Maintaining a healthy diet is easier said than done—with new nutrition advice appearing daily, it can be difficult to know whether your diet choices are beneficial. Enter nutrition. It is the scientific study of how the nutrients in food and drink affect the human body. With an understanding of food science and organic chemistry, dietitians and nutritions add objectivity and clarity to a world of dubious claims.
Given the complexity of food science and nutrition, many professionals consider obtaining a master’s degree. These programs are designed to provide advanced training in subjects such as obesity regulation, food policy, and biochemistry. Students can also choose to specialize in various fields including agricultural and food science, nutrition, and health education. No matter your choice, the programs prepare students to become voices of authority that the public can turn to for informed advice on maintaining healthy lifestyles.
The rise of health problems and uninformed diet advice is not only unfortunate but dangerous. Nutritionists have a responsibility to ensure the public receives accurate information to prevent diet related disease. The need for such skill is well recognized—the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the demand for nutritionists is growing faster than the national average for other jobs. With the advanced training of a master’s program, graduates can improve their abilities and join the forefront of professionals who ensure the continued health of communities.
What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in Nutrition Program?
If you’re planning on checking out your options to obtain your master’s degree in nutrition, choosing an online program offers several benefits. Online master’s in nutrition programs open the door to attending distant schools without the hassle and expense of moving across the country. Despite coursework being delivered online, you can expect the same quality of education that you would get in a traditional classroom setting with the benefit of additional scheduling and attendance flexibility, giving you freedom to choose the hours that are most convenient for you. Even when comparing online programs, make sure to look at several so you can find the school that offers the coursework and scheduling options that work best for you.
Concentrations Offered for an Online Master’s in Nutrition
|CONCENTRATION||DESCRIPTION||POSSIBLE CAREERS THIS CONCENTRATION PREPARES FOR|
|Didactic Program in Dietetics||Students who choose a didactic program in dietetics concentration for their master’s in nutrition degree will receive the training they need to apply their dietary knowledge to aid in the prevention of health issues. They will learn about the benefits of dietary restrictions and modification and how they can be used as effective tools to promote well-being.||Dietitian in a hospital or clinic setting, in a traditional office or at the homes of clients|
|Applied Nutrition||Helps students learn how nutrition knowledge can be combined with other areas of expertise to benefit the health of an entire community rather than the individual. This concentration offers courses in leadership and gives students the ability to integrate other health-impacting factors, such as environmental and cultural, to create a community health improvement plan that considers multiple approaches.||Government position in the public health system, social services, consulting position in elder care services, weight loss, agriculture and food service, usually in an office setting|
|Biochemical and Functional Nutrition||Focuses studies on the science of nutrition, how it can be used as medicine and the study of nutrition’s impact on genetics.||Nutrition researcher in a lab setting, functional nutritionist in a health facility|
|Global Health||Covers nutrition studies on a global scale, focusing on the role of nutrition in preventing communicable disease, human and economic growth, and how it applies to humanitarian crisis situations.||Researcher in a lab or office setting, nutritionist in humanitarian organizations or for globally focused government agencies|
|Healthcare Informatics||Equips students training in using technology for the collection, storage and use of nutrition information to improve collaboration between healthcare professionals and improve the quality of patient care.||Nutrition informaticist in a office or healthcare facility setting|
Curriculum for an Online Master’s in Nutrition
Students pursuing a career in nutrition have a number of directions they can take, so it’s important to look into the differences between schools when selecting a master’s in nutrition program. Some schools may require on-campus classes to complement online coursework and may be too far away to complete the program without moving. You also want to think about your career goals and find a program that offers courses that meet your needs.
Several factors can affect the courses offered, such as which school you choose and your preferred concentration. Some courses, however, are common throughout programs, so some of the curricula you should expect to encounter includes:
|Exercise and Nutrition||Examine the effect nutrition has on physical performance and how physical activity affects metabolism.|
|Advanced Nutrition and Metabolism||Gain a better understanding of dietary recommendations and how they relate to the digestive system and metabolism.|
|Food Laws and Regulation||Focus on the importance of laws and regulation in the food industry, the history of their development and the process by which these laws are passed and implemented.|
|Principles of Biochemistry||Investigating the basic concept of how living things interact with biomolecules to create a deeper understanding of nutritional value found in animals and plants.|
How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master’s Degree in Nutrition?
Most master’s in nutrition programs require 30 to 40 credit hours of coursework and are designed to be completed within two years. The course load you choose will have a direct impact on the length of completion time, as a part-time schedule will likely slow your progress. Internships or thesis completion may be required for some programs, which can also add to the time needed to complete the program. To shorten completion time, some schools offer accelerated programs that allow students to take a heavier course load so they can complete their degree in a year.
Certifications and Licenses an Online Master’s in Nutrition Prepares For
|Registered Dietitian (RD)||Completing a master’s in nursing program that includes a didactic program in dietetics meets the curriculum standards of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), prepares students for the 1200-hour internship requirements and gives them the knowledge needed to pass the AND licensing exam.|
|Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS)||Receiving your master’s in nutrition makes you eligible to certify as a nutrition specialist after completing 1000 hours of internship at a healthcare facility and passing the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists exam. Certification maintenance requires the completion of continued education courses every five years.|
Accreditation for Online Master’s in Nutrition Degrees
When selecting your online master’s in nutrition program, make sure to verify that the one you choose is accredited by a proper agency. Accreditation ensures the quality of the program’s curriculum meets the educational standards in the industry. Not having this accreditation can lead to the denial of credit transfers if you choose to continue your education further or make you ineligible for licensing and certification.
National accrediting agencies, such as the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), are a good sign of a program’s integrity. Regional agencies, like the Middle States Commission on Higher Education or the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, are sometimes preferable if you are considering continued educational pursuits as they increase the likelihood that credits from the program will transfer to other schools within that region. The Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics is an accrediting agency created by the AND to offer industry-specific accreditation to qualified programs.
Employment Outlook for Master’s in Nutrition Graduates
Job Placement: Master’s v. Bachelor’s
Receiving a master’s in nutrition opens several professional doors to those seeking a career in nutrition. Licensing and certification for certain titles requires the completion of a graduate nutrition program, leading to positions that offer better salaries and benefits in exchange for a more comprehensive knowledge of nutrition. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects jobs in this field to grow 15 percent by the year 2026, so having a graduate degree will help you navigate the job market with a competitive edge, increasing your chances of obtaining a desirable position against applicants with a bachelor’s degree.
Perhaps the most tangible benefit to completing an online master’s in nutrition program is the impact it has on salary potential. As seen on the table below, there are several lucrative job titles available to those who hold a graduate degree in nutrition.
|Job Title||Salary Range|
|Registered Clinical Dietitian||$43,732-$68,200|
|Clinical Nutrition Manager||$49,686-$83,057|
|Community Health Coordinator||$34,040-$55,000|
|Director of Food and Nutrition Services||$38,484-$94,222|
Obtaining a master’s degree can also help your salary potential increase by adding to the amount of experience you have in your field. Looking at the table below, you can see that average wages often go up as experience increases.
Completing an online master’s degree in nutrition makes it possible to choose from several career options. Your degree gives you negotiating power to move up in your organization, request better benefits and pursue more skilled positions within your field.
|JOB TITLE||JOB DESCRIPTION||MEDIAN SALARY||PROJECTED GROWTH RATE|
|Dietitians and Nutritionists||Dietitians and Nutritionists use their knowledge of nutrition to prevent disease and improve health in their clients. The process includes identifying dietary needs, creating a nutritional plan, monitoring its implementation and assessing the results.||$59,410 per year||15%|
|Agricultural and Food Scientists||Agricultural and Food Scientists conduct the research needed to improve the productivity and sustainability of the agricultural industry, sharing their findings with the public, food producers and other scientists. They also play a role in the creation and production of new food products.||$62,910 per year||7%|
|Community Health Workers||Those who work in community health apply their knowledge of nutrition to promote the health and well-being of communities. They work with other specialists to identify and develop solutions for community health concerns and aid in the creation of health education programs.||$45,360 per year||16%|
Professional organizations are a great way to stay on top of industry trends, network with colleagues and related professionals and fulfill continuing education requirements. Here are a few of the more popular professional organizations dedicated to those in the nutrition field.
American Society for Nutrition: The ASN provides members with industry publications and encourages them to join Research Interest Sections, groups that focus on different nutrition specialties. The organization also offers continuing education opportunities and eligibility for members-only discounts.
National Association of Nutrition Professionals: The NANP offers members the opportunity to certify as a certified nutrition professional or in holistic nutrition. The organization also hosts an annual conference that provides networking opportunities, distributes industry publications and provides discounts to members. The organization’s career center is also open to members, giving them a direct line to open positions in their field.
American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition: ASPEN is an international community for nutrition professionals that helps them develop career connections through volunteer activities and hosted events. The organization also offers members tools to help advance their careers, continuing education opportunities and access to a comprehensive library that covers a range of relevant topics.
Financing Your Online Master’s in Nutrition
Despite the affordability of online master’s in nursing programs when compared to on-campus options, some students may find themselves unable to pay without help. Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) should be the first option to determine eligibility for federally funded grants and loans. If additional supplementation is needed, graduate students can also look into private loans and scholarships. The resources below are a good place to start the search for financial aid.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation Scholarships
Deadline: February 10
Eligibility: Open to Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics members who are enrolled in a dietetic-focused program.
School Nutrition Foundation Scholarships
Deadline: January 31
Eligibility: Open to active School Nutrition Foundation members of at least one year, enrolled or committed to enroll in an educational program in a subject area covered by the USDA Professional Standards.