Master’s in Nutrition Program Guide
Updated January 31, 2022
Graduates with a master's degree in nutrition have studied how food and nutrition affect the body. Professionals in this field use foundational knowledge in biochemistry and physiology to understand the roles of micronutrients and macronutrients. Many nutrition professionals work with groups and individuals. They apply their knowledge to assess patients' dietary needs holistically.
From 2020-2030, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects there will be, on average, about 5,900 job openings each year for nutritionists and dietitians.
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While many with this degree want to become dietitians or nutritionists, graduates can pursue a wide range of nutrition-related careers.
Some graduates may decide to work as clinical dietitians, creating patient diet plans in medical settings. Others may choose to be community dietitians, working for nonprofits or non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Conducting outreach and educational programs as health educators is also an option.
An advanced degree also can allow these nutrition professionals to teach or pursue supervisory or executive roles in their field.
Should I Get a Master's in Nutrition?
Graduates who earn a master's degree in nutrition can pursue a number of in-demand careers. According to the BLS, jobs for nutritionists and dietitians are projected to increase by 11% between 2020 and 2030.
During the same period, jobs for health educators and community health workers are projected to increase by 17%. These rates far exceed the projected average 8% job growth rate for all U.S. occupations.
A master's degree in nutrition typically takes full-time students one year to complete. Students following part-time or asynchronous schedules may take longer, depending on the individual's pace and the program requirements.
Often, students will supplement their coursework with clinical internships. These can help meet licensing requirements later on. Many careers in nutrition require professionals to earn specific licenses, depending on the individual's role or specialization. Aspiring nutritionists and dietitians must complete state-specific licensing requirements.
Many professionals choose to expand their knowledge and bolster their resumes with additional certifications like the Commission on Dietetic Registration's advanced practitioner certification in clinical nutrition or the National Academy of Sports Medicine's nutrition coach certification.
What Will I Learn in a Nutrition Master's Program?
Master's programs in nutrition typically cover the biochemical and physiological elements of human nutrition. Learners also study how various macronutrients and micronutrients affect the body, focusing on vitamins and minerals.
By studying developmental nutrition and nutritional therapeutics, students learn how patients with various medical profiles and lifestyles can improve their health through nutrition.
Required coursework and internship experiences stress the practical application of knowledge. Many professionals work in clinical settings. They take medical history, mental wellness, age, gender, lifestyle, and budget into account when working with patients. These professionals should have an understanding of the social, systemic, and psychological factors that shape an individual's relationship with food.
A master's program in nutrition may help students network with nutrition and wellness professionals. Some courses may also help students improve their public-speaking skills, which will benefit graduates who end up working in group settings or conducting outreach programs.
- Clinical Nutrition
- Many professionals develop nutrition plans based on the holistic assessments of a client's needs. Students pursuing a concentration in clinical nutrition will learn about dietary restrictions, medical diagnoses, and food-related disorders. This can help them learn to create a more individualized approach to nutrition.
- Nutrition and Policy
- Not all graduates work in clinical settings. Nutrition and policy concentration allows students to examine the connection between agriculture, community nutrition, and public health. They also evaluate how these factors influence policy.
- Nutrition and Human Performance
- This concentration prepares students to work in the sports nutrition field. It outlines how athletes can maximize their performance by altering their nutritional intake. This concentration can help degree-seekers prepare for the sports nutrition certification exam offered by the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
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How to Get Into a Nutrition Master's Program
When applying to a master's program in nutrition, prospective students should submit their undergraduate transcripts. Not all programs have a minimum required GPA. However, some of the more competitive ones might require applicants to have earned a 3.0 or higher.
Because of the specialized nature of this program, many schools have course prerequisites for applicants. These can include biology, statistics, anatomy, and physiology or nutrition fundamentals.
Applicants can submit their GRE or GMAT scores, although not all institutions require standardized test scores. Applicants also should include any relevant employment or internships that demonstrate experience in nutrition, wellness, or healthcare. Many schools also require students to submit a personal statement and letters of recommendation. These provide an overview of an applicant's goals and abilities.
What Can I Do With a Master's in Nutrition?
Many graduates with master's degrees in nutrition work as nutritionists or dietitians. They help groups or individuals use nutrition to improve their health. These professionals can work in diverse settings and specializations. They may serve specific populations.
Clinical dietitians or nutritionists work directly with patients, often in private offices, hospitals, long-term care facilities, or inpatient clinics. Community dietitians or community health educators organize diet plans for larger groups and help educate them on nutritional needs, often working alongside community leaders. They may work for NGOs, nonprofits, or government organizations.
Some professionals choose to work as food scientists, specializing in nutrition or nutritional consulting. These individuals may help in product development or food production. They often work in labs alongside other scientists or company representatives.
- Health Educator
- Food Scientist
Popular Continuing Education Paths
- Ph.D. in Clinical Nutrition
- Ph.D. in Food Science
- Ph.D. in Nutrition
How Much Money Can I Make With a Master's in Nutrition?
As of May 2020, the median annual salary for nutritionists and dietitians was $63,090, according to the BLS. Nutritionists and dietitians working in outpatient care centers earned a median salary of $69,660, and those employed by hospitals earned $63,380.
The BLS reports that health education specialists earned a median salary of $56,500 as of May 2020. Those working at hospitals earned a median annual wage of $65,530. Food scientists and technologists earned a median salary of $73,450 in 2020, according to the BLS. Agricultural and food scientists who work for the government earned a median salary of $71,590.
Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Nutrition Programs
Is a master's in nutrition worth it?
Nutrition professionals may be in high demand. The BLS projects that the number of jobs for agricultural and food scientists will increase by 9% between 2020 and 2030. Jobs for nutritionists and dietitians are projected to grow by 11%, and jobs for health educators are projected to grow by 17%. The national average growth rate for all U.S. professions is 8%.
Is a master's in nutrition difficult?
A master's in nutrition program requires a foundational background in biology, chemistry, anatomy, and physiology. An internship or clinical experience may be needed to meet licensing or graduation requirements.
How much does it cost to get a master's in nutrition?
The total cost of earning a master's degree usually falls between $30,000 and $120,000. However, the major, the school, and the program's length play roles in a degree's cost. Public universities tend to be more affordable than private schools, especially for in-state students.
Earning an online master's degree in nutrition also may be a more affordable alternative, as many online programs charge on a per-credit basis. Many institutions also offer scholarships, grants, and need-based financial aid to make their programs more accessible.
How long does it take to get a master's in nutrition?
Generally, full-time students can complete this degree in about one year. However, some students may find it difficult to balance courses with work obligations and personal demands. For many working students, pursuing a master's degree part time might be a more realistic option.
Earning an online master's degree in nutrition can offer some flexibility for busy learners. Some online programs offer self-paced or asynchronous courses, which allow students to pursue this degree on their own time.
What are the highest-paying jobs in nutrition I can get?
The BLS reports that nutritionists and dietitians employed by outpatient care centers earned an annual median salary of $69,660 in May 2020. Those employed by government agencies earned a median wage of $64,010.
Food scientists and technologists earned an annual median salary of $73,450 in May 2020. Agricultural and food scientists working in food manufacturing earned $73,760. Those working for government agencies earned $71,590.
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