The field of nutrition is growing in popularity. Grass roots movements in holistic wellness that encourage people to take responsibility for their own health are partially responsible for the demand for knowledgeable nutritionists. Although a master’s degree in nutrition is not required for all careers in the field of diet and nutrition, acquiring an advanced degree provides a competitive edge in this fast-growing field and opens up new opportunities for career advancement.
A good master’s in nutrition online program will thoroughly prepare students for career advancement in this field. Prospective graduate students should weigh the options carefully on which online master’s in nutrition program to choose, as not all degree plans are alike. We culled information from the Department of Education, the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and information from the universities themselves to create our list of the best nutrition graduate programs. All schools have been accredited.
A master’s in nutrition program provides students with the skills they need to advance their careers in the field of nutrition and diet. A master’s in nutrition can lead to a variety of careers outside of the traditional nutritionist box. A master’s degree provides options for starting a career in public health, food science, nutrition therapy or as a health educator. Some of the skills students will learn during their master’s program include:
Here is a list of the courses that are commonly offered in an online master’s program:
This course explores the physiological connections and relationships between the body and nutrients.
This course examines the medical field and how it relates to the application of nutritional principles.
This course examines the methods by which a person can enhance his or her lifestyle through nutrition.
This course examines food trends and products and how they can effect change in the lives of people.
This course covers the current methods of health and nutrition communication, as it applies to the public health sector.
This course employs a real-life internship or practicum experience with a focus on using nutritional theory into practice.
Most graduates from a master’s in nutrition program must earn their licensure with The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) if they have not already done so when earning their bachelor’s degree. The AND is a national licensing program, but states may also require graduates sit for state licensing exams in addition to the AND exam.
In addition to licensure, most nutrition graduate programs require a culminating capstone project meant to demonstrate the knowledge acquired throughout the degree program. This project may be presented in the form of original research, a grant proposal, a new nutritional program or even a nutrition-related business plan. Each school will specify the type of capstone project required, which could vary based on a student’s specialization.
There are several areas of specialty in the nutrition field, particularly for students seeking an online master’s degree in the field. A partial listing of specialized areas includes:
This area is based on the scientific principles of nutrition and focuses on basic skills relating to project management, interpretation of research literature, critical inquiry and problem-solving.Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine
This is a scientifically-based, functional approach to staying in good health. It addresses the causes of disease instead of trying to suppress its symptoms. Functional medicine employs natural methods of maintaining patient health with diet and nutrition. It deeply explores the biochemical and genetic individuality of each patient.Community Nutrition
A focus in this area can specialize in school nutrition, extension service, community outreach and the food industry, among other specializations. There are programs available that do not require a thesis.Clinical Nutrition
This area focuses on biomedical and nutritional therapy and examines how different nutritional issues affect various segments of the population. Clinical nutritionists often go on to work in either a clinical setting, or in public health or research.
Graduates of nutrition master’s programs are ready to study nutrition and provide advice on diets at the professional level. Many high-level positions in the nutrition industry require a graduate degree. Some of the common career paths for master’s degree-holders in nutrition include the following roles:
These professionals help patients to adopt healthy eating practices and manage diseases that result from having an incomplete diet. Some of them meet with patients at clinics and other healthcare facilities to discuss diets and other health objectives. Others work with schools, adult care facilities and other institutions to promote nutrition in their local communities. Most states required dietitians and nutritionists to carry a license.Health Educators and Community Health Workers
These professionals work with individuals and groups to promote healthy living in their local communities. Projects usually focus on specific elements of nutrition and diet. Health educators can usually find a job with just a bachelor’s degree, although a master’s credential will help them compete in the job market. A Certified Health Education Specialist certificate is also required for some positions.Agricultural and Food Scientists
These professionals study the agricultural origins of food to improve efficiency, sustainability and overall food safety. Agricultural and food scientists work with farmers, food distributors and consumers, as well as public health agencies, nonprofit organizations and private companies.Exercise Physiologists
These healthcare professionals help patients with chronic injuries by teaching them to use positive exercise and fitness routines. They start by studying a patient’s medical history, and then monitor their vital signs during the treatment process to ensure they remain healthy and safe.
There are also a few professional associations for those with an online master’s degree in nutrition-related fields. A list of these includes:
This is a nonprofit organization dedicated to furthering the cause of nutrition. It is famous for the nutrition educational programs that it puts on and provides a venue where professionals, individuals and organizations can interact with each other.
The largest organization of food and nutrition specialists in the world. It was founded in 1917 by a group of women who wanted to help the government to conserve food and improve health and nutrition for the general public. The academy now has over 100,000 credentialed practitioners and is dedicated to advancing the cause of nutrition through research, education and advocacy.
This group is completely dedicated to advancing the cause, education and standards of the holistic nutrition industry. They have developed rigorous educational standards for nutrition consultants and natural chefs. Schools can apply for membership in order to be listed on their website as accredited schools.
ASPEN emphasizes good nutrition as a vital part of caring for patients. It offers a plethora of resources designed to promote good nutrition among patients, and it also provides continuing education credits for its members.
This popular organization provides resources for job hunters in the nutrition field. It also offers access to student information and publishes a regular newsletter. The organization is known for staying on the cutting edge in the nutrition field.
There are a variety of careers in the nutrition field that may be of interest to those with a master’s degree in nutrition. Job seekers should keep in mind, however, that additional certifications and licensure may be required in addition to a master’s degree.
|Career||Lowest 10% Earned Annually||Median Annual Salary||Highest 10% Earned Annually||Job Growth 2016-2026|
|Nutritionist||Less than $29,000||$59,410||More than $72,000||+15%|
|Dietitian||Less than $41,000||$59,410||More than $69,000||+15%|
|Community Health Worker||Less than $27,000||$38,370||More than $49,000||+16%|
|Health Educator||Less than $32,000||$45,360||More than $60,000||+16%|
|Food Scientist||Less than $44,000||$62,910||More than $84,000||+7%|
|Exercise Physiologist||Less than $30,000||$49,090||More than $69,000||+13%|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018
The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the field of nutrition is growing at a much faster rate than average, with most nutrition careers growing at a rate of 15 percent a year. While many nutrition careers only require a bachelor’s degree to start, there are two reasons why a nutritionist may choose to pursue a master’s degree in nutrition.
Of course, those who have a master’s degree can generally expect to make more than someone with a bachelor’s degree. According to the Center on Education and the Workforce, those with a bachelor’s degree in nutrition sciences make a median annual salary of $52,000, while those with a master’s make $70,000.
In addition to the chance of a higher salary, individuals with master’s degrees in nutrition may also find greater career opportunities. Certain organizations require nutritionists and health educators to have more than a bachelor’s degree, and earning an advanced degree helps provide an edge in a rapidly-growing field.
The Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics stands as the premier accrediting agency in the nutrition field. It ensures the quality of nutrition and dietetics education in order to further the profession and is valued for advancing the excellence of education that is available. ACEND assures the quality of nutrition and dietetics education through a peer review process and effectively communicates the accreditation process to educational institutions.
The cost of obtaining a master’s degree is cost-prohibitive for many students. Luckily, many schools and organizations offer scholarships, grants and other forms of aid to make it easier for students to earn their master’s in nutrition degree.
Professional organizations, associations and non-profit groups offer a variety of scholarships for nutrition students.
CANFIT offers graduate students in California who are of an ethnic minority the chance to earn a master’s degree in nutrition.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has a variety of scholarships and awards available for students. The amount of the scholarship ranges from $500 to $3,000, with many of them in the amount of $1,000. They are available for both undergraduate and graduate students.
The American Mushroom Association (AMI) also has scholarships for graduate students.
The American Scandinavian Foundation offers fellowships of up to $23,000 and grants of up to $5,000 for American students to go to Scandinavia for a year and pursue advanced studies, including those related to nutrition.
Specific graduation programs may offer scholarships based on undergraduate performance for incoming nutrition master’s students, such as:
Standard options such as student or personal loans can be used to pay tuition expenses. Students interested in federal financial aid can fill out a FAFSA form to determine eligibility.