An online nutrition degree focuses on how food and diet affect overall well-being. Nutrition programs often include interdisciplinary aspects, providing insight into the physical, cultural, and social aspects of food and diet. Students complete required coursework in biology and anatomy alongside major classes in how nutrition relates to sport, mental health, culture, and lifespan development.
With an online nutrition degree, graduates can pursue careers in educational, community, medical, and governmental settings. Nutrition professionals provide guidance on foods served in schools and hospitals, help clients address health concerns like obesity and diabetes, and work in cooperation with medical professionals. Restaurants, gyms, and community centers consult with nutritionists and dietitians, as do corporate cafeterias.
Entry-level nutrition technician positions require an associate degree, while registered nutritionists and dietitians need a bachelor's or master's. This page provides a comprehensive look at how to meet your educational goals so you can pursue a career in nutrition.
What Are the Best Online Bachelor's in Nutrition Programs of 2020? Here Are Our Top Five:
|1||Arizona State University||Scottsdale, AZ|
|2||University of Arizona||Tucson, AZ|
|3||Kansas State University||Manhattan, KS|
|4||The University of Alabama||Tuscaloosa, AL|
|5||Eastern Michigan University||Ypsilanti, MI|
Why Earn Your Nutrition Degree Online?
There are many potential benefits to pursuing a degree in nutrition online instead of on campus. For example, students earning an online nutrition degree can study from the comfort of their home.
For working professionals or those with family obligations, online programs grant more flexibility and accessibility. Many schools allow online learners to access lectures and complete coursework on their own schedules.
Students pursuing an online degree in nutrition are able to access course material, class discussions, and assignments from anywhere. Distance learners can work from home or while traveling. All they need are a computer and reliable internet connection.
Many schools offer asynchronous courses in which students do not have to log into classes at the same time as their peers. Instead, online learners can complete their work according to their own schedules. Whether learners want to study in the early morning hours, late at night, or on weekends, online learning can provide ample scheduling flexibility.
Rather than having to uproot their life and move to a new city or state, students are able to earn an online nutrition degree directly from their homes. Distance learners can choose the right school for their professional and education goals rather than simply attending a local college.
Online nutrition programs attract students from across the country and around the world. These programs allow students to interact with and learn from peers in diverse locations. As a result, online students can expand their network into different cities, states, and countries.
Advances in online learning platforms make connecting by video, audio, and discussion threads more effective than ever. Some students pursuing online nutrition degrees need to participate in live video discussions, while others can access lectures on their own time. Most schools provide additional IT resources to distance learners and allow them to take exams at a local test center.
Types of Online Nutrition Degrees
Associate Degree in Nutrition
Students can earn an online associate degree in nutrition in two years. While completing about 60 credits of coursework, learners study foundational sciences, such as biology, chemistry, and anatomy and physiology. An associate degree also includes coursework in culinary studies, food and culture, and nutrition at different life stages.
With an associate degree in nutrition, graduates can work as nutrition associates, food technicians, and weight loss counselors. Food service workers at hospitals, nursing homes, and schools can use the knowledge they gained during their associate program as they plan menus and provide food to individuals of all ages.
An associate degree in nutrition also prepares graduates to continue on to a bachelor's program in nutrition.
- Introduction to Nutrition
An introductory course in nutrition explores how food affects the body. Students learn about basic nutrition concepts and body functions as they relate to food. Covered topics include carbohydrates and protein, vitamins and minerals, metabolism, and fats.
- Food and Culture
This course emphasizes how individuals, groups, and communities relate to food and diet. Cultural variations in food access, preparation, and consumption provide insight into the complexities of nutrition needs around the world.
- Nutrition and Disease
This course incorporates information on how food and diet can contribute to and mitigate illness. Learners study nutritional deficiencies and the types of diseases that can occur, such as osteoporosis and anemia, alongside how an overabundance of certain foods can lead to afflictions like diabetes.
- Food Preparation, Sanitation, and Safety
This course teaches learners how to handle and serve food in accordance with general and regulatory standards. Students explore concepts such as cross-contamination, cleanliness, and cooking and storage temperature.
- Developmental Nutrition
Developmental nutrition classes provide insight into the nutritional needs of infants, children, and adolescents. By looking closely at how nutrition relates to cognitive, physical, and emotional development, learners develop an understanding of the unique dietary needs associated with the early stages of human life.
Bachelor's Degree in Nutrition
An online bachelor's degree in nutrition includes about 120 credits of coursework. Full-time learners can complete their program in four years. However, students enrolled in an accelerated program can graduate in significantly less time.
Through natural science and human health courses, a bachelor's degree in nutrition establishes a fundamental understanding of how the human body relates to food and diet. Students also learn about food policy, environmental and political aspects of nutrition, and how to help others meet their nutritional needs.
Students who earn an online bachelor's degree in nutrition often prepare for licensure as a registered dietitian or nutritionist. Professionals with a bachelor's degree can find work as food science technicians, community health professionals, and personal fitness and weight loss coaches.
- Clinical Nutrition
This course introduces students to the tools, techniques, and tests used to assess nutritional health. Learners explore scientific and diagnostic aspects of nutrition, learning about macronutrients, micronutrients, and enzymes.
- Cultural Nutrition
Cultural nutrition classes assess differences and similarities in foods and diets among various populations, with a focus on how they influence overall nutrition and health. Learners study cultural norms as they relate to food preparation, consumption, and preferences. Covered topics include environmental habits, restrictive practices, and celebratory aspects of food and diet.
- Nutrition and Sport
By looking at the role nutrition plays in sport and physical activity, learners develop an understanding of how to optimize human performance. This course includes information on how to assess the nutritional needs of athletes, nutrition as part of training programs, and how nutrition can influence physical recovery.
- Nutrition Across the Lifespan
This course provides a comprehensive look at the needs of individuals at various stages of life. Students learn how to optimize human development and health at all ages.
- Community Nutrition
This course teaches learners to assess the nutritional needs of individuals and groups within specific locations. Students also learn how to educate and communicate about nutrition, food, and diet. This course also explores specific nutritional challenges facing low-income and at-risk populations.
Master's Degree in Nutrition
Earning a master's degree in nutrition prepares students for managerial and administrative roles in the field. The curriculum of an online nutrition degree also allows learners to focus on a specific subset of the field, such as clinical, sport, global, or community nutrition.
Most online master's degrees in nutrition require roughly 30 credits of coursework. Learners can complete these programs in two years, although accelerated options may allow students to graduate in 12-18 months.
With a master's degree in nutrition, current nutrition professionals can advance within the field. Upper-level positions include registered nutritionist, food service director, and food researcher. A nutrition master's degree — especially one that focuses on research — can also serve as a stepping stone to a doctoral degree.
- Nutrition Research
This course covers tools and techniques related to qualitative and quantitative research. Students learn to collect and analyze data, communicate their findings, and apply the information to help address specific nutrition issues.
- Psychology of Eating and Wellness
This course focuses on the mental aspects of nutrition. Students learn about how people make food and diet choices, the types of emotional and psychological factors that influence nutritional outcomes, and social influences on eating.
- Specialized Diets and Nutrition
This course covers topics like plant-based diets, raw-food diets, vegetarianism, and other eating practices. Students explore the nutritional needs and outcomes of individuals who take part in specialized diets, identifying benefits and challenges as they relate to human health.
- Nutrition Communication
This course teaches learners to explain complex concepts and ideas to patients, clients, and colleagues. Students learn to educate the public in verbal and written formats, craft nutrition campaigns and promotions, and identify how they can best meet the nutritional needs of individuals and groups in various settings.
- Nutrition and Public Policy
This course looks closely at local, state, and federal regulations as they relate to food and diet. Covered topics include food sanitation and safety requirements, environmental policies related to food production and distribution, and public aid programs associated with food access and assistance.
Doctoral Degree in Nutrition
Doctoral programs in nutrition vary in length based on emphasis and format. For example, students can pursue a doctorate in nutrition as part of a medical program. They can also focus on public health, research, and technology as they relate to nutrition.
Doctoral degrees in nutrition include coursework and research requirements, culminating in a dissertation. Students typically graduate in 4-6 years.
Professionals with a doctorate in nutrition work as registered dietitians and nutritionists, food researchers, and public health nutrition specialists. Additional careers include private nutrition consultant and clinical nutritionist.
- Nutrition and Biotechnology
This course assesses the role of food traits and how production practices can be manipulated to improve human nutrition. Students look closely at plant science, genetic modifications, and agricultural innovation. They also explore ethical and environmental issues related to food production.
- Molecular Nutrition
This course focuses on the relationship between human cells and nutrients. Molecular nutrition takes into account biochemical aspects of nutrition, with an emphasis on how nutrition may influence cell reproduction, repair, and damage.
- International Nutrition
This course explores practices for improving nutrition at local, regional, and national levels around the world. Learners assess methods to prevent malnutrition, programs to improve nutritional health, and public and private interventions designed to address challenges related to nutrition in developing societies.
- Comparative Nutrition
Comparative nutrition looks at how nutrition and metabolism differ among species. By fostering an understanding of digestive processes, nutrient needs, and metabolism in different species, this course provides insight into nutrient absorption and use.
- Advanced Nutrition and Metabolism
This class includes in-depth information about how vitamins, minerals, and energy nutrients affect the digestion, absorption, and metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Coursework builds expertise in metabolic processes, the role of metabolism in human health, and how metabolism guides dietary intake.
Nutrition Concentrations and Specialities
Choosing a concentration allows learners to focus on a topic that matches their academic and professional interests, preparing them for a specific career in nutrition.
- Public Health Nutrition
This concentration focuses on the nutritional needs of communities. By specializing in public health nutrition, students learn to develop effective strategies to improve nutrition, create and implement educational programs, and provide guidance on food safety practices.
Average Annual Salary: $74,250
- Sports Nutrition
Sports nutrition looks at how food and diet influence athletic performance. Sports nutritionists learn to develop meal plans for athletes while taking into account exercise regimen requirements and metabolic needs. This concentration could also prepare graduates for careers in corporate wellness, personal training, and nutrition consulting.
Average Annual Salary: $50,980
- Nutrition and Food Science
This concentration emphasizes food chemistry, engineering, analysis, and safety. Food scientists work within laboratories to test nutrient levels in food, design and implement experiments to optimize food production, and conduct related tasks to improve overall food quality.
Average Annual Salary: $63,800
- Clinical Nutrition
Clinical nutritionists design nutrition programs to improve the overall medical health of patients and clients. This concentration teaches students to assess the body and how it uses nutrients. Clinical nutritionists often work within hospitals, nursing homes, and long-term care facilities.
Average Annual Salary: $47,030
This concentration provides students with the expertise needed to design eating plans that address specific conditions and issues. A nutritionist focuses on general nutrition, while a dietitian provides a more personalized assessment of nutrition and wellness needs. Dietitians may also provide additional counseling.
Average Annual Salary: $53,520
Nutrition Licensure and Certifications
Private nutritionists in many states do not have to meet specific licensure requirements, but becoming a registered dietitian or nutritionist requires licensure in most parts of the United States. Individuals without a license cannot promote themselves as a nutritional professional.
To become a registered dietitian, students need a bachelor's degree in nutrition, dietetics, or a related field from a program approved by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics. These accredited programs integrate relevant coursework, practical experience, and research to prepare graduates for nutrition careers.
To work as a registered dietitian, candidates must meet requirements established by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Commission on Dietetics Registration (CDR). CDR offers credentials for registered dietitians, registered dietitian nutritionists, dietetics technicians, and nutritionist technicians.
However, even with a certification through CDR, nutrition professionals may need to meet additional state requirements.
Nutrition professionals can earn voluntary certifications to indicate expertise in subfields. For example, professionals can obtain a certification as a clinical nutritionist through the Clinical Nutrition Certification Board, become a certified nutrition coach from the National Academy of Sports Medicine, or earn a certification as a nutrition consultant from the American Association of Nutritional Consultants.
Additionally, the National Association of Nutrition Professionals offers two credentials for nutritionists. Holistic nutritionists can earn a board certification or become a certified nutrition professional.
Career and Salary Outlook for Nutrition Graduates
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 11% job growth for nutrition professionals between 2018 and 2028. With global concerns about nutrition, health, and wellness on the rise, nutrition professionals provide valuable insight into how food and diet choices influence the human body.
Nutrition professionals work with patients and clients of all ages. As school nutritionists, they design menus for children and adolescents. Alternatively, general nutritionists help adults in community and clinical settings, while specialized nutrition professionals identify the nutritional needs of athletes, the elderly, and patients afflicted with disease or illness.
Nutritionists assess clients' food and diet needs, providing eating plans and guidance to optimize health and wellness. Nutritionists may work with individuals or groups, often designing materials to educate and inform people about food choices and nutritional health. Nutritionists often set targets with patients and clients, helping them achieve their nutritional goals.
Dietitians provide nutritional guidance to patients and clients, often in response to a specific disease, illness, or health issue. Dietitians may work in a clinical setting or as private consultants. Dietitians monitor the nutritional progress of their patients and may offer additional counseling.
- Sports Nutritionist
Sports nutritionists work with athletes to develop eating plans that meet the needs of their training and competition activities. Sports nutritionists may also work at fitness centers, with individual clients, or with teams to find ways to achieve the best performance, increase energy levels, and avoid injuries.
- Health Educator
Health and nutrition educators work with individuals and groups to promote health and wellness through positive food and diet choices. Nutrition educators conduct outreach, teach classes, and hand out educational materials detailing healthy nutrition strategies and practices. Nutrition educators work in schools, hospitals, community centers, and corporate settings.
- Food Scientist
Food scientists apply principles from biology, chemistry, and other sciences to assess the nutritional content of food. They research techniques to improve food production, packaging, and distribution. Food scientists may inspect food, develop ways to detect contaminants, and identify ways to preserve food supplies.
Nutritionist Careers by Location
Texas, California, and New York employ the most nutritionists in the United States. California also offers the top salaries for nutrition professionals, with Alaska, Hawai'i, and Connecticut also offering high wages.
Interview With a Nutrition Major
Daniela Novotny is a registered dietitian and instructor of biomedical sciences at Missouri State University. She also works at MSU's Health and Wellness Center as a dietitian and an employee wellness consultant. She has worked in many realms of dietetics, including clinical nutrition and nutritional counseling. She has a BS in dietetics and an MS in health promotion and wellness management. She is currently working on her doctorate in health sciences from A.T. Still University.
- What skills are essential in this occupation?
Key skills in the nutrition/dietetics profession include communication, being up to date in the research related to your particular area, and having a true passion for improving the health of individuals and communities. Of the three, passion is probably the most important. With passion comes a desire to communicate effectively.
- What advice would you give recent graduates seeking a job in this field?
Be open to any and all experiences. While you may not get the "dream" job right out of your internship, you will gain valuable experiences no matter where you work. Learn what you can from each situation and position.
Another piece of advice I would give is to think outside of the box. While jobs are often posted for dietitians, there may be other positions that are options for you as well — health educators, wellness trainers, etc. Keep your eyes and ears open for positions that involve the healthcare field.
- Do you have any interview tips for job seekers?
The main tip I have for interviews is to thoroughly research the position and the company. By showing the interviewers that you have done your research on the company, you will stand out from those who did not prepare as well.
Other tips: ask a few good questions — by good, I mean ones that are not answered on their website — and send a thank-you note. It's old-fashioned, but it can get you remembered. Who doesn't like a thank-you card?
- How much time do you spend working with other health professionals?
I spend a lot of time working with other health professionals. I work at an outpatient clinic — the Health and Wellness Center at Missouri State University — and I am the only dietitian there. As a result, I communicate with nurses, nurse practitioners, and physicians each time I work at the clinic.
- What types of patients do you most commonly work with?
Working for a university health and wellness center, I am able to see a wide array of patients. I work with both employees and students, and each week is a new experience. Recently, I have seen patients for weight loss, weight gain, IBS, celiac disease, iron deficiency anemia, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and eating disorders.
- How important is an advanced degree for a nutritionist?
Due to the profession moving toward requiring a master's degree for eligibility to sit for the RD exam, it is becoming more important. Also, research suggests that dietitians/nutritionists who have advanced degrees earn about $5,000 more per year.
Having an advanced degree can also help with being a more competitive applicant for a position. Finally, there are some areas in dietetics that likely benefit from a dietitian/nutritionist having more education.
- How has this field evolved since you started — especially with the recent nationwide shift of focus on school nutrition and childhood obesity?
I have seen more and more employee wellness programs pop up over the last 10 years. Positions like health educators and wellness coaches were not common until the past decade or so.
Additionally, I believe that more consumers are aware of dietitians/nutritionists and our unique roles and education. The job outlook is strong, yet our work is cut out for us as the health of the nation continues to decline.
- How do you keep updated on recent research and technology? What does continuing education look like to you?
I am a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and I regularly check the Evidence-Analysis Library for the information. The journal published by the Academy and quarterly newsletters are great sources of information. I am also a member of several dietetic practice groups that send out monthly or quarterly newsletters.
I try to read as much as I can, but I will be honest in saying there aren't enough hours in the day to stay up to date on everything. My main continuing education experiences include graduate courses (I am working on my doctorate), conference participation, and attendance at local dietetic association meetings and workshops.
Scholarships for Nutrition Majors
College students earning their online degree in nutrition have access to a variety of financial aid resources. Nutrition majors are eligible for scholarships at all levels of their education.
Some scholarships are awarded based on merit, while others focus on certain populations or a particular field. Scholarships can come from school departments or from outside organizations, such as businesses and nonprofits.
Nutrition Scholarships for Associate Degree Students
- School Nutrition Foundation Professional Development Scholarships
Who Can Apply: Active members of the School Nutrition Association who are currently employed in the school food service industry are eligible for this award. Applicants must be enrolled in a nutrition program.
Amount: $500-$2,500See Scholarship
- America's Farmers Grow Ag Leaders Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Full-time students and FFA members who are 23 years old or younger can apply. Applicants must plan to pursue a degree related to agriculture, including human nutrition and food services.
Amount: $1,500See Scholarship
- The Vegetarian Resource Group
Who Can Apply: Graduating high school students who have demonstrated a commitment to promoting vegetarianism in their community or school can pursue this scholarship.
Amount: $5,000 or $10,000See Scholarship
Nutrition Scholarships for Bachelor's Degree Students
- Dairy Management Inc. Scholarship Program
Who Can Apply: Undergraduate nutrition or food science majors who plan to pursue a career in dairy and have taken dairy-related coursework can pursue this scholarship.
Amount: $2,500 or $3,500See Scholarship
- Asparagus Club Scholarships
Who Can Apply: Full-time juniors, seniors, and graduate students with a least a 2.5 minimum GPA and an interest in the grocery industry can apply.
Amount: $2,000 per semester for up to four semestersSee Scholarship
Nutrition Scholarships for Master's Degree Students
- Michael Moody Fitness Scholarship
Who Can Apply: High school seniors, undergraduate students, and graduate students who have a record of achievement and plan to pursue a career in health, fitness, or a related field can apply.
Amount: $1,500See Scholarship
- First International Nutritionist/Dietitian Fellowship for Study in the USA
Who Can Apply: Foreign postgraduates who have come to the U.S. to study but plan to eventually return to their country to pursue a career in nutrition can apply.
Amount: $2,200See Scholarship
Nutrition Scholarships for Doctoral Degree Students
- Neige Todhunter Memorial Doctoral Fellowship
Who Can Apply: Students with a master's degree who plan to pursue a doctoral degree in dietetics can apply.
Amount: $5,000See Scholarship
- Charles Becker Graduate Fellowship
Who Can Apply: Current Cereals & Grains Association student members who are studying cereal science and are enrolled in a Ph.D or master's program can apply.
Amount: $2,500See Scholarship
- Hertz Foundation Graduate Fellowship Award
Who Can Apply: Students who are enrolled in an applied physical or biological science graduate program and who are willing to help the U.S. in times of national emergency can apply.
Amount: Up to $250,000 over five years.See Scholarship
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