By pursuing a bachelor's in nutritional sciences, students develop a keen understanding of the relationship between human health, nutrition, and medicine. They can apply this knowledge as public health specialists, food safety auditors, and nutrition writers. The best nutritional sciences programs also prepare candidates for the registered dietitian exam.
Traditional students can earn their baccalaureate credentials in four years. Learners may expedite graduation by enrolling in accelerated online programs in nutritional sciences that enable them to obtain their degrees in as little as two years. This guide will help you find the right school by providing information on accreditation, degree structure, and academic and professional resources.
What Is Nutritional Science?
Nutritional science examines the connections between diet and health, with an emphasis on optimizing eating habits to meet an individual's nutritional needs. Bachelor's programs in nutritional sciences synthesize biology, chemistry, and social science, training students to analyze how food and medicine affect the body. Candidates gain foundational knowledge on concepts like catabolism (how the human body breaks down food) and anabolism (how the body uses derived nutrients to create and repair cells and tissues).
Nutritional science students cultivate communication skills needed for careers in research, fitness coaching, and health education. They also train in public policy and program management, which prepares them for occupations in food service, dietetics, pharmaceutical manufacturing, and global health.
Growing health concerns in the U.S. drive the demand for skilled nutritionists and health educators. In its 2016 report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that, between 1988 and 2014, the adult obesity rate grew dramatically, averaging a 5% increase for Grade 1, 2, and 3 obesity. The CDC also reported growing numbers of adults with hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and heart disease.
Learn more about the nutritional science field by consulting this complete degree page. The guide contains profiles of the best online bachelor's of nutritional sciences programs. It also provides information on employment outlook, financial aid, and student resources.
What You Can Do With a Bachelor's in Nutritional Sciences
- Nutritionist and Dietitian
As experts in nutrition, nutritionists and dietitians help clients and patients develop healthy eating plans and habits. They assess individuals' nutritional needs and work with them to make healthy food choices according to their budget and lifestyle. Clinical nutritionists and dietitians provide nutrition therapy to patients with medical conditions, such as diabetes, while community nutritionists and dietitians educate the public about food, health, and nutrition.
Median Annual Salary: $60,370
Projected Growth Rate (2018-28): 11%
- Community Health Worker
Community health workers assess and understand the health-related needs of individuals and groups in their community. These health workers develop educational programs and materials to inform others about food, health, and nutrition. They may also help community members gain access to other food and nutrition programs or healthcare services.
Median Annual Salary: $46,080
Projected Growth Rate (2018-28): 11%
- Fitness Trainer and Instructor
Fitness trainers and instructors provide exercise and healthy living guidance. They may work with clients one on one or instruct classes. Fitness trainers and instructors who study nutrition science better understand how food relates to the human body, and can better advise their clients on weight control and lifestyle choices.
Median Annual Salary: $39,820
Projected Growth Rate (2018-28): 13%
- Agricultural and Food Science Technician
Agricultural and food science technicians work in laboratories or in the field with agriculture and food scientists. They may collect and sort data and samples, as well as prepare research reports and presentations. Agricultural and food science technicians follow field-specific research and laboratory protocols to ensure quality and safety.
Median Annual Salary: $40,860
Projected Growth Rate (2018-28): 6%
Consult this in-depth career page to explore more opportunities for nutritional sciences majors. The guide covers job prospects by degree level, relevant certification/licensure, and professional organizations. You can also learn about the daily challenges of the profession from an active dietician nutritionist.
What to Expect in a Bachelor's in Nutritional Sciences Program
Bachelors in nutritional sciences programs typically total a minimum of 120 credits, which students can complete in 2-4 years depending on degree structure. Core classes often include nutrition in the life cycle, anatomy and physiology, and nutrition biochemistry. Students usually examine food processes at the cellular level and how to apply scientific concepts in medical nutrition therapy and community education practices. The best online bachelor's programs in nutritional sciences also train candidates in research and analytical methods that prepare them for graduate academics.
Concentrations Offered for a Bachelor's Degree in Nutritional Sciences
- A bachelor of science in nutrition emphasizes the chemistry and biology of food and how it interacts with the human body. Coursework includes metabolism, nutrition at the cellular level, and therapeutic diets.
- A bachelor of science in dietetics trains future registered nutritionists and dietetics professionals. Students learn about food and food science, nutrition's role in society, nutrition through the human lifecycle, and community health education.
- Food Studies
- A bachelor of science in nutrition with a concentration in food studies gives students the chance to study food, food history, food perception, and food advertising. Coursework also explores food transportation, supply, and retail.
- Food Management
- A bachelor of science in nutrition with a food management emphasis gives students the opportunity to study business, accounting, and finance as the subjects relate to food and the food industry. Coursework includes food travel and tourism, food service purchasing, and nutrition leadership.
Courses in a Bachelor's in Nutritional Sciences Program
In a bachelor's in nutritional sciences program, you must complete core coursework in addition to degree-specific classes. Advanced coursework for nutrition science degrees vary by school, but most programs include a few common classes. Laboratory science, lifespan development, and nutrition technology courses give students in-depth information on aspects of nutrition, health, and food that they will take into their future careers.
- Human Nutrition
By studying the different systems of the body and how food impacts each one, human nutrition classes assess the absorption, digestion, and storage of food. Students learn to critically assess food and nutrient choices with attention to each body system, overall function, and potential reaction.
- Life Span Nutrition
Life span nutrition coursework investigates how age affects food and nutrient needs, health, and overall wellness over the course of a human life. Students study nutrition in infants, children, adults, and the elderly. They also look at food patterns across different age groups.
- Clinical Nutrition
Clinical nutrition classes focus on nutrients and food as they relate to disease and disease management. Students learn the language and terminology needed to work in the clinical nutrition environment. Students develop nutrition assessment, food counseling, and medical nutrition therapy skills through case studies and class exercises.
- Nutrition and Exercise
Nutrition and exercise classes look at the relationship between nutrients and physical exertion. Students study how physical activity and nutrition interact at different levels of exercise, from the ordinary public to the professional athletic community. Nutrition and exercise courses also investigate how to improve overall physical health with food and diet.
- Nutrition and Culture
Nutrition and culture coursework focuses on how food plays a role in human daily life. Students study the ethnic histories of food and cooking and the geography of food. They also develop skills for meal planning, food selection, food preparation, and food safety in a professional setting.
How to Choose a Bachelor's in Nutritional Sciences Program
Colleges and universities deliver bachelor's programs in nutritional sciences that fit the needs of diverse students, including working professionals and career changers. When researching schools, you should consider factors like tuition, course structure, and career services. This section examines some attributes of effective academic programs.
Higher education institutions need to maintain regional or national accreditation to confer valid degrees and certificates. Schools become nationally accredited through authorities supported by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the U.S. Department of Education. They receive regional accreditation from one of six organizations, depending on location. Bachelor's programs in nutritional sciences can also gain specialized accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics.
- Cost and Financial Aid
To minimize college debt, learners should enroll in schools that feature affordable tuition rates. Online bachelor of nutritional sciences programs routinely provide low per-credit tuition that ignores residency status. Students should clarify their school's tuition pricing, because some institutions charge part-time candidates higher rates than full-time learners. Financial aid should always be a strong consideration. The best colleges and universities offer institutional scholarships, fellowships, and grants.
- Program Format
Program format greatly impacts the learning experience. Students should consider how synchronous or asynchronous classes integrate into their daily schedule. Most universities allow degree candidates to individually pace their schedules, while other schools operate a cohort learning format. In this latter structure, students take one or two classes at a time and advance through the degree plan at the same rate as their peers. Cohort learning fosters collaboration but may slow down program completion.
- Concentration Options
Although bachelor's programs in nutritional sciences typically consist of similar core classes, students can personalize their curriculum by choosing electives and pursuing concentrations that support their career goals. Options often include dietetics, food science and technology, and community nutrition. Some schools even offer a pre-med track that focuses on prevention and treatment of acute and chronic diseases.
- Student Resources
Colleges and universities that deliver academic resources significantly bolster their students' success during attendance and after graduation. Candidates should prioritize schools that offer personalized degree counseling, writing and subject tutoring, and networking opportunities through honor societies and campus groups. Well-funded libraries help students conduct research. Learners should also look for accessible career services, like internship-placement programs and resume-building workshops.
Bachelor's in Nutritional Sciences Program Admissions
This section examines the application requirements you can typically expect of bachelor's programs in nutritional sciences. You also receive an overview of the admissions process, including a general time frame of how long it takes to properly prepare and submit application materials.
- Minimum GPA: First-time students can expect a 3.0 minimum GPA requirement, while transfer candidates typically need to satisfy a 2.0 minimum. Competitive bachelor's in nutritional sciences programs may require higher standards. Some schools accept students with inadequate GPAs if they demonstrate strong academic potential through standardized testing and relevant job experience.
- Prerequisite Coursework: At the bachelor's level, students do not usually need to fulfill prerequisite requirements to qualify for admission. However, dual-degree programs may operate this criteria. Common prerequisite topics for nutritional sciences include microbiology, nutrient metabolism, and social science perspective on food and nutrition. Students who complete prerequisite classes as part of an advanced high school curriculum or associate program can accelerate their bachelor's degree completion.
- Career Experience: Students with work experience in nutritional sciences can translate their professional achievements and career history into transfer credits. This benefit is particularly useful to distance learners, who can satisfy internship requirements without needing to complete summer residencies on campus. Like prerequisite coursework, career experience is a common entry requirement for five-year dual-degree programs.
How to Apply
- Standardized Test Scores
Online bachelor's of nutritional sciences programs increasingly disregard standardized testing, opting for more holistic means of student evaluation. Similarly, colleges and universities typically do not require candidates who graduated from high school more than four years prior to submit ACT/SAT scores. Among institutions that do ask for test results, minimums vary so students should confirm this criteria with admissions counselors.
- Personal Statement
Prospective students typically submit a one- to two-page personal statement that details academic preparation, relevant career experience, and professional goals. Also called a letter of intent, this essay allows schools to identify if an applicant's worldview and objectives align with the institutional mission. In lieu of a formal statement, some universities ask candidates to answer a series of short essay questions.
- Recommendation Letters
Postsecondary schools typically ask applicants to submit 2-3 recommendation letters from professors, employers, mentors, and other individuals who can attest to their personal qualities and academic potential. Some institutions specify who may or may not write these letters. Certain schools prefer to contact recommenders directly through email or phone.
If your school requires SAT or ACT scores, consider allocating 2-3 months (or about 1,200 hours) to review content and prepare for the exam. You can view SAT scores online 13-15 days after the test date, and it takes an additional 10 day for the results to reach your school. ACT scores usually arrive within two weeks but can take up to eight weeks.
The application timeline greatly depends on your university's deadline. Higher education institutions usually set the early admission deadline in November and the regular admission deadline between January and March. Online bachelor's of nutritional sciences commonly operate rolling admissions, accepting applicants year-round. Once you identify the deadline, it is best to slot 4-6 weeks to prepare and submit the application materials. This window leaves plenty of time for you to write an evocative personal statement and your recommenders to craft complimentary letters. When in doubt, work with an admissions counselor to create a schedule that fits your needs.
Resources for Bachelor's in Nutritional Sciences Students
Founded in 1939, IFT supports members in 90 countries and dedicates its mission to advancing nutritional science across the global food system. The institute publishes research in areas like sustainability and food safety. Members can connect through forums and meetings specifically designated for students, new professionals, and researchers. IFT delivers mentorship programs and job listings. The institute also operates a certified food scientist program.
This organization serves over 100,000 credentialed nutritionists, dietitians, and related professionals. Members can access information on public policy issues and engage with health advocacy groups around the country. The academy offers foundational grants, diversity awards, and academy scholarships. Additional member benefits include career development resources, continuing professional education, and research assistance.
A joint authority consisting of three nutritional science professional organizations, ANA operates self-paced classes, live webinars, and research conventions. The association helps students find accredited academic programs and assists graduates with job search and career development. Members can access specialized training programs in areas like ketogenic nutrition and nutritional genomics. They may also pursue the certified nutrition specialist designation through ANA.
NANP is a leader in the holistic nutrition industry and maintains professional standards for natural chefs and nutrition consultants. The association partners with higher education institutions to develop research-supported holistic nutrition programs. Members collaborate through national conferences and apply for positions through the career center. NANP also operates a board certification program.
The premier honor society for food science and technology, Phi Tau Sigma supports students by offering leadership training, research development, and mentorship programs. Members network through campus and regional events as well as national symposiums. The society funds numerous awards, including scholarships for student achievement and international travel grants.