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Overview of a Bachelor’s in Nutrition

An online or traditional bachelor’s degree in nutritional science is the entry-level education required to become a registered dietician. Dieticians are state-registered professionals with a four-year degree or higher level of formal education. The field of nutrition science promotes well-being, treats diseases, and prevents nutrition-related diseases and conditions. The field of nutritional sciences is evidence-based and offers scientific advice that should always be safe, practical, and based on the best available research.

Today, students can enter the field with a Bachelor of Science in Nutritional Sciences and they can choose whether to attend on-campus, online, or in some combination of both since an online bachelor's isn't out of the question. Depending on the school’s policy, online programs can be full-time or part-time. Accreditation plays a crucial role in student success before and after graduation. The Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) is the leading source of accreditation and education standards for the field of nutrition and food science. ACEND endorsements carry weight with educational institutions and employers in the food and nutrition field or the more general food industry. Many states require completion of ACEND-approved courses to qualify for registration or licensure. Students should be sure that the program they select has ACEND endorsement. Luckily, online programs can also receive appropriate accreditation.

Students looking to complete a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition degree can expect to take classes in a variety of subjects, including:

  • Nutrition Food Science
  • Medical Nutrition Therapy
  • Food Systems
  • Food Service
  • Community Nutrition
  • Nutrition and Exercise
  • Health Nutrition
  • Public Health
  • Food and Nutrition Entrepreneurship

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A bachelor’s in nutrition and dietetics, human nutrition, or even nutritional and dietetics education are entry-level degrees. This degree can lead to many career paths as a registered dietician, clinical dietician, or a nutritionist. The field can combine with other professions as well, such as nursing. This field also needs educators and specialists such as those who deal with the treatment of diabetes. Nutrition and dietetics education can lead to management roles, public policy roles, and community service.

This degree supports certifications in specialized fields such as renal dietetics, public health, nutrition and exercise, food and nutrition entrepreneurship, and corporate dietetics. Experience and specialization are both well-rewarded. Entry-level wages and salaries are far lower than mid and senior levels of experience.


The bachelor’s has certain limitations in the field of food and nutrition. Because the field is so broad, professionals may need to specialize to gain experience and advancement. A master’s degree can replicate the advantages of a bachelor’s degree plus years of experience. The master’s degree also opens a higher level of nutrition and dietetics education positions than the bachelor’s degree. An online master’s can equip graduates for roles in post-secondary education and advanced training. A bachelor’s may also not distinguish an applicant enough to compete for research opportunities in nutritional sciences programs or the food science or nutrition/dietetics field in general, whereas a graduate degree holder can easily fit into these positions.

Associate vs. Bachelor's

What Nutrition Bachelor’s Degrees are Available Online?

Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees each require about 120 semester hours. The difference lies in the amount of general education versus science education. For example, an online bachelor's degree in nutrition typically requires 50-56 credit hours in the major course of study and about 20 additional hours in supplemental science-based courses. Because of the science requirements, online programs may be less common than hybrid (online and in-person) programs.

  • Online Bachelor of Arts
    Online bachelor's degrees such as this are liberal arts courses of study. These programs have a broad base of liberal education subjects. Both traditional and online students will select from social studies, English language, history, and literature categories. The subject focus on nutrition and dietetics will be strong but balanced out with general education. Students can use electives to develop a concentration or focus.
  • Online Bachelor of Science
    Online bachelor's degrees of this kind will focus on the core of nutrition and dietetics and offer students electives in the related subject areas such as gerontology, lifestyle coaching, or public nutrition policy. There will be fewer general education requirements than in the BA degree format. An online science-focused bachelor's requires a technical background in the general education area and tends towards courses in math, science, and technology. This may include an online bachelor's in food, Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics, Bachelor of Science in Dietetic Technology, Bachelor of Science in Dietetics, and more. The title of the program will depend upon the private, public university, or public research university you choose.

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Typical Admission Requirements for a Food and Nutrition Program

The basic requirements for admission to an online bachelor’s degree program in nutrition is a high school diploma or an equivalent, such as a GED. Students must submit transcripts of high school work and test scores from the ACT or SAT. Selective schools may prefer higher GPAs and that students complete a list of high school courses such as biology, chemistry, and mathematics.

Students with an associate degree in nutrition may have to submit high school and college transcripts along with past test scores. An online associate degree can reduce the overall credits needed for a four-year degree to as little as four semesters of full-time attendance.

How long does it take to earn an online Nutrition Bachelor's?

Most students can complete a four-year bachelor of Science degree in eight to 12 semesters. The on-time graduation time frame is four years or eight semesters of full-time attendance. Many online students attend school part-time. Some students can complete the BS program in less than four years by taking an extra course and attending during summer sessions. Many schools offer some credit for lifetime achievements and other personal attributes, such as prior military service. By using a combination of life credits and extra coursework, students can accelerate graduation by as much as one-year.

Potential Careers in Nutrition with a Bachelor’s

The field of nutrition has many branches and related fields. An online bachelor’s degree makes undergraduate concentrations possible, and students can continue to specialize with on-the-job training and further formal education. The below-listed occupations describe some of the popular nutrition careers.

  • Registered Dieticians are experts in the field of food, nutrition, and nutrition research. They can assess nutritional status, provide education, and guide clients on a path to good eating, healthy nutritional balances, and wellness.
    The average registered dietician salary is $53,100.
  • Dietetic Technicians work with nutritionists and dieticians and assist with treatment and patient care. The technician can perform intake surveys and gather information for a nutritional assessment. The tasks frequently include medical histories and gathering medical information from other treatment providers.
    The average dietetic technician salary is $41,500.
  • A Licensed Nutritionist is a college trained professional that typically must have a state license or registration. They work with patients to assess their nutritional situation and help them improve. They can guide diets for better health, weight loss, and chemotherapy.
    The average salary for licensed nutritionists is $46,800.
  • Registered Clinical Dieticians work as independent consultants, entrepreneurs, and for a wide range of employers. Depending on the organization, they promote a healthy and sustainable diet and lifestyle in their patients or patient groups.
    The average salary for a registered clinical dietician is $53,400.
  • Director of Food and Nutrition Services is the management role that incorporates dietary and nutritional education into the practice of running a food facility. The tasks must balance state and federal requirements with the demands of working with a specific population.
    The average director of food and nutrition services salary is about $64,600.

Options to Advance

Professionals in the fields of diet and nutrition can advance through many pathways; the popular methods include experience, formal education, and specialization. Experience begins with internships and supervised practice, either as a student or as an entry-level professional working with a more experienced nutritionist or dietician. Professionals can gain expertise by seeking greater responsibility and the challenges of new settings and client groups. Experience can build as new learners master increasingly difficult and more complex assignments and this experience can lead to new positions in the same field in different fields of nutrition.

Formal education is an effective way to gain advancement and expand opportunities. The online bachelor’s degree is an entry-level degree, and a nutrition master’s degree will support area expertise and open educator opportunities. Certifications can also add to skills and knowledge, as the coursework will add depth of knowledge and the certification will demonstrate a high level of professional skill in a specific area of practice.

Specialization in the broad fields of nutrition and dietetics can provide advancement, higher salary, and can expand the range of opportunities. The below-listed items describe categories of work and study for specialization.

  • Nutrition and Diet Education
  • Physiology and Metabolism
  • Food & Nutrition Business
  • Public Health Policy (Nutrition and Diet)

Find Online Colleges Offering Nutrition Majors

Best Bachelor of Science in Nutrition (BSND) Programs

Colleges offer nutrition and science education with concentrations in dietetics and specialized areas. Traditional or online nutrition degree programs can fall into two categories: didactic and coordinated types. Coordinated nutrition programs include a built-in hands-on training component as required by ACEND accreditation and most states laws. The didactic type of coursework leaves the internship requirement to the student for completion after an online nutrition degree. The internship requirement must meet the requirements of the licensing state or jurisdiction.

  • Auburn University
    Auburn, Alabama

    The Auburn University offers a didactic nutrition program in dietetics. In this type of program, the coursework leads to an undergraduate degree. To qualify for registration, the student must also take an approved supervised internship.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Bachelor of Science in Dietetics
    • Bachelor of Science in Nutrition Sciences
  • California State University, Los Angeles
    Los Angeles, California

    The California State - Los Angeles program, is a coordinated nutrition program in dietetics. By completing all of the nutrition program elements, the graduates will meet state requirements for the California registered dietician procedures.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Bachelor of Science in Nutrition Science Degree
  • College of Bachelor Degrees - University of California at Berkeley
    Berkeley, California

    The Berkeley program is an educational program that does not include the California requirement for internship and practical experience. Students must complete an internship before qualifying for state registration.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Bachelor of Science in Nutritional Science: Dietetics
  • University of Connecticut, Storrs
    Storrs, Connecticut

    The ACEND-certified program will prepare students for careers in dietetics and nutrition. UConn offers a bachelor of science program that requires further study by the student to complete an internship and gain the required practical experience.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Bachelor of Science in Nutritional Science: Dietetics
  • Howard University
    Washington, D.C.

    This ACEND-accredited program meets the CDR requirements for registration in the District of Columbia. Students will take the required coursework and perform a supervised internship to meet registration requirements.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Bachelor of Science in Nutrition Science

Traditional Schools Offering a BS in Nutrition

Many major colleges and universities offer nutrition education, both online and in traditional on-campus formats. The below-listed schools offer online degrees that may also be available on-campus or in a hybrid mix of online and on-campus learning. Accreditation is key to the value and usefulness of an online degree in nutrition. ACEND accredits online nutrition programs.

  • Arizona State University
    Phoenix, Arizona

    Arizona offers an educational type of degree in nutrition with a concentration in dietetics. This ACEND-accredited program permits students to apply for an internship. The internship must precede the state registration for a CDR designation.

    Degrees Offered:

    • B.S. in Health Sciences (Healthy Lifestyles Coaching)
    • B.S. in Nutrition
  • Eastern Michigan University
    Ypsilanti, Michigan

    EMU offers a BS degree entirely online. The BS program is a coordinated program which prepares the student for many nutrition careers and for registration under Michigan law as a registered Dietician.

    Degrees Offered:

    • B.S. in Nutrition Science.
  • Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
    Newark, New Jersey

    Rutgers University offers on-campus programs in dietetics and nutrition and related aspects such as a healthy lifestyle. They also offer a fully-accredited degree program online. This ACEND-accredited program is available to qualified transfers and high school graduates, and it’s entirely online.

    Degrees Offered:

    • B.S. in Nutrition
  • Arizona State University ONLINE
    Phoenix, Arizona

    This ACEND-accredited program offers a BS degree program completely online. ASU uses innovative techniques to offer a broad range of concentrations and a core of nutrition and dietetics basics.

    Degrees Offered:

    • B.S. Community Health
    • BS Health Education and Health Promotion
    • BS Nutrition
    • BS Healthy Lifestyles Coaching
  • Purdue University - Global Campus
    Indianapolis, Indiana

    Purdue Global campus offers a BS in Nutrition Science on campus and online. The university has accreditation from the Higher Learning Council and from the Northcentral Association of Colleges and Schools. The program does not have ACEND accreditation, and students must determine if they can use this program to meet the requirements of the state in which they intend to work.

    Degrees Offered:

    • BS in Nutrition Science

Frequently Asked Questions

Is nutrition a difficult degree?

Nutrition is a complex field that involves the study of the science of food and its relationship to human health. It might be considered as a challenging major because of the requirement for a strong foundation in biology, chemistry, and other sciences required for nutrition professionals.

The curriculum for a nutrition major typically includes courses in subjects like the following.

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Biochemistry
  • Microbiology
  • Physiology
  • Metabolism
  • Clinical Nutrition Science
  • Food Technology
  • Sports Nutrition

Some classes may also include laboratory work and research, which can be demanding and time-consuming, and nutrition majors must have a good understanding of research methods and be able to critically evaluate scientific literature. The degree requires a good amount of critical thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills.

However, it’s important to recognize that what might be difficult for one student might not be as complicated for another. Those who are naturally good at science or who have a great work ethic and study habits might have no problems at all with nutrition as a major.

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