Professionals in the nutritional science field often pursue a master’s degree to qualify for leadership roles. There is still much to discover about how food impacts the human body, and many master’s programs focus on research contribution. Other nutritional sciences master’s programs prepare learners to become professors. Professionals can also pursue a nutritional sciences degree to facilitate a career change.
Nutritionists perform vital services for the community, including educating patients about ways to achieve particular health goals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), dieticians and nutritionists earned a median income of $61,270 as of May 2019. The BLS projects employment for these professionals to increase 8% between 2019 and 2029. This guide explores career options for professionals with a master’s degree in nutritional sciences, along with typical program outcomes, scholarship opportunities, and professional organizations for nutrition students.
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What Are the Goals of a Nutritional Sciences Degree?
A nutritional sciences degree qualifies holders to obtain state licensure. Each state sets unique requirements for nutritionists, so students should consider attending a school located in the state in which they plan to work.
Curricula vary by school, but most schools list program outcomes on their website. Some nutritional sciences degree programs emphasize research, while others prepare learners to work with patients. Additionally, some curricula cover nutrition for all age groups and dietary preferences. Others focus primarily on one population subgroup. Learners should select a nutritional sciences master’s program that aligns with their career goals.
Why Get a Nutritional Sciences Degree?
Earning a graduate degree can lead to personal and professional benefits, such as higher salary potential and increased job satisfaction. The following list highlights five common reasons to pursue a master’s degree in nutritional sciences.
- Opportunities in Higher Education
- An advanced nutritional sciences degree may qualify graduates to become professors. However, some colleges and universities require professors to hold a doctorate.
- Personally Beneficial Knowledge
- Master’s students in the field learn valuable information about nutrition, which they can apply to their everyday lives.
- Ability to Help Others
- A working knowledge of nutrition can help individuals lead healthy, happy lives. Nutritionists empower individuals and communities with this knowledge.
- Increased Job Prospects
- While dieticians and nutritionists can practice with a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree can lead to higher-paying positions and leadership roles.
- Self-Employment Potential
- After building a client base, successful nutritionists often open their own practice. These self-employed professionals set their own rates and business hours.
What Are the Requirements for a Nutritional Sciences Degree?
Nutritional sciences master’s programs typically require 30 to 40 credits, which most full-time learners complete in about two years. Coursework typically involves lectures, textbook readings, and projects. Students often develop meal plans, learn how to assess an individual’s nutritional needs, and conduct research. Some programs require learners to submit research findings to scholarly journals.
Before enrolling in a program, learners should note the thesis or capstone requirement. Students can review their prospective program’s course descriptions and available concentrations to ensure they align with their career goals. For example, students may wish to specialize in an area such as childhood or elderly nutrition.
How Much Will a Nutrition Master’s Program Cost?
The most affordable nutrition master’s programs cost approximately $9,000 in tuition. In comparison, more expensive degrees can cost more than $50,000. Several factors affect the cost of graduate school, including school type and student state residency.
In-state public schools typically offer the lowest tuition rates, though out-of-state students often pay much higher tuition. Private schools charge all learners the same rates regardless of state residency.
To help fund your master’s in nutrition, seek out scholarships, grants, and fellowship opportunities, if available. These forms of financial aid do not require repayment. Loans can also reduce your immediate out-of-pocket costs, but you will need to repay the loan balance plus interest after graduation.
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Choosing the Right Nutrition Graduate Program
Whether you plan to study online or on campus, consider the following factors when evaluating different nutrition master’s programs:
- Accreditation: Regional or national accreditation ensures academic quality, allows you to pursue financial aid, and assures employers that your credentials are valid. You may also want to consider a master’s in nutrition with programmatic accreditation from the Accreditation Council on Nutrition Professional Education.
- Culminating Experience: Depending on the school you select, your master’s in nutrition may require a thesis, fieldwork experience, or internship to finish the degree. Choose a program that aligns with your academic priorities.
- Admission Requirements: Graduate schools may or may not require GRE scores. Additionally, while many nutrition graduate programs accept applicants from nonscientific backgrounds, students may need to complete prerequisite courses.
- Certification Options: Some nutrition master’s programs prepare students for certification opportunities like certified nutrition specialist.
What can I do with a nutritional sciences degree?
Graduates of nutritional sciences degree programs often become dieticians. These professionals can work for corporations, such as grocery store chains, and in clinical settings.
Is a nutritionist a doctor?
Unlike doctors, nutritionists cannot diagnose or treat diseases with medications and therapies. Nutritionists typically undergo less clinical training and education than doctors.
What is the highest degree in nutrition?
A doctorate in nutrition is the terminal degree in the field. Most doctoral programs require four to six years to complete.
What schooling do you need to become a nutritionist?
According to the BLS
, dieticians and nutritionists need a bachelor’s degree to earn entry-level positions. These professionals can earn a graduate degree and certifications to improve their job prospects.
Best Master’s in Nutritional Sciences Degrees 2021
The Ohio State University
Established in 1870 and based in Columbus, Ohio, Ohio State offers more than 12,000 courses.
Ohio State features a master of science in human nutrition program. The 30-credit program covers nutrition, introduction to research, and research methods. Course requirements include five core courses, three research methods courses, and 10 credits of supporting coursework. All graduates complete a thesis and choose from research topics in diet and disease relationships, nutritional planning, micronutrients, bioactive dietary compounds, family nutrition, food security, and behavioral nutrition.
Ohio State boasts several student engagement opportunities at the Russell Klein Nutrition Symposium. Students present their research to health and nutrition professionals and interact with nationally recognized nutrition experts. Students may also join the Graduate Society of Nutritional Sciences and gain hands-on learning experience with graduate associateships.
The Ohio State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
University of Wisconsin Madison
Based in Madison, Wisconsin, UW enrolls 17,000 students annually.
UW offers a master of science in clinical nutrition that focuses on core nutrition, clinical nutrition, and professional skills. Students may enroll in spring, fall, or summer semesters for the program. Prospective applicants must hold a bachelor's degree with a 3.0 GPA and complete prerequisites in chemistry, biological sciences, and nutrition, and statistics.
The 30-credit program offers online and hybrid learning options with 16 credits requiring residency. Core nutrition classes cover clinical nutrition research, human energy metabolism, human physiology and disease, and advanced nutrition assessment. Students also select from electives in special topics such as nutrition and aging, nutraceuticals, nutrition for gastrointestinal disorders, and sports nutrition.
UW's graduate program provides professional development resources for students to support them in their career paths.
UW is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Founded in 1785 and based in Athens, Georgia, UGA enrolls nearly 40,000 students annually.
UGA offers four different masters of science in nutritional science programs: an MS non-thesis option in community nutrition online; an MS thesis, dietetic internship track; an MS thesis option; or an MS non-thesis option.
UGA’s MS programs focus on interdisciplinary approaches to nutrition, covering obesity, dietetics, genetics, children's nutrition, clinical nutrition, phytochemicals, sports, public health, and regenerative medicine. Students complete coursework in clinical nutrition, sports nutrition, or culinary science.
Students may be eligible for scholarships through the College of Family and Consumer Sciences. They can also apply for financial aid or graduate assistantships. UGA also provides graduate-level nutrition certifications plus options to pursue doctoral degrees in nutrition and dual bachelor's and master's programs.
UGA is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Based in San Marcos, Texas, and founded in 1899, Texas State enrolls more than 38,000 students annually.
Texas State offers a student-centered master of science in nutrition program. Students take 21 credits in core coursework and choose between a thesis or non-thesis track. The thesis track requires 33 credits of coursework and original scientific research plus a comprehensive exam. The non-thesis track requires 39 credits and six electives.
Core classes include a seminar in nutrition and disease; a seminar in nutrition in the lifespan; research methods; nutrient metabolism; advances in nutrition policy and ethics; and the science of nutrition and exercise.
Texas State is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Located in Blacksburg, Virginia, Virginia Tech enrolls nearly 35,000 students annually.
Virginia Tech's Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise offers a master of science in nutrition and dietetics that provides students with the skills and knowledge to become registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs). The program offers a competency-based curriculum, didactic coursework, and two pathways for students to become RDNs. The first track is for those who already hold a bachelor's degree and meet all prerequisites, while the second track is for students pursuing an accelerated bachelor's and master's program.
The curriculum covers classes in advanced medical nutrition therapy, theories of counseling and consultation, public health nutrition policies and programs, and food for optimal health.
The program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics. Virginia Tech is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.