Guide to Earning Your Nutrition Bachelor’s Degree Online
Want to turn your passion for food and wellness into a rewarding career? A bachelor’s degree in nutrition is a great place to start. Learn about top online programs that let you study from home, see what you’ll learn, and get answers to your key questions.
An online nutrition degree is a great choice if you’re interested in expanding your knowledge of food safety, nutritional health, and the the science behind food and dietetic wellness. And thanks to the continued demand for remote learning, more and more top-tier, accredited colleges are offering nutrition degrees online today, including at the bachelor’s degree level.
This guide shows you everything you need to know about getting your nutrition bachelor’s degree online. It details top-ranked programs and highlights potential career paths, while also covering important information like financial aid options, popular course offerings, program length, and continuing education opportunities. Read on to see if an online nutrition degree is right for you.
Best Online Nutrition Degrees: Top Bachelor’s Programs for 2021
The best online programs in nutrition and dietetics will provide you with a working overview of the field by laying solid foundations in nutritional science and food chemistry. They develop the core skills in metabolic and clinical reasoning needed for most entry-level employment opportunities and offer additional preparation for those interested in advanced study.
Below we spotlight three high-quality programs to help jumpstart your search for prospective schools. We used a number of factors to determine which programs stand out in 2021, including flexibility, accreditation, professional development, and availability of financial aid. Find out which schools rise to the top.
Students starting the program can select from two areas of emphasis: nutrition or dietetics. The nutrition path integrates food chemistry, medicine, and cell biology, providing a route for work in the food and health industries or graduate-level study. The dietetics path prepares students for work as registered dietitian nutritionists or registered nutrition and dietetics technicians.
A public research institution, UArizona uses an innovative online learning management system to deliver all course material. Students build an individualized plan of study and progress through the program at their own pace. Potential courses cover nutrition and scientific literacy, metabolic biochemistry, nutrigenomics, and food science fundamentals. Students complete these courses after first satisfying pre-major requirements in math and science foundations.
Kansas State University
At Kansas State University (KSU), aspiring dietetics and food science professionals can earn an online nutrition and health degree that is flexible enough to allow them to pursue their specific interests. Administered by KSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences, the 120-credit program includes a large block of unrestricted credits and electives, making it an ideal option for transfer students and those interested in customizing their degree. Students can use this freedom to explore specialized topics like food allergies and sports nutrition or to minor in related fields that advance their career goals.
KSU’s curriculum explores a wide range of subjects and develops important skills in nutritional assessment, clinical reasoning, and scientific research methods. Students receive all content through convenient and flexible online tools that are accessible anytime, anywhere. The course of study begins with foundations in the social and physical sciences and works to build a cohesive knowledge base through upper-level classes in human ecology, food science, and life span nutrition.
The Arizona State University (ASU) online bachelor of science in food and nutrition entrepreneurship blends dietetic science and industry marketing to broaden a student’s career prospects. ASU graduates often move into fulfilling careers as chefs, food scientists, quality control specialists, and health education experts. The program requires a total of 40 classes and 120 credit hours, which is achievable in four years or less depending on individual circumstances.
ASU’s program helps prepare students to address many of the pressing challenges facing the food industry. It builds core skills in nutrition research, food science, and evidence-based practice. It also explores environmental policy and leadership along with basic marketing and management principles.
The online program shares the same core faculty as ASU’s on-campus program and satisfies the same learning objectives. Students pursue their studies in an interactive learning environment that blends synchronous and asynchronous experiences to achieve an optimal balance between structure and flexibility. Recent courses include community nutrition, eating for lifelong health, microbiology, and food service purchasing.
FAQs About Online Nutrition Degrees
As with any course of study, it’s important to get to know a program so you have a good idea of what to expect before you enroll. The best decision is an informed one, and there is a lot to consider—curriculum requirements, overall cost, program length, job prospects, etc. Find the key answers to your most pressing questions below.
What do you learn in an online nutrition degree program at the bachelor’s level?
Each school will differ and offer its own approach to nutrition and dietetics with its own distinctive emphases. That said, most programs extend similar course offerings that ultimately satisfy the same learning objectives. Students graduate fully qualified for professional certification or further study in a relevant graduate program.
These programs build foundational knowledge in nutritional science and cultivate core skills in clinical reasoning and dietetic practice. In addition, prospective learners can expect to develop the following:
A familiarity with the evidence-based practices and decision-making strategies used to develop nutritional intervention and therapy plans.
The ability to successfully apply management principles and business theories, informed by scientific data, in delivering quality food and nutrition services across a wide range of settings.
An effective and sensitive understanding of cultural competency, diversity, and equality when working with clients, patients, and colleagues, along with an awareness of how those concerns affect healthy nutrition and dietetics.
A strong set interpersonal skills required to support and encourage behavioral changes necessary for increased health and wellness at all ages.
A comprehensive understanding of the scientific methods that undergird nutritional science and the ability to critically assess new research.
Common Courses in Bachelor’s Degree Nutrition Programs
Nutrition Planning and Management This class looks at strategies for implementing nutrition practices that support health and wellness for groups and individuals. It provides a survey of common dietary deficiencies, examines core food choice principles, and introduces evidence-based techniques that include medications. Students assess case studies and prepare detailed management plans designed to address prominent dietetic issues.
Nutrition Across the Lifespan Aspiring food science professionals in this course explore changing nutritional concerns from infancy and adolescence through young and late adulthood. Students learn to identify and develop dietary patterns that enhance life and reduce health risks at various ages and in various situations. Special attention is given to behaviors and needs to specific stages like pregnancy, childhood development, and geriatric wellness.
Food Microbiology This course often calls for prerequisites in biology or another natural science and may involve a lab component. It explores foods at the microbial level, including environmental factors that contribute to fresh and spoiled foods and microorganisms used in food production. The class develops a solid knowledge base in contamination, food preservation and sanitation, quality control, and enzyme science.
Nutrition Counseling Students in this class work to build the skills and techniques necessary to provide nutritional counseling services to a wide range of populations. It covers client interaction strategies, documentation and data gathering procedures, and the development of comprehensive nutrition plans. Additional topics include assessment and evaluation, nutrition therapy, and intervention.
Nutrition and Dietetic Capstone Many online nutrition degreeprograms include a capstone component. Students complete this requirement near the end of their studies by working to integrate their skills and knowledge through practical applications. Depending on the program, this course may involve an original research project, oral examination, internship, or some combination of the three.
What specialization tracks or areas of emphasis are available in online nutrition degree programs?
Many schools with an online nutrition bachelor’s degree offer customizable options that let you develop a study plan specific to your needs. You can also select from a number of predefined specializations like those listed below. These areas of emphasis typically correlate with nutrition or dietetics subfields and prepare you for professional work or further study.
Nutrition This specialization qualifies students for nutrition research and careers in health-related fields like public health and clinical practice. It integrates nutritional science with biology, chemistry, and other related fields. Through this interdisciplinary approach, students learn to develop nutrition-based therapies using scientific evidence and clinical reasoning.
Dietetics In most programs, this area of emphasis provides additional preparation for those looking to become Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDN) following graduation. The RDN credential involves an additional exam and a specialized internship. Pursuing a concentration in dietetics lays the groundwork for that process by developing the scientific and medical nutrition foundations necessary for professional practice.
Food Entrepreneurship Students interested in working at the intersection of nutrition and the food industry are an ideal fit for this specialization. Food entrepreneurship pairs nutrition science basics with sales, marketing, and solid business know-how. Students look at what it takes to develop food products and learn the ins and outs of the laws, policies, and regulations that govern the food service industry.
Sports Nutrition Concentrating in sports nutrition helps you develop the skills and knowledge necessary to address the dietetic needs of athletes. Students explore how nutrition can improve or reduce performance and learn how to develop diet management plans that address those concerns. It prepares learners for future work in or further study of health science, kinesiology, and sports performance.
Food Science Food science uses insights gathered from chemistry and microbiology to explore how foods are processed and preserved. It looks at the primary tools and processes used to evaluate food products and their long-term effects. A math- and science-heavy pathway, this specialization prepares you for work in nutritional quality control, food engineering, and food science research.
How long does it take to complete an online bachelor’s degree in nutrition?
Most students finish in three to four years, but you may be able to graduate faster. For example, some schools offer intensive options that allow you to finish requirements at an accelerated pace. On the other hand, if you need to enroll on a part-time basis then completing the program will take a bit longer. Another factor to consider is whether you’ll need to take a certification or licensing exam, such as to become a Registered Dietitian (RD) or Nutrition and Dietetics Technician, Registered (NDTR). After you meet the eligibility requirements, you’ll take the exam at a testing center.
Students who are transferring credits have an advantage in being able to complete their online nutrition degrees more quickly. Depending on your credits you may be able to eliminate some course requirements.
What are the admissions requirements for a bachelor’s degree in nutrition?
Admissions requirements for programs in nutrition and dietetics are comparable to other undergraduate programs. Most programs are competitive and look for qualified candidates poised for academic excellence and professional success. Specific requirements vary by school and program, but generally applicants should be prepared to provide the following:
Official transcripts for all previous academic work and prerequisites (some programs may specify an ideal GPA range).
A professional resume or CV listing relevant experience and qualifications.
Recent ACT/SAT test scores (most schools will accept either test; some may require a minimum score).
A completed application and any applicable fees.
An interview (this is optional in most cases).
Applicants should also pay attention to the admission and enrollment deadlines set by their program of choice.
How much does it cost to earn nutrition bachelor’s degree online?
Earning a nutrition bachelor’s degree online is relatively affordable in comparison to other programs at this level. Costs do vary quite a bit and depend on factors such as the type of school (public or private), where you live, and program length.
Public schools tend to cost less than private institutions, generally speaking. Also, enrolling part-time could be the best way to accommodate your schedule and other commitments, but it may cost more in the long run. Below you’ll find a few nutrition programs and their tuition rates to give you a sense of the expenses.
Can I earn my nutrition bachelor’s degree 100% online?
In some cases, yes. Several schools offer programs that allow you to complete all degree requirements entirely online. If you already have some transferable credit—especially in prerequisite areas—those options tend to increase.
Other schools administer their programming with some in-person requirements. As with other healthcare-related fields, those requirements usually involve supervised fieldwork, capstone components, or internships. In most cases, arrangements can be made to complete these in your own geographical area.
Where to Get Help Paying for Your Online Nutrition Degree
Securing funding before you enter a nutrition and dietetics program can help you focus on your studies instead of scrambling to finance your degree. Financing your education may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. There are quite a few financial aid options out there if you know where to look. Find out more below.
Scholarships & Grants
These awards are the most useful because they don’t accrue interest and do not need to be repaid after you graduate. Most scholarships and grants are merit or need-based and, depending on the school, some may be renewable for the duration of your studies.
Most student loans come from the federal government, private lenders, or schools themselves. Like other lending opportunities, student loans must be repaid once you complete your program. Depending on your career path, you may be eligible for student loan forgiveness after you graduate.
Many schools have additional financial aid sources to help you fund your nutrition or dietetics education. Options vary by program but may include work-study jobs, internships, and research fellowships. Contact your school’s financial aid office for more information on what’s available and how to apply.
Understanding Accreditation for Online Nutrition Degrees
Accreditation for schools offering online nutrition bachelor’s degrees works similarly to other programs. Prospective students should first make sure that potential schools hold institutional accreditation (regional or national) from an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. This credential ensures that the school’s programming meets acceptable standards of quality and excellence.
Careers and Certifications After Your Online Bachelor’s in Nutrition
You’ve completed all of your program requirements and have your nutrition degree in hand. Now what? This section looks at some of the professional opportunities available following graduation. It discusses licensure and certification processes, details earnings potential, and lists some popular career paths for nutrition and dietetics professionals.
Do I need certification or licensure to work in the nutrition field?
Certification and licensure requirements are highly dependent on your career path and where you plan to work within the profession. This process is administered by state regulatory boards and professional organizations.
Most working professionals will also need to obtain state-level licensure, a process separate and distinct from RD or NDTR certification. The CDR keeps a useful database of state licensure boards along with some additional information on the process and how to prepare for it.
What can you do with a bachelor’s degree in nutrition?
Earning a nutrition bachelor’s degree online qualifies you for a wide range of career possibilities, including those listed below. Most pathways relate to work as a nutritionist or dietitian. Both of those professions enjoy a bright job outlook according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and O*Net Online. Keep in mind that starting in 2024, anyone who wants to become a registered dietician will need to have a graduate degree.
Depending on the employer, some job candidates may need to obtain additional certifications, but most programs prepare students for that process. A majority of the professionals in nutrition and dietetics work in laboratories, food management for schools and hospitals, clinical settings, and wellness outlets. Most of the degree specializations listed above correlate with common occupations and can help graduates find gainful employment in careers such as these:
Registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN)
Food service manager
Food safety auditor
Health service manager
How much can you earn with a nutrition degree?
The table below details salary potential for some of the popular career paths available to graduates. According to the latest BLS data, the median annual wage for all occupations nationwide is $39,810. The median salary for each nutrition and dietetics profession listed exceeds that figure by more than 17%.
Earning a nutrition bachelor’s degree online not only qualifies you for a wide range of career options, but it also prepares you for further study or research. There’s still plenty of room for continuing education and professional advancement once you graduate. Opportunities like those listed below can help you develop areas of expertise and broaden your job prospects.
Continuing Education Opportunities
Master’s Degree in Nutrition Obtaining a master’s degree is a natural step for professionals with a bachelor’s degree in nutrition or dietetics. This course of study builds on the foundations developed at the undergraduate level and provides you with the opportunity to explore additional areas of expertise. It can be a great way to expand your skill set and increase your earning potential.
Ph.D. in Nutrition Working professionals with a relevant master’s degree can take their careers to the next level by earning a doctorate in dietetics or nutrition. The highest level of education in the discipline, a Ph.D. in nutrition prepares you for work in postsecondary education or scientific research and development. Graduates typically land jobs as faculty members, food scientists, or dietetic researchers.
Related Degrees to Consider
Online Bachelor’s Degree in Health Sciences This credential complements an online nutrition degree by developing a broad knowledge base applicable to many careers in medicine and healthcare. Students learn to evaluate healthcare systems, gather data and information, and apply evidence-based practices. Graduates with an online health science degree often work in health education and administration.
Online Bachelor’s Degree in Public Health This option prepares students for work in public health, an area often informed by nutrition and dietetic knowledge. An online bachelor’s degree in public health offers additional instruction in human anatomy and physiology and brings those insights into the social sciences. Many programs offer specializations in epidemiology, health policy, and biostatistics.
Online Exercise Science Degree Students and working professionals interested in sports nutrition will find an online exercise science degree especially rewarding. These programs build out the dietetics knowledge base further by introducing kinesiological principles that often depend on sound nutritional science. Common careers include fitness training and exercise physiology.