2021 Guide to the Online Master’s in Nutrition

Explore today’s top online programs, learn about specialization options,
get answers to common questions, and see where an online master’s in nutrition can take you.

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Last Updated: 02/18/2021
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You care about what you eat and the vital role nutrition plays in your life and the lives of others. It’s the reason you want to advance your knowledge in the field by earning your master’s in nutrition. Online degree programs make earning your master’s in nutrition more convenient and affordable than ever, particularly if you’re busy juggling work, family, and other responsibilities. Today, many top-tier, accredited universities offer comprehensive online master’s nutrition degrees that meet the same standards as in-person programs on campus.

This guide will help you learn everything you need to know about pursuing a master’s in nutrition online, including course details, admission requirements, career and salary outlooks, and schools that offer best programs.

Top Online Master’s in Nutrition Programs for 2021

EduMed has identified some of the top online master’s nutrition programs in the country. These programs offer great flexibility, affordability, and the accreditation you need to prepare for a career in dietetics, nutrition education, research and other rewarding fields. Here are three of the most promising online master’s in nutrition programs to help you begin your search.

The University of Texas at Austin

Texas

The Master of Science in Nutritional Science program at The University of Texas at Austin is designed for students and working professionals in the nutrition and wellness field, hoping to gain better insight into important nutrition issues of the day.

The school offers this program in two tracks: a one-year option for students in medicine, pharmacy, and dentistry who want a nutrition background and a two-year track for professionals who wish to complete the program while working full-time.

The program’s five core courses are:

  • Advanced Nutrition I – Macronutrients
  • Advanced Nutrition II – Micronutrients
  • Experimental Design and Statistics
  • Advanced Experimental Design and Statistics
  • Molecular Nutrition

Accredited by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics, this degree program also fulfills part of the Board Certified Nutrition Specialist Certification’s academic requirements.

Admission is based on your graduate and undergraduate GPA, letters of recommendation, previous research experience, and academic work. Applicants should also have an extensive nutrition background. The program recommends completing Introductory Nutrition, Human Physiology and requires applicants to complete coursework and labs in Organic and Biochemistry.

The total cost for the program is $22,500. Several scholarships and financial aid options are available and can be found on the program’s website.

The University of North Carolina

University of North Carolina

This master of public health program focuses on nutrition while also examining behavioral change, communication, counseling, and how dietary culture affects people and communities.

Program faculty have dual appointments in the School of Medicine and the Gillings School of Global Public Health, specializing in various topics, including cancer, diabetes, and maternal and child nutritional issues.

Designed with full and part-time students in mind, the 42-credit program includes 15 credits in public health core courses and nutrition-specific courses such as human nutrition, food, nutrition policy, and nutritional epidemiology.

This program, accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health, prepares graduates for careers in governmental agencies, non-profits, and nutrition marketing and media companies. Graduates have gone on to work for companies and publications such as the Food Network, Southern Living, and Shape.

Applicants must submit a CV, transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose that details why they are applying and how they will contribute to the program.

Applicants should also complete the following prerequisites:

  • Chemistry (Chemistry I and II and their labs as well as one term of organic chemistry)
  • Biochemistry
  • Human Anatomy
  • Human Physiology
  • Microbiology (with a lab)
  • Human Nutrition
  • General Psychology
  • Introduction to Anthropology or Sociology I

Tuition for the program is $1,735 per credit plus $24.84 for student fees. Financial aid options include Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans, Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loans, private education loans, competitive fellowships, and military education benefits.

Kansas State University

Kansas State University

Kansas State University offers a customizable program that encompasses dietetics and sensory sciences.

Students can choose from concentrations such as sensory analysis and consumer behavior, nutrition science, public health nutrition, and nutritional education, designed to help them graduate with a customized degree and advance in their chosen profession.

Graduates of the program – accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics – go on to careers in clinical nutrition, obesity management, exercise science, and maternal and child nutrition.

The program curriculum includes seven required credits: a one-credit graduate seminar in human nutrition, three-credit food, nutrition, dietetics, and health course, plus one of the three following three-credit statistics classes.

Applicants are required to meet the school’s general admission requirements and must have a science background. Applications should also include a statement of interest, experience, skills, three professional recommendations, and unofficial transcripts from previous schools. This program is entirely online and requires 36 credit hours at the cost of $515 per credit hour. In addition to scholarships, students can get help paying for this program by utilizing federal, military, or employer-sponsored financial aid packages.

FAQs About Earning Your Master’s in Nutrition Online

What do you learn in an online nutrition master’s degree program?

While not every school will take the same approach to its master’s in nutrition program, many will have the same courses, topics, and education outcomes.

In some cases, the program will start with foundational science courses before moving on to nutrition and its role in maternal health and human development or developing public policy based on community and individual nutritional needs.

Some common learning outcomes for masters in nutrition online degree programs include:

  • Analyzing and applying nutrition concepts to help improve community health and determine the nutritional needs of diverse people.
  • Examining food sources and how the body uses nutrition to prevent chronic illnesses, identify nutrition-related diseases, and maximize wellness.
  • Applying microbiology and food science expertise to food process controls and ingredients to explain food’s role in leading a healthy lifestyle.
  • Demonstrate effective food and nutrition education strategies, including conducting interviews with people to create diet histories.
  • Employ critical thinking and decision-making skills that will guide their development as leaders in the world of nutrition and dietetics.

Common Classes in Master’s Degree in Nutrition Programs

  • Human Nutrition
    Many programs include courses covering the basic principles of nutrition and other topics such as nutrient categories and their functions, metabolism, and sources of food. Some courses also examine the role nutrition plays in disease prevention and promoting a healthy lifestyle. Here are five common courses students can expect to take in a master’s degree nutrition program.
  • Nutrition Policy
    These courses explore the different programs that have been implemented and how food, nutrition, and nutrition-related illness impact societies’ health. These courses also examine public health and community outreach, and in some cases, look at the concept of nutrition not as an individual choice but as something determined by larger socioeconomic forces.
  • Nutrition Through the Lifecycle
    These courses give students practical experience with the four primary nutritional assessment methods: dietary, anthropometric, laboratory, and clinical. The assessment methodology will vary for each stage of the human lifecycle (i.e., infants, children, adults, and older people)
  • Statistics
    There is a host of information surrounding nutrition and nutrition-based health claims, which is why people in the nutrition field must have the tools to evaluate those claims. Courses in this area include statistical analysis methods for studying nutrition-based data such as distribution theory and hypothesis testing.
  • Nutritional Epidemiology
    These courses examine the connection between diet, nutrition, and health outcomes to train future professionals to find new ways to promote health, treat illnesses, and prevent diseases in the community in a clinical setting.

What concentrations or specialization tracks are offered by online master in nutrition programs?

Like many fields, there’s no single path to a career in nutrition. Just as lawyers can specialize in criminal cases or tax law, people seeking an online master’s degree in nutrition can choose from many different concentrations. Some programs offer pre-defined tracks — for example, a master’s in nutrition with a concentration in nutrition education, while others let you choose from a few different tracks.

Here are a few specializations online nutrition master’s programs offer.

  • Dietetics
    This concentration is geared toward people who want to pursue a career as a registered dietician, which offers room for specialization. You’ll find dieticians providing nutrition education to patients in hospitals, operating in private practice as a consultant to food makers, or working in the public health sector.
  • Sports Nutrition
    From runners to quarterbacks to weightlifters, any athlete who takes their game seriously takes their diet seriously as well. Students who focus on sports nutrition learn how to determine an athlete’s nutritional needs and what they need to eat — or not eat — to maintain fitness and recover from injuries.
  • Nutrition Education
    According to American University, nutrition education is growing, with jobs in this area expected to grow by 16 percent over the next few years.  Students in this concentration learn to design nutrition education programs for schools, hospitals, and other organizations and map the connections between nutrition and other health markers such as exercise and quality of life.
  • Environmental Nutrition
    These programs delve into food sustainability and food justice, traditional food practices, and alternative nutrition approaches. The environmental nutrition specialization draws on students with backgrounds in nursing, medicine, education, exercise and food science, biology, psychology, and community health.
  • Global Health
    Everyone needs to eat, but not everyone has access to the same types of food. It’s this dilemma that drives the global health field of nutritional studies, where students look at nutritional problems in lower and middle-income regions of the world and look at the dietary, social, and biological aspects of nutritional health and science.

What are the admissions requirements for a master’s degree in nutrition?

Every master’s program for nutrition is different, and admission requirements for these programs tend to vary.Generally speaking, applicants to these programs should be prepared to submit materials that include:

  • Letters of recommendation
  • Essays on why you want to be part of the program and what you would contribute
  • Samples of past work
  • Standardized test scores (GREs)

Many of these programs are highly competitive and require students to complete undergraduate courses in chemistry, biology, and nutrition courses. In contrast, others will only admit students who have completed a bachelor’s degree in nutrition.

How long will it take to finish my online master’s in nutrition?

The answer depends mainly on the program you choose; overall, the time to completion for most online nutrition programs is between one to three years. Additionally, students who work full-time may not take on a full course load in a single semester and usually have to enroll as part-time students.

Some programs offer accelerated options that allow students to earn a dual BS/MS degree, while students taking a didactic program in dietetics should expect to take a bit longer to complete their degree.

How much does a master’s in nutrition online cost?

There are a few factors that will decide the cost of your master’s in nutrition, including your school choice, as private institutions typically cost more than public schools. Where you live matters: it costs less for residents of certain states to attend schools than people who live outside of the state, even if every student takes classes online. Finally, there’s the question of how much funding you’ve been able to secure, either in terms of scholarships, loans, and other forms of financial aid.

We’ve outlined tuition data from three sample schools below:

American University

American University

Master of Science in Nutrition Education

Total Credits: 30

$1,713 per credit

University of Rhode Island

University of Rhode Island

Master of Science in Dietetics

Total Credits: 36

$444 per credit

University of Northern Colorado

University of Northern Colorado

Master of Science in Dietetics

Total Credits: 35

$555 per credit

Financial Aid for Your Master’s in Nutrition Online

Once you’ve decided to earn an online master’s in nutrition, your next step is to determine how you’ll pay for the program. As previously stated, the cost of attaining this degree will vary from school to school.

Paying for school may seem challenging, but with enough planning and research, you can find the options you need to help finance your education:

1

Scholarships & Grants

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offers numerous scholarships, including students from underrepresented backgrounds. Read our scholarships guide to learn more about scholarships available to students in the nutrition field.

2

Student Loans

You can finance your degree with either federal or private student loans. Federal loans are typically the best option. You should look at applying for them when you start planning for school. Read our student loan handbook to learn more.

3

Other Options

Some master’s in nutrition programs offer internships and teaching and research assistantships to graduate students, such as the nutrition program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Work-study jobs, a traditional source of aid for on-campus students, may be harder to find for students in online programs, particularly when so many students are learning remotely.

Accreditation Standards for Online Master’s Degrees in Nutrition

An accredited school or degree program is one that has been evaluated by an agency that determines whether academic institutions meet benchmark standards of high-quality education for students.

In nutrition master’s programs, the top accreditation agencies are the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) and the National Association of Nutrition Professionals.

During accreditation, organizations will typically conduct internal analysis and report, coupled with on-site evaluations by the accreditation body, who determine whether the program meets its own goals and those of the accreditation agency.

Schools can receive institutional accreditation, either on a regional or national level, while specific programs can receive program accreditation.

Regional accreditation is generally considered superior, as credits from a regionally-accredited school or program will transfer to both nationally and regionally-accredited schools. In contrast, nationally-accredited credits are only transferable to other nationally-accredited institutions.

You can check with the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or the U.S. Department of Education to find out if the accreditation agency in question is legitimate.

Career Options and Salaries for Master’s in Nutrition Grads

Once you’ve earned your master’s in nutrition online, you’ll have a wide range of career paths open to you, not only in the world of healthcare but in education, corporate industry, and public policy. But how much can you expect to earn? What licenses will you need? Read on to learn more about life after your online master’s degree in nutrition.

What can you do with a master’s degree in nutrition?

Nutrition is an in-demand field, and when it comes to job opportunities, it’s not so much a question of what you do but where you work, as you can find nutrition professionals working in schools, hospitals, non-profits, and large corporations.

Some of the career opportunities include for master’s degree holders include:

  • Nutritionist/Dietician
  • Nutrition Educator
  • Food Technologist
  • Sports Nutritionist
  • Nutrition Journalist
  • Nutrition Marketing

How much can you earn with a master’s degree in nutrition?

Salaries for professionals in the nutrition field can vary greatly depending on specialization, employer, location, and experience. Generally speaking, the median annual salary for people with master’s degrees is a little over $76,000, according to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the table below, we’ve laid out the median annual salaries for three popular nutrition-related jobs attainable with a master’s.

Career Median National Annual Salary (2019) 10th Percentile 90th Percentile
Nutrition Educators $55,220 $32,890 $98,680
Dieticians & Nutritionists $61,270 $38,890 $87,360
Food Technologist $68,970 $40,360 $124,660

Will I need to earn a license or certification after my master’s in nutrition?

It depends on what career you pursue, but if you plan to work as a registered dietician or nutritionist, there’s a good chance you’ll need a license. Forty-eight states, along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, require dieticians and nutritionists to have a license or certification. Learn more about dietitian and nutritionist licensure requirements in your state by visiting this Commission on Dietetic Registration page.

State certifications are different from national certifications such as Certified Nutritional Specialist. These certifications are not required for dieticians and nutritionists. Still, a CNS certification, in particular, is useful for people who hope to work in the highest levels of nutritional research and education.

No matter your field, there’s always room for growth. Once you’ve earned your online master’s degree in nutrition, you’ll still have a wealth of options for continuing your education. For some students, that might mean getting a doctorate in nutrition or public health. Other students may choose to branch out into related fields, seeking their master’s degree in health sciences or counseling.

Read on to learn more about advanced degree options after you’ve earned your master’s degree in nutrition online.

Advanced Degree Options

  • Ph.D. in Nutrition
    This degree is designed for students who want to hone their skills by focusing on subsets of nutrition, such as human nutrition or molecular nutrition. There are numerous career options for people who earn this degree, from teaching positions to senior scientific roles in the corporate world.
  • Online Ph.D. in Public Health
    Take what you’ve learned about nutrition and apply it to broader public health concerns by earning a public health PhD online. Popular careers for graduates with a Ph.D. in public health include epidemiologists, biostatisticians, health service managers, and community health workers.

Similar Master’s Degrees Worth Considering

  • Online Master’s Degree in Counseling
    People with a online degree in counseling can become marriage and family counselors, school counselors, and mental health professionals. Once you have degrees in counseling and nutrition, you can use your insights into nutrition and people’s relationship to food to treat patients with eating disorders.
  • Online Master’s Degree in Health Sciences
    Health science refers to applying science to a broad field of health-related topics that includes medicine and nutrition. Many people with online master’s in health science degrees work in the public health sector, which is where a master’s degree in nutrition – particularly a degree that focused on environmental or global nutrition – can come in handy.
  • Online Master’s Degree in Public Health (MPH) 
    Earning an online master’s in public health (MPH) offers graduates a wide range of career options, including public policy advisors, epidemiologists, community service managers at shelters and outreach centers, and fields where a knowledge of proper diet and nutrition will be a valuable asset.