you hope to achieve in the future.

To put this in perspective, as a nutrition consultant, you may advise people on healthy eating and preventative health, such as assisting an individual to obtain a balanced eating plan or health coaching to enable successful dietary habit changes and weight loss. However, advice to people seeking assistance with allergies, intolerances or existing diseases (such as diabetes, cancer, IBS, Coeliac disease, cardiovascular disease) is outside your scope of practice and you would need to refer the client to an Accredited Practicing Dietitian. There are also no Medicare or private health insurance rebates when an individual sees a Nutritionist at present.

If you are interested in learning more about the Master of Dietetics course at Deakin, read more here.

Can I be a Dietitian after this degree?

No, however if you choose the recommended electives and core units to meet the dietetics pre-requisites, then you may be eligible to apply for the Deakin Master of Dietetics course.

What is the difference between a Nutritionist and a Public Health Nutritionist?

A Public Health Nutritionist is a Nutritionist who has received additional specialist training and experience to focus on nutrition related issues that affect the whole population rather than the specific dietary needs of individuals. The emphasis is on promoting health and disease prevention.

Public health nutrition exists within an extensive infrastructure of government and non-government organisations, service and program delivery systems as well as the food supply system covering production through to consumption.

The Nutrition Society of Australia (NSA) also has a Register of appropriately trained and qualified Registered Public Health Nutritionists. Further information about registration for Nutritionists can be found here.

If you would like to learn more about public health nutrition, please refer to the public health nutrition page or perhaps you may like to consider enrolling in our Graduate Certificate of Public Health Nutrition.

What is the difference between the Master of Public Health (nutrition stream) and Master of Human Nutrition?

The Master of Public Health (H757) focuses primarily on public health and health promotion with nutrition as a minor stream component and is offered only on the Burwood campus. The Master of Human Nutrition (H714) is delivered wholly online, focuses purely on nutrition and can be tailored to include public health nutrition within the elective components of the course.

Are qualifications recognised overseas?

Nutritionists may obtain work overseas depending on the job title and employment setting they are pursuing.

Registration of Nutritionists will vary between countries but subject to individual requirements and the assessment of qualifications, graduates can normally work in most countries.

If you are interested in working overseas it's worth exploring Going Global, the Deakin Jobs and Careers website and researching organisations such as the WHO and Australian Volunteers for International Development.

What are the career opportunities for a Nutritionist?

Nutritionists may pursue a wide range of careers and these are often only limited by your imagination! Refer to this page for an overview and from there you can delve further into one or more of the discipline areas.

What options do I have for completing electives and which ones should I complete in order to pursue my preferred career in nutrition?

The number of electives you can complete depends on the course you take.

In the Master of Human Nutrition you can choose up to five credit points from electives, depending on which stream you choose (stream A has five credit points from electives and stream B incorporates two credit points from electives). The Masters also allows flexibility and diversity to be added to your studies by giving you the opportunity to choose up to two credit points from approved postgraduate units offered by any faculty of Deakin University (subject to approval by the Course Director).

If you are enrolled in a Graduate Certificate, you can only choose electives in the Graduate Certificate of Public Health Nutrition, which allows for two credit points from electives.

The type of electives will vary depending on the career path you are interested in pursuing, so please refer to the suggested electives sections listed under the different career areas accessible from the menu on the right.

Is there any order in which I have to complete the units?

Unless the units have specific pre-requisites, the answer is no, although if you are completely new to nutrition it is recommended you do the core units early on in your studies.

What opportunities exist for further education/research?

There are many opportunities for further study or research depending on your interests. A further qualification can also help to enhance your existing skills and allow you to specialise in an area of your choice. For example, stream B of the Master of Human Nutrition (H714) is equivalent to an Honours degree and enables you to progress onto a PhD, so this may be worth considering if you're interested in pursuing further education or a career in research.

Deakin University offers a wide variety of other courses at postgraduate level and has a strong research degree program. For further information on this area, please see the research and tertiary education page.

How can I find out what types of careers nutritionists have and what their jobs entail?

In short – this website!

Refer to this page for an overview and from there you may wish to delve further into the different discipline areas to see what types of careers are possible.

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