The Careers Adviser: 'Where can I find out about a job in nutrition?

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The Independent Online

Recipe for success

I have a degree in nutrition and am taking a cookery course. I would love to help improve people's health – privately or for the NHS – but don't know where to start. I have contacted health trusts but they don't seem able to give advice.

At this stage you are likely to find more opportunities in the public rather than the private sector – unless you can find a private practitioner looking to expand their business. You should be looking within the NHS or local authorities for work as a community nutrition assistant, food worker, community nutritionist or health trainer.

These jobs vary greatly depending on local need, but can include nutrition education and teaching cooking skills. They tend to be advertised locally and on the NHS jobs website (www.jobs.nhs.uk). Don't only use "nutrition" as a keyword when searching for posts – but also "food" or "healthy eating".

Postgraduate qualifications will usually be needed for higher-level jobs. Competition is likely to be intense, however, and you'll be up against candidates who have public health nutrition degrees. So to make your case you first need to get some practical experience, to show that you can bring skills to the job.

Working in a support role alongside dieticians, nutritionists and health trainers would give you first-hand experience. You might need to do some voluntary work. Opportunities for nutritionists within the NHS are increasing, but you still need to find a way to make your application stand out.

Do the research

My daughter is in her final year of a dance degree and it's clear that opportunities for work are limited. She's thinking about doing a second degree in history. This will cost a small fortune and I don't know if it's worth it. We are having difficulty finding advice.

For many employers an academic discipline is not as important as the potential to learn quickly. Your daughter can use her dance degree in areas such as arts administration and community arts, but also in anything from accountancy to youth work. If she is motivated by a love of history she might be able to take a one-year MA, maybe as part of a more general humanities course. Admissions tutors would want to know about relevant historical texts she had read, or research that she had undertaken during her degree.

There are few jobs – other than teaching the subject – which demand history as a first degree. It may be of benefit when looking for jobs in museum and archival work, or the heritage industry, but it is not always a prerequisite. So she needs to ask herself how beneficial three more years of study might be.

She should research what is open to her and what might mesh with her skills and interests. She can look, as a starting point, at websites such as Graduate Prospects (www.prospects.ac.uk) and Hobsons (www.hobsons.co.uk). These will give some idea of the variety of careers out there.

For more advice she should be able to visit her university's careers centre. If that is not possible some local IAG (information, advice and guidance) services will see adults, perhaps for a small charge. Check the Learning and Skills Council website (www.lsc.gov.uk) for provision in your area. Graduate Prospects now charges university leavers for email advice and phone or online consultations – an option nearer graduation. The Institute of Careers Guidance (www.icg-uk.org) keeps a list of professionally qualified practitioners in the UK.

Careers adviser: Gillian Sharp, careers consultant. Send your queries to Caroline Haydon at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020-7005 2143; or e-mail to chaydon@blueyonder.co.uk

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