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.
A solid understanding in basic nutrition, human anatomy and physiology is needed before enrolling in the graduate school nutrition program at Eastern Michigan University. The same admissions requirements apply to online and on campus students pursuing the university's Master of Science in Human Nutrition. Minimum allowed GPA in an four year undergraduate program is a 2.7, with at least a 3.0 GPA being required for the second half of the bachelor degree program. Depending on the focal study area, students need between 30 to 36 credits to graduate. Research design and methods, community based nutrition services and advanced nutrition topics are required courses. Built into the curriculum is also a practicum, independent study, research work and a thesis.
Prospective graduate students interested in nutritional studies may consider enrolling the Master of Science degree with a concentration in Food and Nutrition, specialization in Food Science and Nutrition Science program at Framingham State University. This program is designed to be completed through a series of ten courses that cover various topics within the field including food biotechnologies, food science technology and food engineering. Courses can also be tailored to match each student’s individual interests and needs. Before enrolling, students must first complete a baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university that required completion of basic courses in biology, chemistry and mathematics.
Academic offerings for nutrition majors at South Dakota State University promote understanding of agricultural and biosystems engineering, food safety and food development. Students also learn about connections between psychology and food and exercise and diet. Specific nutrition pathways at the master's degree level are nutrition and public health, exercise sciences, dietetics and food science. Training prepares students for careers as research dieticians, clinical exercise instructors, public health administrators and nutritionists. The nutrition and exercise track also offers a doctorate degree. To meet state residency requirements, students have to reside in South Dakota for at least 12 consecutive months prior to the start of classes.
At Kansas State University, there are four pathways to a master's degree in nutrition. The Master's of Public Health focuses on dietary, exercise and weight issues that impact communities. Aim of the program is to equip students with the knowledge and skills to promote healthy living throughout America's neighborhoods, with special emphasis on at risk communities. The three other master's degrees are in dietetics, food science and nutrition, dietetics and sensory sciences. The food science concentration is an interdisciplinary option. Focus of the food science degree is on food chemistry, food engineering, processing and food safety.
The clinical mental health counseling program at Indiana Wesleyan offers students a degree with an opportunity for licensure, with a variety of specializations. An MA program in student development administration offers students the option to study online as well as at the schools two locations. A handful of other counseling programs are offered, and they all require and focus on in field experience. IWU's Department of Counseling offers a number of options for financial aid, including a research-based grant and a number of scholarships.
Class sizes are kept small at SUNY Oneonta, allowing instructors to offer students personal support and assistance. It takes three semesters to complete the Master of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics. After graduating, students can take the national registered dietician examination. The class portion of the program is comprised of 36 credits in subjects such as nutrition assessment, applied nutrition therapy, community nutrition, research methods and current issues in dietetics. During the internship, students complete 1,220 hours of supervised work. This first hand work experience can teach students how to communicate with clients, work with intervention and prevention plans and assess client progress.
The path to a Master of Science in Nutrition at Rutgers University starts with the admissions process at the New Brunswick campus. It's also at the New Brunswick campus where adults who are accepted into the program attend classes. Instructors deliver multidisciplinary training in nutrition, biochemistry and physiology in degree related courses. Internships are conducted in partnership with the Rutgers School of Health Related Professions. Laboratory and research work are other parts of the 30 credit hour program. Strong math, biology and top undergraduate academic performance help to distinguish students.
Food, nutrition and health passions can help adults to absorb classroom, seminar and laboratory work conducted within Texas Woman's University's master's nutrition degree programs. Among the nutrition graduate degrees are the Master of Science in Exercise and Sports Nutrition, the Master of Science in Food Science and Flavor Chemistry and the Master of Science in Nutrition. It's the latter degree that is offered online. Approximately 30 credit hours are needed in each of the semester programs. Some nutrition classes are taught at the Denton campus, while others are taught at the Houston campus.
The graduate-level applied nutrition program, which results in a master of science degree, prepares students for careers in a range of fields, including community organizations, government and school administrative positions. It does not, however, qualify students to sit for the RD licensing exam. Like all Canisius College students, those in the graduate program will have access to a wide range of spiritual services, including the Campus Ministry, the Office of Mission and identity, the Center for Service Learning and the Jesuits at Canisius. Graduate students will also have access to academic advising and career services.
Graduate students pursuing the master of public health in nutrition will receive specialized community nutrition training through the School of Public Health's multidisciplinary program structure. There are several specializations available within the program — such as physical fitness and health, aging and chronic illness — as well as research opportunities. The curriculum at Loma Linda University incorporates science and health with teachings of the Christian faith, resulting in a unique structure that combines academia, healthcare and humility. Advisors will help graduate students choose the right courses, and they will have access to career services and the school's alumni network.
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.