By Jeff Novick, M.S., R.D. (August 14, 2009)
Continuing on the topic of the best path to obtaining an education in nutrition….
Just like in most professions, the formal education mostly sets the stage and gives someone basic preparatory skills to go out and function in the profession. In addition, graduate work, and post graduate work, will give provide more education and preparation.
The education needed to get an RD, or to get a BS or a MS or a PhD in nutrition, is valuable and helpful but can never cover everything. As someone continues on in the process of graduate work, they can pick a specific area to focus more on, and so their education in that specific area, would become greater.
Also, once they get the basics, there is specialized education, training and continued education available, but again, one would have to really look for it, and it is usually broad scoped or a narrow perspective. I have taken some excellent continuing education classes in the traditional fields.
I consider myself fortunate, that this field was a hobby/passion of mine and I enjoy pursuing this information as most of what I call the “meat and potatoes of it” 🙂 has come from my own passionate pursuit and study.
For me, this is also a life long process and passion that I hope to pursue for many many more years.
Now, if someone was to decide to pursue a traditional accredited degree, there are many options on how best to do this.
I think the bottom line is for anyone to really think about what their ultimate goal is that they want to do after they graduate because all the decisions that they make along the way are going to be based on helping to achieve what it is they really want to do.
In my opinion, based on both my personal and professional experience over the years, I would recommend considering getting an undergraduate and/or graduate degree as an RD, and consider a graduate degree as an MSW. Or a dual graduate degree as an RD and a MSW.
There are many limitations to the RD degree which the MSW would open up.
-The MSW is a primary care provider and can receive insurance reimbursement, where as the RD often can’t.
– The MSW focuses on counseling (and coaching) skills and actually licenses you as such, where the RD does not. Most of what you will be doing is counseling people in one way or another. Being education in the process of behavior change will be a real benefi
– The MSW and its profession is not bound to the same restrictions and/or influence the RD and its profession is under the ADA and its ties to the food industry. The MSW can assist people in making lifestyle behavior changes as they see appropriate.
I think it is a viable option but of course, one would have to explore on their own to see how it fits their goals, which of course, is going to be the most important thing in determining the direction they take.
Also, there is a great forum on VegSource which is run by my colleague Mark Rifkin, an RD, which is dedicated to these types of issues and questions.
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