Sam Gilbert is a journalism sophomore and a Mustang Daily health columnist. 

We all went through the grueling college application process. The hardest part when applying to Cal Poly? Choosing the major that will lead to our future careers.

It’s hard to know exactly what we want to do at the age of 17. These are the rest of our lives we’re talking about, people. However, the nutrition and kinesiology departments at Cal Poly open the doors to many different career paths and allow for creativity to be a factor.

“Most students come into a nutrition major either wanting to be a registered dietician or some other kind of related health profession,” nutrition professor Arlene Grant-Holcomb said.

Nutrition majors choose from three concentrations: applied nutrition, nutrition science and nutrition and food industries, Grant-Holcomb said. If students do the applied concentration, then that’s what he or she would do to become a registered dietician.

Nutrition senior Kylie Garvin said she originally intended to follow the career path of a registered dietitian.

“That’s still definitely an option, but I’ve also moved away from that toward community nutrition,” Garvin said.

Garvin said she is intimidated by how competitive this field is.

Students tend to change their concentrations, Grant-Holcomb said. For example, they’ll start out pre-med and then do a whole year of chemistry or organic chemistry and then realize they’d rather do something else.

Kinesiology alumna Kaitlin Baumgartner said she went into college with the intention of becoming a personal trainer.

“It all came down to the fact that I would need more schooling to become a trainer,” Baumgartner said.

Instead, Baumgartner now works at Central Coast Pathology in the microbiology department, which only called for her kinesiology degree.

Baumgartner also coaches cross country and track, so the skills she learned in kinesiology courses still come into play, she said.

There are a lot of possibilities for health-related jobs, Grant-Holcomb said.

In nutrition, if students do a science concentration and carefully choose their advisor-approved electives, then they have the opportunity to become physicians, dentists, pharmacists or nurses, Grant-Holcomb said.

Cal Poly graduates have also gone on to become podiatrists, chiropractors and optometrists, she said.

Nursing and dietetics are the most common career paths students work toward, Grant-Holcomb said.

Most dietitians work in health care, but they are as creative a group professionally as any other, Grant-Holcomb said.

Dietitians can do consulting, training, entrepreneurship, work at schools and even be authors.

A lot of consumers today don’t know how to cook, so dietitians commonly find themselves in public health settings and teaching people how to cook so its both healthy and interesting, Grant-Holcomb said.

With so many options, it can be hard to focus and decide upon a desired career path. Grant-Holcomb, however, can help with that.

She offers one-on-one advising as well as group meetings, Grant-Holcomb said.

Another place hopeful health professionals can seek advise is through a professional association known as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Grant-Holcomb said.

On-campus resources for networking and experience include the nutrition club and the STRIDE program.

Baumgartner worked with STRIDE as a Cal Poly student. She said the experience taught her life skills by interacting with co-workers and managing student schedules.

She still uses the multitasking skills she learned from STRIDE every day, she said.

Cal Poly offers classes that require formal laboratory experiences as well as some with a service learning expectation for students to go out and work with the community, Grant-Holcomb said.

So getting a job in nutrition allows you to give back to the community in a creative way, Grant-Holcomb said.

With a declared major and a plethora of potential career paths, it can be overwhelming to decide how to approach the future. However, taken from the wise words of our professors and Cal Poly alumni, it’s better to not stress too hard about it, since our degrees from Cal Poly can take us in even more directions then we thought possible.

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