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Online Master’s in Nutrition Degree Programs

Nutrition and diet exist at the intersection of science, technology, culture, and public policy. The biological, chemical, genetic, and physiological processes that underpin our understanding of nutrition comprise a body of knowledge that must be effectively disseminated and acted upon by individuals, social groups, communities, healthcare workers, social service programs, school administrators, and others in order to improve public health. Professional nutritionists and dieticians play a crucial role in this process. They are typically trained at the master’s degree level for positions as researchers, educators, counselors, clinicians, and policy makers. In these roles, they offer evidence-based, consumer-friendly information about the relationship between the food we consume and our physical and mental wellbeing. Master’s in nutrition degree program offer a curriculum in food science, dietary habits, the medical aspects of nutrition, and nutrition education and policy. A degree in nutrition can lead to career advancement in the field and, in some cases, eventual certification and licensure as a Registered Dietician (RD) or Registered Dietician Nutritionist (RDN).

What Is a Master’s in Nutrition Degree?

A master’s in nutrition is typically a Master of Science degree program that offers a curriculum designed to prepare students for careers as dietitians, nutritionists, exercise physiologists, health educators, and community health workers. These programs provide foundational training in the science of nutrition, including biochemical, physiological, and genetic components of diet and their relationship to overall health. Students in a master’s in nutrition degree program learn about the latest advances in food science and how to analyze, assess, and communicate research findings in the field of nutritional health. They cultivate skills that are useful in assessing dietary health and in working with individuals, groups, and communities to improve nutritional wellness. And they are introduced to the role that policy initiatives and public programs play in promoting health through nutrition and combatting dietary problems like obesity, malnutrition, and diabetes.

Online Master’s in Nutrition Programs

Online master’s in nutrition programs offer all or most of their coursework online through the application of distance learning technologies. An online program provides students with access to a learning management system (LMS), which allows them to view lectures, participate in discussion groups, submit assignments, and complete other coursework from anywhere with a secure Internet connection. For students who would prefer not to commute to a college or university campus in order to earn their degree, online programs provide a more convenient and flexible alternative to traditional, campus-based programs. For students who cannot relocate in order to attend classes at a college or university campus, an online master’s in nutrition may be the only practical option for earning a degree in the field.

How OnlineEducation.com Identifies and Classifies Online Master’s in Nutrition Programs

There are a number of designations for online master’s in nutrition programs. Some of the more common names include:

  • Master of Science in Applied Nutrition
  • Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition
  • Master of Science in Food Science and Nutrition
  • Master of Science in Human Nutrition
  • Master of Science in Nutrition and Wellness
  • Master of Science in Nutrition Dietetics
  • Master of Science in Nutrition Education
  • Master of Science in Nutrition Science
  • Professional Science Master of Nutrition

OnlineEducation.com researches nutrition programs and identifies those that offer master’s-level training and instruction in nutrition based on curriculum rather than name. Programs must be offered by regionally accredited, non-profit colleges and universities, and they must offer all or most of their instruction online. Programs that require more than two campus visits per year are not included on the site.

What Students Learn in an Online Master’s in Nutrition Program

The curriculum in an online master’s in nutrition program provides students with grounding in scientific theories of nutritional health based on the latest medical research. Students learn how nutrition-education and dietary wellness programs are designed and implemented in schools, community health clinics, corporations, and government organizations. They study the social, cultural, behavioral, and economic factors that can positively and negatively impact the dietary habits of individuals, groups, and entire communities. And they receive instruction in the correlations between nutrition and various chronic conditions and diseases.

Some master’s programs include a clinical research component, while others focus on community advocacy, education, and policy issues, and many programs touch on both. There are also master’s in nutrition programs that offer electives and designated concentrations in the applications of nutritional science to obesity, eating disorders, sports and fitness, and/or maternal and infant nutrition.

It is important to note that many master’s in nutrition programs are not designed to prepare students for certification and/or licensure as an RD or RDN, both of which require 1200 hours of supervised practice experience. The primary purpose of a master’s in nutrition program is to provide students with the most up-to-date nutritional science and with professional training for career advancement. However, most online programs provide sufficient didactic instruction to satisfy many or all of the coursework requirements for licensure and/or certification.

Online Master’s in Nutrition Program Courses

As noted above, curricula vary by program, and there are different specialization areas within the field of nutrition that may determine a particular program’s curricular focus. However, master’s program training in nutrition science generally includes the types of coursework detailed in the table below.

Course TitleCourse Description
Lifecycle NutritionThe role of nutrition throughout the lifespan, including special concerns for infants, pregnant women, children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly.
Advanced Nutritional AssessmentAdvanced methods for assessing nutrition, including the diagnoses of malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies.
Nutrition Epidemiology & Research MethodsResearch methods and study design in the field of nutrition, the implementation of nutritional studies, and analysis methods for data on nutrition.
Health CommunicationStrategies for delivering health promotion messages to consumers, professionals, and large groups through various methods, including health coaching, mass health communication, consumer health writing, and public speaking.
Nutrition Health PolicyAn overview of the policy processes that address nutrition problems and issues, including the implementation, measurement, and evaluation of nutritional health programs.
Health & Wellness Research PlanningThe application of scientific theory to the research process, with a focus on community-based studies and the evaluation of outcomes of health educational programs.
Data Analysis in Nutrition ResearchAdvanced quantitative data analysis methods applied to research in nutrition and population health.
Human Energy MetabolismFundamentals in human macronutrient metabolism and its role in health and disease.
Cultural Context of Health & NutritionAn examination of the cultural and socioeconomic factors related to individual and population health over the lifespan.
Nutrition Education in the CommunityPrinciples and practices of teaching individuals and groups to translate nutrition knowledge into action.
Advanced Medical Nutritional TherapyThe role of diet in disease, including diet as a factor related to prevention of disease or illness, diet as an etiologic agent in illness, and diet as a treatment for disease.

Admissions to Online Master’s in Nutrition Programs

Admissions requirements vary by program and by school. However, the baseline eligibility requirement for admissions to online master’s in nutrition programs is a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Some programs have several undergraduate prerequisites that applicants must demonstrate they have completed (biology, chemistry, physiology, and nutrition courses are common prerequisites), and others prefer candidates who hold a bachelor’s degree in a life science, such as biology, chemistry, dietetics, nursing, health, or exercise physiology. In addition to undergraduate transcripts, applicants may be asked to furnish two or more letters or recommendation, a written statement of purpose, and/or GRE test scores. The GRE requirement is often waived for applicants whose undergraduate GPA is above 3.0, for RDs who have a year or more of professional experience, and for those who already have a master’s degree in another field.

Note: Some master’s programs restrict admissions to RDs/RDNs, which typically requires a bachelor’s degree, six to twelve months of experience in the field, and passing a Commission on Dietary Registration (CDR) certification exam.

Online Master’s in Nutrition Program Formats

Not all online programs are the same. There are, for example, two different modes of online instruction: synchronous instruction and asynchronous instruction. There are also various ways in which an online master’s program can be structured to accommodate full-time and/or part-time students. And some online programs incorporate required campus visits into their curricula, which can add a valuable educational component but may pose scheduling conflicts for some students. These variations in format, detailed below, represent important considerations that potential applicants should take into account when exploring the options for an online master’s in nutrition program.

Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Instruction: Synchronous instruction incorporates real-time lectures and instructional activities that require students to be logged on to the program’s LMS at designated times. For students who are more comfortable with regularly scheduled class meetings, a course or program that incorporates synchronous instruction may be preferable. Asynchronous instruction does not have a real-time component. Students in a course that utilizes asynchronous instruction have the freedom and responsibility to access lectures and other assignments at their convenience, 24-7. This may be preferable for students who are working full-time and who anticipate potential scheduling conflicts. However, asynchronous instruction requires self-discipline and self-motivation, as students must be diligent about keeping up with lectures and assignments.

Part-Time vs. Full-Time Enrollment: A typical master’s in nutrition program requires roughly two years, or four traditional academic semesters for full-time students to complete, which means taking an average of three courses per semester. Some programs can be completed in less than two years (usually 16- 20 months) by full-time students who attend classes year round. Some programs use a modified course schedule with eight-week terms, during which full-time students are expected to take two courses. These are good options for students who are aiming to earn their degree in two years or less. For students who would prefer to take fewer courses per semester, there are many online programs that offer part-time enrollment options. A part-time student can complete an online master’s program in two years of year-round enrollment, but part-time students generally take more than two years to complete a master’s in nutrition program.

Campus Visits: While many online programs are offered 100% online, there are some programs that require students to attend a limited number of on-campus sessions as part of the instructional curriculum. Campus visits, sometimes referred to as intensives, generally last for three to ten days, and may include orientation sessions, seminars, lectures, and/or networking opportunities. They can be a useful component of online learning, particularly for students who welcome the opportunity to meet face-to-face with instructors and classmates. However, campus visits require travel during which students may incur expenses in addition to a program’s base tuition and fees. OnlineEducation.com does not include programs that require more than two campus visits per year, but potential applicants should examine each program’s requirements carefully to determine if a program incorporates on-campus sessions.