Not Pursuing an RD, No problem! Part 2: Health Professional Programs


In Part I, I provided information about one type of advanced degree program that might be of interested to many of you but if the PA route didn’t tickle your fancy, fear not! I have some more options for you. In this post I’m going to be discussing other advanced degree programs pertaining to health that are suitable options for those with a BS in Nutrition. I would like to preface by saying that I have not forgotten about non-health related options that are available! You will have to stay tuned for Part III to find out more about those :). However in the spirit of pursuing higher education, I will be focusing on other graduate level programs in this article…so let’s get started!

Dental/Pharmacy School:

Kind of random options yes, but both are great options for those majoring in Nutrition!

The Dental School route makes sense considering that the mouth is the entry point of the digestive system. A background in nutrition gives a great advantage to a dental school candidate, considering that dental schools for the most part do not provide as strong an education in that field. As healthcare moves towards an emphasis on preventative care, a dentist well versed in nutrition is better equipped to provide a more rounded approach of treatment for patients.

  • How much do they make?
    • a non-specialist in Los Angeles earns a median salary of $166,175 annually (according to
  • How to become a Dentist:
    • You must attend Dental School for 4 years and receive a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree and be licensed. You can practice general dentistry or choose a specialty from 9 options. Some states require a 2 year residency.
  • Applying to Dental School:
    • Must take the Dental Admissions Test
    • Must meet the pre-requisites:
      • 1 year of biology
      • 2 years of chemistry to include general and organic chemistry
      • 1 year of physics
      • 1 year of english

The Pharmacy School route connection might initially be a bit harder to visualize. Pharmacists are more than people in lab coats working behind a counter at Rite Aid…(and usually those people are actually the Pharmacy Techs) they are actually involved in direct patient care and must be very familiar with biochemistry and the mechanisms of drugs/supplements, drug interactions, side effects and much more. It’s a great thing that our curriculum includes the Advanced Nutrient Metabolism series to give us some great preparation for this (thanks Dr. B, Dr. Bidlack and Professor McCabe!!). A Pharmacists primary job is to communicate their extensive knowledge in these areas to patients, physicians and other health professionals involved in patient care.

  • How much do they make?
    • A pharmacist in Los Angeles earns a median annual salary of $133,811
  • How to become a pharmacist:
    • you must attend a 4 year Pharmacy school and receive a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D) and be licensed. Many also go through residencies in pharmacy practice.
  • Applying to Pharmacy School:
    • Pharmacy College Admission Test is required by some schools
    • Must meet pre-requisites-they vary by school but the basics are:
      • 1 year of Biology
      • 2 years of Chemistry-including general and organic
      • 1 year of Physics
      • 1 quarter of Physiology
      • 2-3 quarters of Calculus
      • 2 quarters of English

Allopathic Medical School

The connection between medical school and nutrition is fairly clear cut…but something that you might not be aware of is that there are different kinds of medical schools–Allopathic being one of them. So what is allopathic? Allopathic Medical School trains students in allopathic medicine which is the general type of treatment we get when we go to the hospital etc. A more formal definition would be the “medical use of pharmacologically active agents or physical interventions to treat or suppress symptoms or pathophysiological processes of diseases or conditions” (according to wikipedia). Most medical schools in the US fall under this category.

  • How to become a physician: (this is the very condensed nut shell version)
    • You must attend an accredited 4 year medical school, complete residency, receive a Doctor of Medicine degree (MD) and be licensed to practice. The MD title indicates that the bearer was trained in allopathic medicine.
    • Residency-here you decide if you are going to be a Primary Care Provider (Internist or “general practitioner” etc) or specialize. Duration of residency varies depending specialty-minimum is around 3 years
  • How much do they make? 
    • income varies widely depending on specialty
    • Median annual income for a General Practitioner in Los Angeles is $202,857 (
  • Applying to Med School:
    • Must take the Medical College Admissions Test
    • complete pre-requisites: (the bare minimum)
      • 1 year of Biology
      • 1 year of Physics
      • 2 years of Chemistry- including organic and general
      • 1 year of English
      • (Biochemistry is also predicted to become a pre-req after 2015)

Osteopathic Medical School

The second type of medical school. Osteopathic medicine in the US is very similar to allopathic medicine but also relies on a holistic approach that includes bone and joint manipulation to diagnose and treat illnesses. The bone and joint manipulation is referred to as Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine and is used in mainly primary care, sports medicine and emergency medicine. Doctors of Osteopathy can do everything MDs can, the real only difference is that they can treat with OMM.

  • How to become a osteopathic physician:
    • attend an accredited 4- year Osteopathic medical school, receive a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree, complete residency and become licensed.
    • everything is mostly the same as MD- they complete the same residency programs as MDs
    • Board exams are different
  • Applying to OD school:
    • Admission process is the same as MD, except that the average GPA “requirement” is slightly lower than MD schools
    • Prerequisites are overall the same, some schools do not require as much organic chemistry
    • Generally speaking , it is a slightly easier to get into an OD school than a MD school but there are a lot less OD schools
  • How much do they make?
    • the same as a MD

Naturopathic Medical School

This area of medicine is something that I barely learned about recently. According to AANP, “Naturopathic medicine is a distinct primary health care profession, emphasizing prevention, treatment, and optimal health through the use of therapeutic methods and substances that encourage individuals’ inherent self-healing process.  The practice of naturopathic medicine includes modern and traditional, scientific, and empirical methods.” Many Naturopathic physicians use nutritional counseling in their treatment plan for patients. They are trained to diagnose illness like MDs and DOs but the approach of treatment is where they differ. Naturopathic doctors focus more on using holistic methods of treatment and prevention and are not trained to perform major surgery and do not have the full prescription rights as MD/DOs. As an ND you are being trained to become a Primary Care Provider.

  • How to become an ND:
    • Apply to a Naturopathic medical school, receive a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine (ND) and become licensed. Licensing is limited to certain states.
    • NDs are not eligible to participate in the same residencies as MDs and DOs
  • Applying to ND School:
    • Some schools require the MCAT
    • General pre-reqs are:
      • 1 year of Biology (anatomy, physiology and microbiology can count towards this)
      • 4 courses of Chemistry-options are variable. If you only take 1 course of organic chemistry then you need 1 course of biochemistry (apart from general chemistry)
      • 1 course of physics
      • 1 course of college algebra
      • 1 course in physiology
  • How much do they make?
    • Average salary in California is $85,820 per year

Chiropractic School

Becoming a chiropractor is another option and they do more than just fix your back and charge you $500 for it. Chiropractors are trained to examine, diagnose and treat disorders of the nervous and musculoskeletal system. They also are trained in nutritional and dietary counseling. According to ACA, Chiropractors “undergo a rigorous education in the healing sciences, similar to that of medical doctors. In some areas, such as anatomy, physiology, rehabilitation, nutrition and public health, they receive more intensive education than their MD counterparts”, so it’s easy to see how a BS in Foods & Nutrition is quite complementary.

  • How to become a Chiropractor:
    • attend chiropractic school, receive Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) and become licensed.
    • residencies are available if you wish to specialize
  • Applying to Chiropractic School: 
    • Course Pre-reqs (bare minimum):
      • 1 course of Biology
      • 1 course of General Chemistry
      • 1 course of Organic Chemistry
  • How much do they make?
    • Annual median salary in Los Angeles is $148,267

While some of these options do require supplemental courses that are not included in the Dietetics option curriculum, if any of these options sound like something you’d be interested in it could be worth it to take them. For Nutrition Science students, it is very easy to tailor your elective courses to satisfy any of these options. Overall, it doesn’t really matter which option you are– being a Foods & Nutrition major already puts you in a great position to walk down any of these paths.

Informational Links:

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