Best Master's in Nutrition Online Degree Programs
Online master's degree programs in nutrition cover a wide range of nutritional topics and help prepare students for professional credentials in the field. Learn about some of the top programs and get career information for dietitians and nutritionists.
Best Online Master's in Nutrition Degree Programs
There are several different kinds of online master's degree programs in the field of nutrition, and some of the best institutions may offer one or more degree options in the discipline. These online nutrition programs may also be considered some of the best for their accreditation, available concentrations or areas of interest, thesis and non-thesis options, and/or flexible formats. Here we discuss a handful of the top schools and their online master's degree programs in the field of nutrition.
1. Kansas State University
|Location||Tuition & Fees (in-state)|
Kansas State University offers an online Master of Science (MS) in Nutrition, Dietetics, and Sensory Sciences, as well as an online MS in Dietetics that is designed for registered dietitians or those who are registration-eligible. Both degree programs require 36 credit hours and the MS in Nutrition, Dietetics, and Sensory Sciences has several different areas of interest, including nutrition education and communication, nutrition and exercise sciences and public health nutrition. The dietetics program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and covers topics in research and evidence-based practices in the field. The program is provided online through the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance (IDEA).
2. University of Kansas
|Location||Tuition & Fees (in-state)|
The University of Kansas also offers an online master's degree in dietetics and nutrition through the Great Plains IDEA. The program can be completed in 2 years and students can choose from a thesis and non-thesis option. The thesis option does require students to meet on-campus to defend their thesis at the end of the program. Students must complete 36 credits that consist of core courses, research courses, and electives.
3. North Dakota State University-Main Campus
|Location||Tuition & Fees (in-state)|
North Dakota State University is another institution that participates in the Great Plains IDEA and offers an online master's degree in dietetics through the program. The program is fully online and results in an MS degree. Students in the program take core courses, electives, and choose from a thesis, comprehensive paper, or additional elective option to complete the program. The entire program totals 36 credits and students must be registered dieticians or registration-eligible to apply.
4. Colorado State University-Fort Collins
|Location||Tuition & Fees (in-state)|
|Fort Collins, CO||$12,495|
Colorado State University has an online master's in dietetics that culminates in an MS in Food Science and Nutrition. The online program even offers an additional specialization in nutrition. The program is a part of the Great Plains IDEA and totals 37 credits. Students can choose from a thesis or non-thesis research option and helps registered dietitians or those with a didactic program in dietetics (DPD) verification advance their careers.
5. The Sage Colleges
|Location||Tuition & Fees (in-state)|
The Sage Colleges offers an online MS in Applied Nutrition that totals 30 credits and can be completed in as little as 1.5 years when taken full-time. Students may choose to complete the program on a part-time basis and finish the program at their own pace. The program can be completed fully online for students that have a bachelor's degree in nutrition or dietetics or for students in the M.S./Dietetic Internship (DI) combined program, while students who do not have a bachelor's in nutrition must complete some courses on-campus. Students in the program must complete a final group thesis project. The Sage Colleges also has an online M.S. in Nutrition and Dietetics.
|Rank||School Name||Location||Tuition & Fees (in-state)|
|6||Auburn University||Auburn, AL||$11,282|
|7||University of Nebraska-Lincoln||Lincoln, NE||$7,588|
|8||Samford University||Birmingham, AL||$17,865|
|9||East Carolina University||Greenville, NC||$7,485|
|10||University of Southern Mississippi||Hattiesburg, MS||$8,624|
|11||Immaculata University||Immaculata, PA||$12,780|
|12||University of Arizona||Tucson, AZ||$13,044|
|13||West Chester University of Pennsylvania||West Chester, PA||$15,103|
|14||Indiana University of Pennsylvania-Main Campus||Indiana, PA||$16,650|
|15||Lasell College||Newton, MA||$10,960|
|16||University of Wisconsin-Madison||Madison, WI||$12,010|
|17||University of Georgia||Athens, GA||$10,982|
|18||Mansfield University of Pennsylvania||Mansfield, PA||$14,254|
|19||Texas Tech University||Lubbock, TX||$8,015|
|20||Texas Woman's University||Denton, TX||$7,336|
|21||Rutgers University-New Brunswick||New Brunswick, NJ||$19,416|
|22||University of Saint Joseph||West Hartford, CT||$14,532|
|23||Bowling Green State University-Main Campus||Bowling Green, OH||$9,831|
|24||Framingham State University||Framingham, MA||$11,040|
|25||Central Michigan University||Mount Pleasant, MI||$13,804|
All statistics provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, tuition based on 2018-2019 school year
Learn.org's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions.
Program Overview for Online Master's in Nutrition
The most common online master's degree programs are an MS in Nutrition or an MS in Dietetics, but there are also master's degree programs available in areas like applied nutrition, clinical nutrition, or nutrition education. MS in Nutrition programs are usually around 30 to 33 credits, while MS in Dietetics programs typically require 36 to 37 credits, but both programs usually take about 2 years to complete. These programs are commonly available in full- or part-time formats. Some online master's programs may offer different areas of specialization or areas of interest. These areas may help students focus their studies by offering additional courses in subjects like nutrition, public health nutrition, nutrition education and communication, or sensory analysis and consumer behavior.
Online master's programs in nutrition generally help prepare students for professional certifications and/or advancing their careers. For example, an online master's degree program in nutrition education may help students prepare for the Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) credential, while MS in Dietetics programs typically require students to be registered dietitians or be registration eligible, but also meet registered dietitian nutrition (RDN) credentialing requirements.
To ensure that they are attending a high-quality academic program, students should always check that their school is accredited. This means they are likely to be vetted by national or regional organizations, such as the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), the North Central Association of Colleges (NCA) and Schools or New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).
They'll also want to make sure the program itself is accredited. For instance, students who are interested in attending a master's degree in dietetics may want to make sure that their program is accredited by the ACEND that is a part of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is a professional organization for dietitians and may even refer some students to ACEND-accredited programs. Some of these programs may have additional specialized accreditation from organizations related to public health, such as the Council on Education in Public Health (CEPH).
Prerequisite requirements for online master's degree programs in nutrition vary greatly by institution and/or the type of nutrition program. Some online programs may not require specific coursework outside of holding a bachelor's degree, while other programs may have prerequisite requirements for all applicants. Still other programs may vary prerequisite requirements by the type of applicant. For example, some programs may not require registered dietitians or those with a background in nutrition to meet prerequisites but may require those with a bachelor's degree in a field outside of nutrition to complete coursework in nutrition and/or other subject areas. Depending on the school and program, some students may be required (or encouraged) to have prior coursework in subjects such as:
Cost of Online Master's Programs in Nutrition
Tuition rates for online master's degree programs in nutrition vary by institution. For example, some online master's programs in the field of nutrition cost $580 per credit hour, while others cost $800 per credit hour. Many of these programs charge the same per credit hour for in-state or out-of-state students, but some don't, so that is an important factor to consider when researching the price of a program. Another cost to consider for online programs is any additional fees, graduate school entrance fees, technology fees and/or the cost of meeting any specific technical requirements an online program may have, like software or computer equipment.
Many programs do allow online students to use financial aid to help offset the cost of their education, and that may come in the form of scholarships, loans, or grants. Some schools may even offer scholarship opportunities that are specifically for distance learning students and/or scholarships in the field of nutrition. Students competing for scholarships may need to demonstrate that they qualify for financial aid and/or meet GPA requirements.
Common Courses for Online Master's Programs in Nutrition
Due to the diversity within degrees, course topics for online master's degree programs in nutrition vary. In general, students in these programs take some core courses, elective courses, and courses in research where they complete a thesis or non-thesis project/paper. Some common course topics for online master's degree programs in nutrition may include:
- Nutrition research/evidence-based nutrition
- Public health nutrition
- Developmental nutrition
- Metabolic disease
- Advanced nutrition
Courses in micronutrients explore how micronutrients react with the human body in terms of nutrition, biochemistry, genetics, and physiology. Students may learn about the metabolic need of cells and what is considered a normal and abnormal metabolic state.
Public Health Nutrition
Students commonly take a course that explores global public health and nutrition issues. Some of these courses may be broken down into courses that look specifically at issues in the U.S. (and smaller communities within it) into broader courses that look at issues on a country or international scale. Students also discuss how dietitians and nutritionists can work to help address these different issues.
Most master's programs in nutrition require at least one course in statistics where students learn about various statistical methods used in the field. Topics for these courses may include hypothesis testing, correlations, regression, and analysis of variance.
Most online master's degree programs in nutrition do not have any in-person requirements. Typically, these programs can be completed fully online. This is true for online master's degree programs in dietetics because they require students to have already completed their dietetics internship and be registration-eligible. However, students can still get hands-on, practical experience through research requirements for these programs where students complete a thesis or final non-thesis course or research project.
Even though it is not common, there are some programs that may require one or more on-campus visits. These visits are usually required towards the end of the program. For example, some programs may require students to be present on-campus to defend their thesis or take a final comprehensive exam. There may also be some programs that require students with no undergraduate work in nutrition to take some courses on-campus.
Career Information for Graduates with a Master's in Nutrition
Graduates with their master's in nutrition can work a wide range of nutrition-related careers in various industries. Graduates may pursue careers conducting nutritional research, educating communities about nutritional issues, or advocating for nutrition policies. Places of work may include community centers, doctor's offices, food safety organizations, fitness and wellness centers, or offices in the pharmaceutical industry.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for dietitians and nutritionists was 11% from 2018 to 2028, which is much faster than average. These professionals usually work full-time and may meet with clients on evenings and/or weekends. There are several kinds of dietitians and nutritionists, including clinical nutritionists or dietitians, community nutritionists or dietitians, and management dietitians. In general, dietitians and nutritionists work to promote healthy lifestyles in people and communities through food and nutrition. Some job duties may include:
- Determining patients' health goals and needs
- Creating a plan to meet those goals and needs
- Educating patients on healthy eating and nutrition
- Developing educational materials for communities
- Monitoring patients' changes and adjusting plans as needed
- Helping patients manage for specific diseases through nutrition
- Conducting and/or staying updated on research in the field
As of 2018, the average salary for dietitians and nutritionists was $61,210, per the BLS. The industry with the highest level of employment for dietitians and nutritionists during the same year was general medical and surgical hospitals, where these professionals made an average salary of $62,640. The highest paying industry for dietitians and nutritionists was grantmaking and giving services where they made an average salary of $73,910. Some of the top paying states for these professionals included California, Alaska, and Connecticut.
A bachelor's degree is usually the minimum requirement for dietitians and nutritionists, but master's degrees are becoming more common in the field. These professionals are also typically required to be licensed by most states to practice. Requirements for licensure or certification vary by state, but usually require a bachelor's degree, supervised practical experience, and an exam.
Dietitians and nutritionists may also decide to pursue certification in specific areas of interest. For example, they may earn certifications in areas like sports dietetics, pediatric nutrition, or oncology nutrition. These certifications are usually offered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration. Outside of these specialty certifications, there are two main credentials for the field that we discuss in more detail below.
The Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) is the credentialing body for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that offers the RDN credential. The RDN may be preferred by some employers and many dietitians pursue the credential because it often has the same or similar requirements as state licensure in the field. Students pursuing their RDN must complete an ACEND-accredited program and complete 1,200 hours of supervised experience during a DI. The credential does require students to earn 75 credits of continuing professional education every 5 years. By 2024, RDN candidates will need a graduate degree to sit for the exam.
To demonstrate advanced knowledge in the field, many nutritionists choose to earn their CNS credential from the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists. Many states accept the CNS for licensing and the credential requires a master's or doctoral degree, 1,000 hours of experience, and an exam. Like the RDN, students must complete 75 continuing professional education credits every 5 years to keep the credential.