Why Earn a Master’s in Nutrition?
The nutrition industry, much like the health and wellness industry, is becoming more competitive and in-demand by the day. The general public masses are becoming more concerned with their nutritional health and leading a healthier life in general and, in many cases, individuals don't have the knowledge or health education of food science and human nutrition to make the necessary and correct changes on their own. These individuals may require the guidance and assistance of nutrition professionals to teach them health education. These professionals are employed by nearly every type of healthcare facility, from hospitals to doctors’ offices. You can even work for independent nutrition and dietetics businesses or become a consultant in medical nutrition therapy or an entrepreneur in the food science, nutrition, and food safety industry. The career options are growing on a daily basis. However, it is essential you complete a Master of Science in Nutrition program, or a Master of Science in Nutritional Science, to maximize your earning potential and career prospects. Due to the nature of these degrees, they are easily transferred to an online learning system and online students can find an online program that fits your schedule to help you earn an online master's in nutrition.
Subjects in these nutrition programs vary depending on the university and the nutrition student's plans for their career. Some of the core courses for an education in nutrition science, whether in traditional campus or online programs, may include the following.
- Food Science
- Foods and Nutritional Science
- Food Systems
- Nutrition and Human Performance
- Nutrition and Food Safety
- Health and Wellness
- Community Nutrition
- Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics
- Food Science and Human Nutrition
- Public Health Nutrition Programs
- Research Methods
- Nutritional Biochemistry
- Food Systems and Food Safety Management
- And More
By completing an in-person or online master's in nutrition degree, you could make more than individuals who haven't earned a degree in nutritional sciences by over $20,000 a year. You will also qualify for top certifications in the field that require this degree to complete and you will be eligible for many top positions in the food and nutrition industry, including executive positions. People who do not complete nutrition master's programs will have limited career options and significantly lower earning potential. With the help of an online master’s in nutrition, online students can complete a Master of Science in Nutrition degree program while they gain the required work experience necessary for career advancement in the industry. Also, be sure to speak with your employer about tuition reimbursement for graduate programs to reduce your university expenses. This is sometimes available for both online classes and traditional learning situations.
You'll also have some options of various degrees, even within the field of nutrition. You may earn a Master of Science in Nutrition Science or Nutritional Sciences, a Master of Science in Human Nutrition, or you may focus on public health, nutrition and food safety management, or clinical nutrition simply by choosing to double major with another degree thrown in the mix. Or you can major in management or public health and minor in food science and human nutrition at your local state university or college. These nutrition programs prepare students for a huge variety of positions such as registered dietitian nutritionist, medical nutrition therapy, community nutrition, nutrition education, clinical nutrition, nutrition counseling, nutritional biochemistry, nutrition research, public health nutrition, food and nutrition policy, and more.
While a traditional advanced degree or online master's in nutrition provides nearly countless advantages and opportunities, the process may be challenging. To pursue a master’s degree, you either have to commit to a program as a full-time student or find the time in your existing life to take online classes along with other priorities such as work, family, religious activities, and so forth. You must also determine the way you will finance this higher education endeavor; whether in-person or as online students, the cost can be high. Some people may choose a student loan, some will receive employer assistance, and some will have to pay out of pocket. Also, keep in mind that the highest paying jobs are highly competitive. If you are unable to land an executive or high-level position, a Master of Science in nutrition may not be a wise investment based on your earning potential.
Overview of a Master's in Nutrition
What Nutrition Master’s Degrees are Available?
- Master of Science (MS) in Nutrition:
An MS in nutrition provides program participants with a more scientific education over other types of nutrition master’s degrees. Many programs are research focused pertaining to the relationship of disease, health, and diet. You will likely take several nutrition science courses rather than liberal arts-centered programming. These degrees should be easily accessbile through online learning.
- Master of Arts (MA) in Nutrition:
Master in Nutrition An MA in nutrition will offer a more liberal arts-centered program over other master’s degrees in nutrition. You will receive a well-rounded and general nutritional education in these graduate degree programs. As such, you might be required to give presentations, take courses on writing, and develop your communication skills. These arts degrees, lacking hands-on science learning, are also easier to find online.
- MBA in Nutrition:
An MBA in nutrition is for individuals seeking managerial positions in nutrition. You will complete an MBA program that focuses on the business aspects of nutrition careers and you will take a few dedicated courses in nutrition. This degree type will provide you with a balance of industry information alongside leadership skills. MBAs were some of the first to move to online learning, however, it might be difficult to find an MBA in nutrition online simply because there aren't many MBAs in nutrition in general.
- Combined Degrees:
As with many fields today, nutrition departments at many colleges and universities are providing either dual degrees or combined degrees to encourage the completion of higher degrees in less time and for less money. You might consider a BS in Nutrition paired with an MBA or you might choose an MBA paired with an MS in nutrition. Both degree paths are becoming more and more commonplace and you can earn some of your hours online and others in classrooms to speed up your program.
Most graduate-level nutrition programs, whether offered online or not, require a bachelor’s degree from a regionally-accredited college or university and a respectable GPA, such as a 3.0 or higher. The program may have different overall GPA requirements and cumulative core health and science courses GPA. Most will not require a GRE or GMAT for entry. If you do not have a bachelor’s degree in a nutrition or science-related field, you will have to have completed a number of prerequisite courses in science or health prior to admission. You may also be required to complete some work experience before you pursue a master’s degree in nutrition, whether it be during your undergraduate degree or between degrees. You could have found full-time work within the nutrition sector, have taken an internship, worked as an office assistant at a nutrition clinic, or job shadowed for a dietitian at a hospital. Additionally, do not underestimate the importance of giving back to the community in the eyes of the admissions team. As for required admission document, all students, whether online or not, must provide the same documents and prerequisites.
How long does it take to earn a Nutrition Master’s?
The amount of time it takes to complete a master’s degree in nutrition will vary based on the program and the college or university and may also vary based on whether or not you attend online or part-or full-time. Some programs claim you will be able to complete their program in as little as one year. Other programs may take up to three years and include an internship or residency program. Degrees can take either less time or more time than posted on the program’s website depending on the number of courses you are able to take each term.
Potential Careers in Nutrition with a Master’s
- Registered Dietitian
A registered dietitian is a certified nutrition specialist and a state-licensed expert in the regulation of diets and human nutrition and food systems. These certified nutrition specialists work with patients and clients to establish the nutritional needs of each individual based on their unique medical circumstance and improve their eating habits. Once licensed, you can legally assess, diagnose, and treat various nutritional issues.
Average income: $53,100
- Clinical Nutrition Manager
A clinical nutrition manager works with other clinical nutrition professionals to manage medical nutrition therapy and the overall nutritional operations of a healthcare facility. You might work with patients and their family members, the general community, or other healthcare professionals to ensure the client's human nutrition needs are met.
Average income: $77,430
A nutritionist has the ability to specialize in many different nutritional niches of human nutrition, such as sports, holistic care, or child nutrition. You will work with each set of clients or patients and customize their diet based on their needs. If you wish to make more money as a nutritionist, consider working for corporations or as a sports nutritionist.
Average income: $63,700
- Director of Food and Nutrition Services
As a director of food and nutrition services, you will plan, budget, purchase, and manage the overall operations of the food and human nutrition services of your employer. You might also be responsible for the hiring and training, and ensuring all services remain in compliance with government, industry, and employer regulations for human nutrition.
Average income: $64,600
- Renal Dietitian
A renal dietitian is a specialized dietitian who understands how chronic kidney disease affects the human body and works specifically with individuals who have chronic kidney disease. You will create special diets and nutrition routines based on the effects of this disease, such as foods that compliment poor function of the heart, blood pressure, bones, and kidneys.
Average income: $64,200
Options to Advance
An exceptional way to increase your career opportunities is to create them yourself by becoming an entrepreneur. It is also possible to pursue healthcare administration positions or executive positions to continue advancing within the field. If you wish to increase your pay to the levels of other professionals in the healthcare industry, you might consider a PhD or a doctoral degree, or you can earn online certifications. This will also help you to join other health educators and become a professor or a researcher if you prefer a more education-based career in nutrition. A doctoral degree will also increase your chances to secure highly elusive and limited executive positions.
Best Master of Science in Nutrition Programs
Boston University has both a master’s degree and a PhD in nutrition and metabolism. These programs are designed to prepare program participants to work in a variety of careers, such as scientific research methods, epidemiologic, and clinical careers. You will also focus on academia, government, and industry subject matters.
- MS in Nutrition and Metabolism
- PhD in Nutrition and Metabolism
Arizona State University (ASU)
ASU works extensively with community colleges and other four-year colleges and universities to encourage those with an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree in nutrition to continue their educational opportunities at the graduate level. The master’s degree in nutrition at ASU also offers the opportunity to complete an internship to become a member of the registered dietitians upon completion.
- MS in Nutrition
- MS in Medical Nutrition (online)
- MS in Dietetics Nutrition (online)
Oregon State University
The master’s program in nutrition at Oregon State University is science-based. You will develop an in-depth understanding of community nutrition and public health. You can also focus on alternative areas, such as metabolic bone disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer.
- MS in Nutrition
- PhD in Nutrition
Benedictine University at Lisle offers two masters degrees in nutrition. One provides a dietetics internship and the other does not offer an internship. You will focus on the risk assessment, evaluation, intervention, and motivation of your patients or clients. You will be able to work in various health careers, including community education, disease risk reduction, and health promotion.
- MS in Nutrition and Wellness
- MS in Nutrition and Dietetics with Dietetic Internship
Tufts University has one of the most extensive graduate school master’s degree program offerings in the US. You can choose between a number of individual master’s degree programs or dual degree programs to specialize in two areas of nutrition or more at the same time. For the individual master’s degrees in nutrition, you can also complete a PhD in the same nutrition field.
- Master of Nutrition Science and Policy
- Dual Degree Master of Science in Nutrition/Water Systems, Sciences, and Society Certificate
- Dual Degree Master of Science in Nutrition/Master of Public Health
- Dual Degree Master of Science in Food Policy and Applied Nutrition/Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy
- Dual Degree Master of Science in Nutrition/Master of Arts degree from Urban and Environmental Planning
- Dual Degree Master of Science in Nutrition/Didactic Program in Dietetics
- Master or PhD in Agriculture, Food, and Environment
- Master or PhD in Nutrition Interventions, Communication and Behavior Change
- Master or PhD in Nutrition Data Science
- Master or PhD in Food and Nutrition Policy and Programs
- Master or PhD in Biochemical and Molecular Nutrition
- Master of Science / Dietetic Internship
Traditional Schools Offering a MS in Nutrition
American University in DC focuses their MS in Nutrition Education around chronic illness prevention through a healthy diet. You might learn about food insecurity, food deserts, organic farming, obesity, and food labeling. The idea is to fight against misinformation and to empower communities to take back their health.
- MS in Nutrition Education
Iowa State University
Iowa State University has a graduate school master’s program in nutrition and dietetics that you can complete between one to two years. You will also be able to take specialized courses in nutritional entrepreneurship, pediatric and maternal care, and phytochemicals. It is important to note that you cannot complete the second half of this program without obtaining or possessing a registered dietitian certification from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
- Master of Family and Consumer Science in Dietetics
University of Wisconsin at Madison
The University of Wisconsin at Madison has an MS in clinical nutrition. This program focuses on nutritional therapies, legal and ethical concerns, problem-solving, metabolism, and professional negotiation. The program is designed to be completed within two years.
- MS in Clinical Nutrition
University of Alabama at Birmingham
The University of Alabama at Birmingham has a master’s degree program in nutrition sciences that provides the option of a clinical track or a track of lifestyle management and disease prevention. You will require 1,200 supervised clinical hours to take the clinical track.
- MS in Nutrition Sciences - Clinical Track
- MS in Nutrition Sciences - Lifestyle Management and Disease Prevention Track
- Dietitian Education Graduate Certificate
University of Nebraska at Lincoln
The University of Nebraska at Lincoln offers a master’s degree in nutrition and health sciences in two ways. You can choose the thesis track and the non-thesis track. If you must complete an oral exam, it has to be done within 24 months of the completion of your coursework.
- Master’s in Nutrition and Health Sciences
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the shortest master’s nutrition program available?
While there are many degree options in this field that will take 16-18 months, there are shorter options available. In fact, if you are looking to earn a master’s degree in nutrition by itself, rather than earning a degree in nutrition and disease prevention or another similar degree, you could earn your master’s in as little as 12 months. Of course, some of the 12-month options are accelerated programs and might be difficult to complete in that time frame for someone who is working a full-time job while trying to earn their degree. However, others only take 12 months to complete and are not considered accelerated programs. This, and the fact that many of these degrees are available online, should make it easier than ever to complete your degree and get started as a nutritionist, dietician, or in another similar chosen career.
What are some of the highest paying nutrition jobs?
There are variety of positions available in nutrition, though you might not have access to all of them without certifications or a few years of experience. Still, before you decide on a career, it might be nice to know which of the accessible careers in nutrition will give you the best chance of earning an excellent income. Some of the best paying careers as health educators in this field include metabolic specialist, nutrition partner, public health nutritionist, registered dietician, renal dietician, clinical dietician, and more. Some of these roles can earn as much as $110,000+ per year once they gain some experience in their field.
What’s the difference between a nutritionist and dietician?
Nutritionists usually try to ensure that patients or groups meet general nutritional aims and goals for human nutrition, or they try to find ways to ensure healthy behavior based on the best nutrition available. However, dieticians can diagnose eating disorders, create diets meant to address specific medical conditions, and similarly create treatment plans for those who are diagnosed with eating disorders. This is why some dietician-specific roles pay more than those for nutritionists.