Master's Degree in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine

During the summer of 2017, I made the big decision to go back to school and get my Master's degree in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine. I knew this would be quite the undertaking because I am a full-time entrepreneur (I own Pure Barre Colorado Springs), and so is my husband (he owns PictureBooth). Time is not an abundant resource for us, so the program needed to be completely online, but also exactly what I wanted. Below, I've complied a basic Q&A to address how I chose my Master's Program and the most commonly asked questions I receive about it! 

What Program Did You ChoOse? 

I will receive my Master's degree in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine from the University of Western States in Portland, Oregon. The program is completely online and takes about 2 years to complete. I will officially begin in April 2018, and I am taking my last prerequisite right now.

Why did you choose this program over other online nutrition programs?

I first heard about this program from a blogger I follow, and you can read an extremely thorough post from her here that compares a wide range of nutrition and functional medicine programs. I applied to University of Western States and University of Bridgeport in Connecticut and was accepted to both. Ultimately, I chose UWS for the following reasons:

  • they are the only accredited online Master's program in functional medicine
  • the course list at UWS was more interesting to me
  • UWS has a partnership with the Institute of Functional Medicine and receives some of their curriculum from IFM
  • the staff was extremely personable, informative, and stressed the professor-student and student-to-student interaction, even in an online program 
  • the price of UWS was a bit less, but that was just a bonus!

What exactly is functional medicine?

The following excerpt is from the UWS website, but hey, they said it best!

"Functional medicine is a science-based, patient-centered approach to achieving and maintaining excellent health. This is accomplished primarily through natural methods, with diet and nutrition at the forefront. It is a model of health care that addresses the causes of disease and dysfunction rather than suppressing symptoms and actively supports whole-person wellness. Founded on a holistic view of health, functional medicine training delves deep into the biochemical and genetic individuality of each patient."

Master's Degree or Certificate program? Help!

The Twist of Lemons blog that I referenced earlier covers this, but as I mentioned in the opening of this post, I'm not about halfway doing anything. There are plenty of nutrition certifications out there, but I want the full Master's degree experience when it comes to nutrition. I want to make sure I'm receiving a complete education, including the science background that is required of a nutrition degree. Many certificate programs do not require chemistry, biochemistry, and nutritional biochemistry, as my program does, and I didn't want to shy away from the important disciplines that are the backbone of nutrition and functional medicine. Additionally, if I ever choose to do further education to become a Naturopath, I want to be fully prepared. 

what did you have to do to apply?

I had to send my transcripts and 2 letters of recommendation, fill out the application, and go through an interview process. I also had to take the 6 prerequisites required for the program. If you have a background in healthcare or studied a science in college, you would have already taken many of these courses. I, however, received a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) in college, so I had to take all of these throughout the past 8 months:

  • Nutrition
  • Biology
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Medical Terminology
  • Chemistry
  • Biochemistry

What's the difference between a nutritionist and a registered dietician?

To become a Registered Dietician (RD), you must receive your Bachelor's degree and complete a heavy load of clinical hours. To become a nutritionist, you must receive a Master's degree. Unfortunately, an RD is the only license that is universally recognized by all states in the US. Because the fields of nutrition, holistic/functional medicine, and naturopathy (to name a few) are newer disciplines, each state has their own laws regarding licensure and scope of practice. I didn't want to go to school to become an RD because I disagree with the majority of dietetics education that is propagated in RD programs (things like "all calories are equal" and the amount of crap people are fed in our hospitals), as do most people who are interested in the nutrition and function medicine space.

However, that does present issues if I wanted to use my degree and future licensure in certain states in a medical setting. I am still researching this, but from my understanding, those who do not have the RD licensure in states that require it are not allowed to take insurance from patients, work in a hospital setting, or provide medical nutrition advice. I don't believe this would hinder someone from providing non-medical nutrition advice or from providing advice through an online resource (like a blog, podcast, or online consulting forum). The Center for Nutrition Advocacy outlines the laws in all different states. 

What do you plan to do with this degree?

At the end of my program, I will be eligible to sit for the board exams for the Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) and/or Certified Clinical Nutritionist (CCN) licensure. To receive the CNS licensure, you also need clinical hours, so I'm not sure which route I'll take at this point. I plan to use my degree to work with patients for private consulting, and I also plan to use my knowledge in my writing, as well. As for everything else that I have dreamed up, stay tuned!