Best Online Master’s Degrees in Nutrition: 2016

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Programs, Careers & Pay with an Advanced Nutrition Degree

Eating right is a mantra in today’s society, but it’s not always easy to do. Nutritionists help by working with people to identify and fulfill their dietary needs. Nutritionists with a master’s degree typically find more opportunities available to them, along with higher pay. Whether preparing to be a clinical nutritionist, a public health official or a nurse, earning an online master’s degree can be the stepping stone to professional success.

Timeline of an Online Master’s in Nutrition

Getting in: The Application Process

Before applying to an online master’s in nutrition program, students should have a bachelor’s degree. Some schools require candidates to have obtained their undergraduate degrees in a health- or nutrition-related field, so it’s important to verify specific requirements prior to beginning the application. Once a school has been chosen, students should submit the necessary application documents and materials, taking care to showcase their strengths and experience. These are some of the most common things requested by graduate programs during the application process:

  • DPD courses.

    If undertaking a graduate degree or internship in dietetics, proof of required Didactic Programs in Dietetics coursework or certificate of completion of accredited coursework is very likely required. Some schools also require students be registered dieticians prior to program acceptance.

  • GRE scores.

    Many grad school applicants take the Graduate Record Examination, even if it isn’t required by a particular program. If you aren’t happy with your scores, you can retake the exam.

  • Transcripts (paper/electronic).

    Transcripts from all previously attended colleges should be submitted to demonstrate that prerequisite coursework has been fulfilled.

  • Letters of recommendation.

    Ask professors, employers and other professionals to write and send letters of recommendation to your school of choice. Most schools will request at least two letters of recommendation. Choose past teachers, advisors and those you’ve worked with in the field of nutrition to draft these letters when possible.

  • Financial support documents.

    Due to varying tuition costs between programs, students should thoroughly research their financing options, consult with an adviser, and apply for financial aid, grants or scholarships as early as possible.

  • Essay.

    Some schools will request an essay, letter of intent, or other written work. This may be on a topic specified in the application; it could also be a more personal work that demonstrates your experience and interest in the field of nutrition, and explains why you feel you deserve to attend the graduate program. Allow plenty of time to write, edit and revise the essay before the submission deadline.

Year 1

During the first year of the online master’s nutrition program, students will take basic and core courses to build a strong foundation in both the science and economics of nutrition. In the latter part of the year, students choose an area of concentration and begin fulfilling course requirements for their emphasis. Because a practicum, internship or thesis is usually required during the second year of the program, students should choose a concentration as early as possible and work toward completing courses so that more time is available for the hands-on work required in the second year. Possible concentrations include sports nutrition and public health.

Year 2

The second year of the nutrition master’s program is spent primarily working on the practicum, internship or thesis. Graduate projects are usually approved by a committee in the program’s department, so students should establish a relationship with an adviser early in the process. This final project will be intensive, requiring much of the student’s time and energy, and should be carefully planned to assure completion by graduation. Capstone practice related to concentrations will take place in the second year, as will any field-specific internships.

Testing & Graduation Requirements

Even as coursework is being completed, students should look ahead to other graduation requirements. Typically, programs expect students to produce a final project and presentation, as well as take a comprehensive exam that demonstrates knowledge gained during classwork and in practical situations. Below is a breakdown of the most common graduation requirements from an online nutrition master’s program:

  • Master’s Thesis.

    The thesis or research project is the capstone project the student will complete during the second year. It should contain original theories and thorough research, showcasing the student’s ideas as well as the application of practical and logical skills.

  • Presentation of Capstone Project.

    Upon completion, the thesis, research project, or other capstone project is presented to a panel of professionals in the nutrition industry. The presentation can take between one and three hours, and should completely summarize and defend the project’s arguments. Alternatively, capstone projects can require students to gain real-world experience in the field in their chosen areas of study.

  • Practicum or Internship.

    Some, though not all, programs will require the student to complete an internship or practicum to further learn how to develop and implement skills important in the field. A practicum is similar to an internship, but is generally part of the school’s program. For a student of nutrition, these can include working in clinics, schools or research settings.

  • Comprehensive Examination.

    The comprehensive exam may include a written test, an essay, or an oral exam (or some combination of the three), and can take several hours to complete. It will cover the student’s entire learning in the nutrition program.

Search Online Master’s Degrees in Nutrition

Because so many different nutrition programs are available at the graduate level, narrowing down the list and choosing a school can be difficult. The search tool below helps students sift through options by filtering school and program features such as degree level, tuition, student population, school type, and location.

Student Population:
School Type:
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Master’s in Nutrition: Career Paths & Salary Potential

Below are some of the most common nutrition major concentrations for graduate students, and a list of some of the careers those concentrations can lead to. By choosing an emphasis, students can specialize their skills and often qualify for more advanced jobs.

Concentrations
Dietetics

Designed for students already working in the nutrition field, this concentration explores the relationship between nutrition and health. Students will learn to use current nutrition information and research to create nutrition therapies for adults, children and the elderly, and to help patients manage health and diseases through nutrition.

Career:
Clinical Nutritionist
Clinical Nutritionist

Works in hospitals, long-term care facilities, schools, community programs, nonprofit agencies, and other private practices. Advises patients on proper nutrition practices, especially for specific conditions such as pregnancy or diabetes.

Community Nutritionist
Community Nutritionist

Works with public health agencies, government agencies and other institutions to serve diverse populations. Plans and helps execute community nutrition programs such as after-school meals, and educates the public on nutrition topics.

Nurse
Nurse

Works in hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, acute care clinics, and other healthcare facilities. Responsible for ensuring the well-being and good health of patients, and often works in concert with dieticians to oversee nutritional needs.

Nutrition and Fitness

This concentration teaches students the finer points of nutrition and physical activity, and how the two can be integrated most effectively for overall health and fitness.

Career:
Clinical Nutritionist
Clinical Nutritionist

Works in hospitals, long-term care facilities, schools, community programs, nonprofit agencies, and other private practices. Advises patients on proper nutrition practices, especially for specific conditions such as pregnancy or diabetes.

Weight Loss Specialist
Weight Loss Specialist

Gives ongoing motivational advice and coaching to clients who are seeking help with weight loss. Discusses diet, exercise patterns, and other lifestyle changes.

Fitness Trainer
Fitness Trainer

May work in a gym or fitness center, or privately with clients. Leads, instructs, and motivates groups or individuals in exercise technique. May also offer nutritional advice.

Physical Education Coordinator
Physical Education Coordinator

Works in schools, gyms and with various community programs to develop physical education curriculum and fitness routines.

Human Nutrition

Ideal for students interested in the research side of nutrition, this specialty focuses on research methods, biochemical laboratory skills, statistical analysis, genetic variations relating to health, and the relationship between pharmaceuticals and diet.

Career:
Clinical Nutritionist
Clinical Nutritionist

Works in hospitals, long-term care facilities, schools, community programs, nonprofit agencies, and other private practices. Advises patients on proper nutrition practices, especially for specific conditions such as pregnancy or diabetes.

Nurse
Nurse

Works in hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, acute care clinics, and other healthcare facilities. Responsible for ensuring the well-being and good health of patients, and often works in concert with dieticians to oversee nutritional needs.

Social Worker
Social Worker

Often works in a healthcare or community setting, helping individuals and families deal with issues impacting their lives. May work closely with those in the food service industry to ensure adequate nutrition is available to individuals, families and communities.

Pharmaceutical Representative or Salesperson
Pharmaceutical Representative or Salesperson

Typically works in an office environment, communicating regularly with doctors and other healthcare professionals either in person or by phone. Offers a thorough understanding of medications and their relationships with various foods, and how a patient’s dietary needs may change during treatment.

Research Nutritionist
Research Nutritionist

May work in a laboratory setting, studying and researching nutrition issues both common and obscure, and seeking solutions for those issues in the form of public health education, medication development, or food distribution.

Obesity Prevention and Management

This concentration studies the patterns of obesity and its related health issues and consequences, examining the problem on individual, social, cultural, environmental and psychological levels. Students will develop their abilities to help obese patients manage their health conditions and adopt healthy habits for change.

Career:
Weight Loss Specialist
Weight Loss Specialist

Gives ongoing motivational advice and coaching to clients who are seeking help with weight loss. Discusses diet, exercise patterns, and other lifestyle changes.

Fitness Trainer
Fitness Trainer

May work in a gym or fitness center, or privately with clients. Leads, instructs, and motivates groups or individuals in exercise technique. May also offer nutritional advice.

Physical Education Coordinator
Physical Education Coordinator

Works in schools, gyms and with various community programs to develop physical education curriculum and fitness routines.

Food and Nutrition Management

In this program, students learn the many facets of the food industry, including science and nutrition, hospitality, business operations and overall economics. Students are prepared to assume higher-level positions in the food industry, including chef, restaurant owner, and kitchen or cafeteria manager.

Career:
Food Service Manager
Food Service Manager

Works in restaurants, cafeterias, parks and other venues where meals are served to the public. Duties include creating menus, managing kitchen orders and deliveries, and supervising employees.

School Nutrition Specialist

This concentration takes a closer look at the unique nutritional needs of children, and how those can be met within a school setting. Students learn to assess the dietary needs of diverse populations, ensure food safety for at-risk children, and prepare reports for school district personnel.

Career:
Food Service Manager
Food Service Manager

Works in restaurants, cafeterias, parks and other venues where meals are served to the public. Duties include creating menus, managing kitchen orders and deliveries, and supervising employees.

Clinical Nutritionist
Clinical Nutritionist

Works in hospitals, long-term care facilities, schools, community programs, nonprofit agencies, and other private practices. Advises patients on proper nutrition practices, especially for specific conditions such as pregnancy or diabetes.

Community Nutritionist
Community Nutritionist

Works with public health agencies, government agencies and other institutions to serve diverse populations. Plans and helps execute community nutrition programs such as after-school meals, and educates the public on nutrition topics.

Public Health Official
Public Health Official

Creates policies and standards for public health organizations, promotes legislation that supports public health, and works to educate the public on health matters.

Potential Salary Increases with a Master’s Degree

By earning the higher credential of a master’s degree in nutrition, graduates position themselves for more job opportunities and a higher salary within the field. Annual salaries, in general, are several thousand dollars higher for those with master’s degrees, often due to the greater responsibility conferred in an advanced position. The following information from PayScale shows just how much more a master’s graduate can earn: According to data on the site, people with a BS in nutrition earned between $31,524 and $66,500, whereas their peers with an MS in nutrition earned between $39,931 and $77,220.

Growth potential 21%
Average Salary $56,950

Additional Resources & Links

  • American Nutrition Association

    ANA is a community for nutrition and wellness, providing information, tools and forums. Professionals can find job opportunities and event information.

  • American Public Health Association

    APHA works to unite members from all fields of public health, raise awareness for health and nutrition, and influence federal policy as it relates to public health. The site offers publications and periodicals, events and meetings and industry news.

  • American Society for Nutrition

    Students and professionals in nutrition can find industry news, networking and job opportunities, and educational and research resources on this site. As a non-profit, ASN works to bring together researchers and nutritionists to advance the world’s knowledge and application of nutrition for humans and animals.

  • Eat Right – Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

    Eat Right is a family-friendly resource for health and nutrition information, with specific links targeted to kids, parents, men, women and seniors.

  • National Association of Nutrition Professionals

    NANP is dedicated to unifying the health and nutrition profession and protecting the holistic nutrition professional’s right to practice. Members can find industry news and information about nutrition professionals on the website.

  • NutritionEd.org

    This site provides comprehensive details regarding state requirements for nutritionists and dieticians. Salary information, job openings and licensing information are also available.

  • Society for Public Health Education

    SOPHE is a member-driven community health education society for professionals and students. It works to promote healthy behaviors, communities and environments. Members can find information about local chapters, programs and initiatives, and publications and resources.

Best Online Master’s in Nutrition Degrees

Students pursuing an online nutrition master’s degree have many choices. Programs differ with emphasis options, course hours, typical completion time, and tuition costs. By comparing program features and rankings, students can choose the degree program that best fits their educational and occupational goals.

Check out 2015-2016’s Best Online Master’s in Nutrition Degrees, and read more about our methodology here.

RANK COLLEGE SCORE TEACHER/STUDENT RATIO COST GRADUATION RATE
1 North Carolina State University at Raleigh 100.00 16:1 75%
2 Rutgers University-New Brunswick 98.00 16:1 81%
3 Colorado State University-Fort Collins 97.75 16:1 65%
4 East Carolina University 97.25 18:1 59%
4 Auburn University 97.25 17:1 71%
6 Framingham State University 97.00 16:1 51%
7 Canisius College 96.75 12:1 68%
7 Adelphi University 96.75 11:1 64%
9 University of Southern Mississippi 96.25 17:1 48%
10 University of Nebraska-Lincoln 96.00 21:1 67%
11 University of Kansas 95.75 17:1 60%
12 Kansas State University 95.25 19:1 59%
12 Benedictine University 95.25 13:1 51%
14 University of Saint Joseph 94.75 11:1 51%
15 Indiana University of Pennsylvania-Main Campus 94.25 19:1 53%
16 Texas Woman’s University 94.00 19:1 44%
17 New York Institute of Technology 93.50 14:1 45%
18 Eastern Michigan University 92.75 18:1 37%
19 Central Michigan University 92.50 20:1 56%
20 University of Bridgeport 91.75 17:1 30%