Nutritionists and dietitians use specialized knowledge about nutrition and food to help clients live better, more productive lives. With the declining health of many individuals and a sharp rise in health problems relating to poor eating habits, the need for additional nutritionists and dietitians is expected to rise well above the need for other occupations. To help meet this increased demand, a number of flexible online programs are available, but figuring out how to choose one can be tricky. That’s where this guide comes in.
There are numerous online nutrition degrees available for students to choose from, but not all academic institutions and programs are created equally. Depending on a student’s personal preference, future goals, and financial and time resources, some schools will be more attractive than others. The following list of schools considers a number of factors, such as student-to-faculty ratio, cost of attendance and the type of student services available. This should it make easier for students to find the program that’s best for them.
Given the anticipated demand for nutritionists, dietitians and other nutrition-related professionals, it’s not surprising that individuals graduating with a nutrition degree can expect comfortable salaries with the potential for growth. To get a better understanding of what a prospective nutrition student can expect to make in a career in nutrition, check out the following chart.
|Occupation||Median Annual Salary: Entry-level||Median Annual Salary: Mid-level||Median Annual Salary: Late-career|
|Dietitian or Nutritionist||$51,000||$53,000||$63,000|
|Nutrition Services Manager||$42,000||$42,000||$60,000|
To help others improve their health with better nutrition, individuals may only need an associate degree. However, their level of involvement with patients or clients and their potential for professional development will vary depending on their level of education. A bachelor’s degree can provide the greatest flexibility and growth potential and can further opportunities for specialization and responsibilities. At the bachelor’s level, there is the opportunity to specialize in areas such as dietetics, exercise science and food management. Earning a master’s degree will allow students to expand their level of knowledge with respect to data analysis, statistics and research. Students can explore all their degree options in more detail below.
Serving as a nutritionist or dietitian can be an extremely rewarding profession, but it takes a number of important individual qualities to excel and enjoy the work. For instance, nutritionists and dietitians should have excellent communication skills as their primary job is to clearly advise and inform others about proper nutrition. Having critical thinking skills is also helpful because much of the nutrition and dietetics field involves research and analysis of data. An individual with these qualities who hopes to pursue a career in nutrition can explore some of the most significant steps to becoming a nutritionist, dietitian or similar professional below.
Even entry level positions require a college degree, which depends on the student first completing high school or getting a GED. Time to complete: Four years
With three notable degree options available, students need to decide what they hope to accomplish in the nutrition-related field. Time to complete: Varies
Once a career goal has been identified, prospective students can figure out which degree is necessary. Time to complete: Varies
Depending on where a student wants to work, they may need to have a clean criminal history. Time to complete: Up to three months
This might include entrance exams, interviews and proof of prior work experience. Identify the requirements as soon as possible to have enough time to complete the application in a timely fashion. Time to complete: Varies
Depending on the program degree level an applicant is applying for, the SAT, ACT or GRE exam may be needed for admission. Time to complete: Three to six months
Higher degree level programs will require more than the lower level ones, but applicants should expect to provide academic transcripts, test scores, a resume, an essay and letters of recommendation.
Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, will be necessary for determining financial aid eligibility. Time to complete: Three to six months
Once accepted into a program, students should start working hard to learn as much as they can and get the best grades possible, especially if they plan to continue their schooling. Time to complete: One to four years
Some programs, especially at the graduate level, will have in-person coursework requirements that involve working under the supervision of a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. Time to complete: 100 or more hours
Most state licensing boards require completion of a bachelor’s degree, obtaining a minimum number of pre-professional experience hours and passing an approved examination. Time to complete: 1,000 or more hours.
Each state will have its own examination requirements concerning type of approved exam and passing score necessary for licensing. Time to complete: Three or more months
Begin networking, sending out resumes and honing interview skills to find that first job. Time to complete: Varies
Licensed nutritionists and dietitians have to maintain their license by staying up to date on new and developing nutrition research and training. Time to complete: Varies
After several years of experience, individuals may want to obtain additional credentials, such as becoming a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist or Certified Nutrition Specialist. Time to complete: One or more years
Just as there are a number of factors that determine what accredited nutrition program will be best, there are many things students should consider when finding the right program for them. Besides some of the school traits discussed above, students should consider a few other characteristics when picking an online nutrition program.
Students should begin by looking at the online course format. Some programs have in-person curriculum requirements to provide ample experience for those who intend to become licensed or certified. But students needing maximum flexibility should look for an online program that offers primarily asynchronous learning. This allows students, within certain deadlines, to take a class and complete its assignments whenever and wherever possible.
It’s important for students to also look at the program resources available to each student. One specific resource students should look at is the career placement services. While students need to do their own legwork to find post-graduate employment, a good career services office can offer career counseling advice and put soon-to-be-graduating students in touch with alumni already working in nutrition positions.Start your School Search
Schooling can be expensive, so financial aid is a necessity for most students. The most desired forms of financial aid are scholarships and grants, which do not need to be paid back. Scholarships are usually awarded based on individual merit while grants are based on financial need. Luckily for nutritionists and those in related careers, a number of scholarships and grants are available.
Students studying in a nutrition program can apply for a vast number of scholarships that are also available to other students. However, some scholarships that are intended to go to students studying in specific fields, such as nutrition. Here are resources to help find these scholarships:
This organization provides a number of scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students studying nutrition, dietetics and related areas.
One of the biggest lists of college scholarships online is available here, and it includes scholarships for dietitian students.
Because grants are generally awarded based on financial need, there will be a greater challenge finding those specifically earmarked for students enrolled in nutrition programs. However, there are still a number of grants available to students studying to become nutritionists or work in a similar profession. Below are some resources to help students find and apply for these grants, including those for research.
Those who complete the FAFSA, demonstrate financial need and are working toward a bachelor’s degree are eligible for this common federal grant.
Affiliated with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, this charitable organization provides awards, scholarships and research grants to students studying nutrition and similar fields.