Nutrition is multifaceted discipline that goes beyond eating behaviors. This fascinating, scientific field combines the study of public health, molecular biology and community nutrition. An online master's in nutrition explores the principles behind proper nutrition and provides you with practical skills in areas ranging from nutritional assessments to nutritional counseling. With the degree, you can pursue advanced licensure as a dietitian and nutritionist or pursue career opportunities in diverse areas such as food manufacturing.
Top 10 Online Master's Programs in Nutrition 2-Year Colleges
|#1||Eastern Michigan University Ypsilanti, MI|
|#2||Framingham State University Framingham, MA|
|#3||South Dakota State University Brookings, SD|
|#4||Kansas State University Manhattan, KS|
|#5||University of Nebraska-Lincoln Lincoln, NE|
|#6||SUNY Oneonta Oneonta, NY|
|#7||Rutgers University-New Brunswick New Brunswick, NJ|
|#8||Texas Woman's University Denton, TX|
|#9||Canisius College Buffalo, NY|
|#10||Loma Linda University Loma Linda, CA|
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The Best Online Master's in Nutrition Programs of 2018-2019
To generate the 2019 rankings of the best online master's programs in nutrition, we collected, analyzed and evaluated publicly available information from each institution on the list and data from the U.S. Department of Education and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. All of the colleges and universities on this list have been accredited. A complete list of regional accrediting groups is available from the U.S. Department of Education.
What to Know About Online Master's in Nutrition Coursework
The curriculum in an online master's in nutrition program is designed to advance your skills in core nutrition, clinical nutrition practice and research. It's important to note some programs prepare you to become a registered dietitian, while others serve as a starting point to certifications, such as Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS).
As a graduate student in nutrition, you should expect to develop the following skills:
- How to help individuals select foods to optimize their personal health and prevent disease
- Understand nutritional principles and how they are used to treat diet-related disease conditions
- Conduct nutritional assessments and create diet plans and strategies
- Translate nutritional science trends into training and health promotion programs
- Apply nutritional research practices to examine nutritional issues at the individual and community level
What Common Courses are Offered in a Master's in Nutrition Program?
Curriculum is divided between core courses in areas such as nutritional science and nutritional support and electives in subjects such as nutritional counseling and education, nutrition and health or community interventions. Overall, coursework varies by nutritional program and academic specialization, but common classes include the following:
Nutrition Program Design
Students study the core principles of the strategic planning of nutrition education programs and examine effective nutrition education methods to address individual and community health risk factors.
Changing Health Behavior
This course explores how health behavior theory can be applied in real-world settings through cognitive techniques to change negative lifestyle practices such as poor eating or smoking.
Students are exposed to modern communication methods used to deliver health promotion messages to target audiences, such as social marketing, health writing and public speaking.
An exploration of assessment practices and tools used to screen individuals and specific populations of people, introducing students to assessment methodologies and clinical nutrition surveys.
Medical Nutrition Therapy
This course covers contemporary nutritional theory and introduces students to evidence-based disease prevention, treatment and patient care management.
What Specializations are Available in a Master's in Nutrition Program?
Nutritional science is a diverse area of study with multiple areas of concentration. Depending on your future goals, an academic specialization can help you prepare for licensing or certification examinations and clinical practice. Below is a list of common educational concentrations in master's of science in nutrition programs.
This specialization helps Registered Dietitians advance their knowledge of health promotion and disease management by creating, managing and evaluating nutrition and food programs at the individual and community level.
Community Nutrition and Health Promotion
This academic concentration helps students develop competencies in nutritional assessment, which is used in the strategic planning, implementing, and evaluating of community nutrition programs.
This specialization is designed for Registered Dietitians to develop advanced clinical nutrition knowledge that can be used to help individuals and communities optimize their health behaviors and prevent disease.
Public Health Nutrition
This track trains students to conduct nutritional assessments to identify factors – environmental, socio-economic and cultural – that affect nutritional behaviors of different populations in their communities.
What Exams or Projects Should I Expect?
Like a campus-based student, you may be expected to complete a practicum or internship, along with a thesis or capstone project. To become a clinical practitioner, you have to complete at least 1,200 hours of supervised internship work. You can complete these requirements in your local area.
Some programs require a written thesis paper that presents original research and scholarship in your area of nutritional specialization. Some online programs require students to travel to campus to defend their thesis in person. You may have to complete an applied learning project as your culminating academic experience. These projects consist of identifying a nutritional problem, developing a solution and creating a presentation to showcase that solution.
How Can I Choose a Quality Online Master's in Nutrition Program?
When selecting a prospective online master's degree program, look beyond price and consider other factors, such as accreditation, instructional delivery and program quality. If you're seeking to become a licensed nutritionist or dietitian, you must graduate from an accredited program to sit for certification and licensing examinations. The Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics is the central accrediting body for nutritional education programs.
Second, examine the specifics of the program requirements. You must complete a supervised internship program prior to Registered Dietitian or Certified Nutritional Specialist certification examinations. Does the program assist with dietetic internships? Can you complete the practicum in your local area?
A third consideration is the quality of the faculty. Do they have professional experience? Are they credentialed, holding licenses or experience as Registered Dietitians, Certified Clinical Nutritionists or Certified Nutritional Specialists? The lack of real-world experience or qualifications could be an issue for overall academic program quality.
Career Opportunities with a Master's in Nutrition Degree
A master's of science in nutrition degree can pave the way to a wide range of potential careers in food and nutrition management, public health nutrition, education and research, private practice and consulting, business, media and public policy. Through these integrative programs of study, you can pursue advanced career opportunities and qualify for state-based licensing examinations to practice as a licensed nutritionist or dietitian.
Registered dietitians hold a certification from the Commission on Dietetic Registration and provide nutritional counseling services to individuals and communities
- Median Salary: $59,410 per year
- Currently Employed: 68,000
- Expected Job Growth (2016-2026): +15%
Food scientists study the chemical properties of food (e.g. microbiological) to evaluate its nutritional value, maintain proper manufacturing processes and develop new standards for food safety.
- Median Salary: $62,910 per year
- Currently Employed: 43,000
- Expected Job Growth (2016-2026): +6%
Community health educators use their knowledge of proper eating habits and nutrition to develop educational programs and health intervention strategies to improve health behaviors and attitudes in their community
- Median Salary: $45,360 per year
- Currently Employed: 118,500
- Expected Job Growth (2016-2026): +16%
Licensed nutritionists hold an official credential from a certifying organization (e.g. Clinical Nutrition Certification Board) and provide a variety of nutritional and educational services in settings ranging from hospitals to schools.
- Median Salary: $59,410 per year
- Currently Employed: 68,000
- Expected Job Growth (2016-2026): +15%
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics,
What's the Expected Job Outlook for Nutrition Careers?
The breadth of certification in the industry reveal the expansive nature of nutritional science. Overall, it is a field that has gained interest in the past twenty years due to shifting attitudes towards diet, fitness and wellness and the growing need for preventative healthcare measures. For example, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 40 percent of adults were overweight in 2016. Employment projection data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 15% growth nationally for nutritionists and dietitians between 2016 and 2016. Within the field, grocery stores (37.4 percent), medical insurance carriers (27.8%) and ambulatory care service organizations (36.1 percent) are expected to see some of the biggest needs for qualified nutrition professionals.
Professional Organizations for Careers in Nutrition
There are local and nationwide professional associations dedicated to the field of nutrition. Membership benefits vary but include conference attendance, access to industry journals, scholarship opportunities, networking and participation in mentoring programs. Below is a list of some of the major associations in nutrition.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the largest nutrition and food membership organization that publishes a peer-reviewed journal, has a nonprofit foundation and provides scholarships and awards to its members.
National Association of Nutrition Professionals (NANP)
The NANP is a professional business league for the holistic nutrition industry that offers board certification, hosts an annual conference for nutrition professionals and maintains a career center for job seekers.
American College of Nutrition (ACN)
The American College of Nutrition is a membership organization for nutritional professionals and students that publishes a peer-reviewed journal, hosts annual conferences and offers mentorship programs.
American Society for Nutrition (ASN)
The ASN is a membership organization for research and clinical nutrition professionals that publishes multiple journals, has a career job board, participates in policy advocacy and provides scholarships.
Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEP)
SNEP is an organization for nutritional and health promotion educators that provides networking opportunities, hosts annual professional development conference and has student scholarship programs.
How to Pay for a Master's in Nutrition Degree
As you consider a master's program in nutrition or nutritional science, the most pressing question could be answering how to pay for the degree. According to Salle Mae's 2017 report, “How America Pays for Graduate School,” the average amount spent by survey respondents on graduate school was nearly $25,000. While the thought of the price tag may feel overwhelming, there are numerous options for you to get help paying for graduate school.
Federal Financial Aid
You can fill out a Free Application for Federal Financial Aid to determine if you qualify for any financial aid. You may also take out loans from the U.S. Department of Education to finance your education.
Professional Association Scholarships
Industry associations, such as the American Society for Nutrition, have scholarship programs for graduate students that pay for school and professional opportunities, such as attending conferences. For example, the Academic of Nutrition and Dietetics offers scholarships ranging in value from $500 to $10,000 each.
Professional Association Grants
Along with scholarships, some nutrition associations offer grant programs to help with the cost of graduate school. A example of this type of grant is the Allene Vaden Grant for Foodservice Management Research, worth $5,000.
Most nutritional graduate programs offer some level of support through open scholarship programs. These may be merit-based, and you might have to complete a FAFSA application for consideration. A sample scholarship is the Steinhardt Graduate Scholarship at New York University that is open to graduate students in nutrition programs.