Nutrition professionals often enjoy a great deal of success after earning a bachelor’s degree in the field, but in order to obtain the best career opportunities, an online Master’s in Nutritional Science is needed. This is the degree that provides students with the ability to move into management or education positions, diversify or specialize their interests, and more. Graduate work also makes earning credentials in the field far easier and is a distinction that employers love to see on resumes.
But nutrition professionals often work full-time and do not have the time to enter into a traditional program. They need online programs that are flexible, affordable, and provide them with some say over their curriculum or final project decisions. That’s where online graduate programs provide a boost: with a selection of accelerated program options, final projects that don’t require a thesis, and low tuition rates, the online program format is a better fit for working adults.
This list was created by researching all online graduate programs in nutritional science. The National Center for Education Statistics and its publicly available College Navigator database provided all of the source material for the ranking. Looking strictly at online and blended degrees, an initial pool of 90 potential schools was considered. From those 90 schools, the final 10, which are listed below, were chosen.
Ranking Low-cost Online Nutritional Science Master’s
10. North Carolina State University
Raleigh, North Carolina
Online Master of Science in Nutrition
North Carolina State University confers an online Master’s in Nutritional Science that is a non-thesis applied degree. It comes in two different concentrations: Human Nutrition and Feed Science. The curriculum requirements also make it possible for students to earn the Professional Science Masters designation; emphasis areas available for the designation include Feed Science, Human Nutrition, Food, and Bioprocessing. Courses are offered online in the asynchronous format and there are no residency requirements. Students will be required to complete at least one internship, which takes place in their community under the supervision of an approved preceptor. Students will also be required to complete 36 credit hours of coursework, an internship, and a comprehensive written and oral exam. Sample courses include Advanced Nutrition and Metabolism, Biochemistry of Gene Expression, and Protein and Amino Acid Metabolism.
9. North Dakota State University
Fargo, North Dakota
Online Master of Science in Dietetics
Nutrition students at North Dakota State University will be offered a Master’s in Nutritional Science online degree that is part of the Great Plain Interactive Distance Education Alliance, a consortium of 11 universities that offer online programs. This means that students will be able to take online courses from other universities and apply it to their degree; half of all courses, however, must be taken through NDSU. Students will be granted access to all of the dietetics courses available from all of the schools, most of which are delivered asynchronously. Research is a large part of this degree and so students should expect to complete at least one research paper during their course of study. Other requirements include 36 credit hours of coursework, a thesis or alternative final project, and a comprehensive written and oral exam. Sample courses include Applied Statistics, Current Issues in Dietetics, and Recent Literature and Research.
8. Oklahoma State University
Online Master of Science in Nutritional Sciences: Dietetics
Oklahoma State University confers an online Master’s in Nutrition that focuses specifically on dietetics. This program is only open to students who hold a Registered Dietitian or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist credential. It is a professional degree specifically designed for professionals who wish to advance their understanding of the field. This program is offered entirely online through asynchronous and synchronous courses; students will be able to complete this degree in two years with part-time study. This program does not require a thesis; instead, it focuses a student on a creative project that could be a real-world case study, a research paper, or something similar. Students will complete 36 credit hours of coursework, a final project, and a comprehensive written exam. Sample courses include Research Methods in Nutritional Sciences, and Advanced Nutrition Education and Counseling.
7. University of Nebraska
Online Master of Science in Nutrition and Health Sciences, Dietetics Specialization
Professionals interested in an online Master’s in Nutritional science will find a great option at the University of Nebraska. The school’s graduate program with a specialization in Dietetics is offered entirely online; two other concentrations, Nutrition and Exercise as well as Community Nutrition and Health Promotion, are offered as hybrid programs. It’s important to note that the Dietetic specialization is only open to Registered Dietitians. This degree is offered entirely online through asynchronous and synchronous courses and offers students a comprehensive education in nutrition science and dietetics. Students may choose between a thesis, a major and a minor, or extra electives as the final component of their degree. All students will be expected to complete 36 credit hours of coursework and a comprehensive written or oral exam. Sample courses include Principles of Epidemiology for Nutrition and Public Health, Food and Nutrition in Biocultural Perspective, and Functional Properties of Food.
6. University of Utah
Salt Lake City, Utah
Online Master of Science in Nutrition and Integrative Physiology with an Emphasis in Nutrition
The University of Utah offers students an excellent nutritional science master’s online degree that is open to all students with an undergraduate degree in a health-related field. However, the program was specifically designed for dietitians who are not planning on sitting for Registered Dietitian certification. This is a degree conferred entirely online that comes with two concentrations: Eating Disorders and Nutrition for Fitness and Sport. Courses are taught both in the asynchronous and synchronous format and are scheduled in 12-week terms. Students will find that they can graduate in three years with part-time study. This degree requires 38 credit hours of coursework and a comprehensive written exam for graduation. Sample courses include Body Image and Eating Disorders in Special Populations, Methods in Weight Management, and Nutrition for Exercise and Sport.
5. University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, North Dakota
Online Master of Science in Nutrition
The online Master’s in Nutrition Science at the University of North Dakota is a program that is focused on bringing together like-minded professionals into a curriculum that is focused on education and counseling in the field. This is an online program that was built for working professionals and works in the synchronous format. It comes with two stated concentrations: Nutrition Education and Counseling as well as Nutrition Science. This straightforward degree is comprehensive in its curriculum, ensuring that students focus on advanced concepts and theories while completing their program of study. This program requires a thesis, which students can complete and defend in their own community. Students can also expect to complete 32 credit hours of coursework and a comprehensive exam for graduation. Sample courses include Nutrition Education and Planning, Nutrigenomics, and Biochemical and Physiological Basis of Nutrition: Macronutrients.
4. University of Alabama
Online Master of Science in Human Nutrition
The University of Alabama offers an online nutritional science master’s degree that is built for Registered Dietitians so that they may practice their field at an advanced level or pursue doctoral study in the future. Students should note that this degree will not provide a pathway towards sitting for the Registered Dietitian certification and will not offer students access to a dietetic internship. This is a 100 percent online program that comes with three tracks: Generalist, Community, and Clinical. The tracks enable students to choose how this comprehensive curriculum affects their specialization, as more than half of the curriculum requirements come from the concentration. Students will need to complete 30 credit hours, a capstone project, and a comprehensive written exam in order to graduate. Sample courses include Advanced Vitamin and Mineral Metabolism, Maternal and Infant Nutrition, and Biostatistics.
3. Mansfield University
Online Master of Science in Nutrition
Mansfield University offers a 100 percent online Master’s in Nutritional Science that was designed for and by Registered Dietitians and Nutritionists. This online program is delivered asynchronously and in the traditional 16-week term format. It has been formatted so that part-time students can complete all of the degree requirements in two years. Students will find a set plan of study that will move them through all aspects of nutrition science. The degree culminates with a capstone project that is up to the discretion of the student and the approval of the department. Students will also need to complete 36 credit hours of coursework and a comprehensive exam prior to graduation. Sample courses include Public Health Nutrition, Pathophysiology and Nutrition Therapy, and Nutrient Metabolism for Professionals.
2. Bowling Green State University
Online Master of Science in Food and Nutrition
The online Master’s in Nutritional Science at Bowling Green State University was created specifically for students who are ready to commit to a comprehensive degree plan. Students are offered a flexible online program that focuses on professional development and creative learning. The program offers a dozen cognate areas, such as Human Development, Public Health, and Biology; these are necessary for graduation. Students will find that this degree has its own research core which requires statistical and thesis work for the student’s final project. In lieu of the thesis, students can choose to create a Master’s project that takes into consideration their cognate area. Students will also need to complete 39 credit hours of coursework and a comprehensive exam. Sample courses include Family and Community Nutrition, Statistics in Education, and Advanced Clinical Nutrition.
1. East Carolina University
Greenville, North Carolina
Online Master of Science in Nutrition Science
East Carolina University confers an online cheap nutritional science master’s degree that is only available online. Students will have the choice between a thesis or non-thesis option, which will enable them to make a final project decision based on their career goals. Students will find a curriculum that is unusually open to electives; students can choose over half of the courses they take, allowing them to tailor their degree to reflect their interests. Students should note that while all courses are delivered on-demand online and in the traditional 16-week term format, those who choose the thesis option will be required to attend the school campus in order to defend their thesis in front of their committee. Other requirements for this degree include 33 credit hours of coursework and a comprehensive exam. Sample courses include Human Nutrition in Physiology and Metabolism, Biostatistics for Health Professionals, and Methods in Nutrition Research.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the Career Options for an Online Master’s in Nutritional Science Degree?
Most professionals who earn this degree become Registered Dietitians or Nutritionists. This is one of the best careers possible in this field because it requires licensure and is an in-demand profession. It also takes a lot of work and commitment; graduate education and the successful completion of the registration exam is needed in order to become a Registered Dietitian or Nutritionist.
But those are not the only options available to these professionals. Many of them go on to open their own businesses, working with clients or building their own meal subscription plans to sell to the general public. In some cases, these professionals go on to work with private clients as a chef, provided they go to cooking school. It can be very challenging and rewarding to work as an entrepreneur, and while it is not for everyone, it is possible to have a satisfying career.
Others may choose to work as writers or researchers, focusing their work on the new and emerging trends in the field. They can work for large publications, universities, research firms, pharmaceutical companies, restaurants, and more. They often work on contracts, giving them the freedom to choose how and with whom they work.
There are still other options, such as working as a nutritionist in a school or for a sports team. Some go on to work as personal nutritionists for celebrities or entertainers, working with a team to ensure that individual is looking their best. Still others write self-help books on nutrition. The list is endless.
How Much Can You Earn in this Field?
The current salary range for this field is $40,000 to $95,000. This includes a variety of career options, different levels of work experience, public and private sector jobs, employee and contract work, the region of the country, and more. Students should expect to begin at the lower end of the salary range, particularly if they are not Registered Dietitians or Nutritionists; salaries rise as the work experience level increases.
What are the Various Disciplines of Nutritional Science?
Nutritional science is the science of nutrition, food, and human nutrition. It is a scientific discipline that continues to grow the more research is done within the field. It is made up of the disciplines of chemistry, biology, biochemistry, pharmacology, botany, physiology, math, and more. It should also be noted that there are subfields in each discipline that play a role in nutrition science.
In the wider view of things, nutritional science and its professionals also come into contact with other disciplines, namely medicine, public health, sociology, psychology, and economics. Since nutrition is something that affects all individuals, it makes sense that nutrition scientists play a large role in how nutrition is viewed by society.
Why is it Encouraged to Take on a Thesis for a Degree in this Field?
Nutrition science is an unfolding field still; science has not uncovered all of the secrets that the field has to offer. Research is needed to learn more about how food affects humans, how the environment affects food, and how nutrition needs and resources have changed throughout history. The best way to put more research into the field is to encourage graduate students to partake in research.
Many programs provide a non-thesis option for students who are just too busy to write and defend a thesis. This is a good thing since so many professionals work full-time while earning their degree. Allowing students the choice between a creative project and a thesis enables them to make a decision based on what’s best for them and their schedule.
However, a thesis is still a good idea for most professionals. Research and analysis is a major part of the field and conducting research for a thesis paper is a great way for students to demonstrate that not only do they have a grasp of the field but they also understand how to communicate their own ideas. The defense of a thesis is important as well because many professionals would benefit from preparing and defending their own research and paper in front of a committee.
Very few programs require a thesis, but it’s still an option that students should consider. It takes time, a lot of planning and a lot of research, but it can be fulfilling in various ways. If a professional has time, they should consult with an academic advisor about the time required for a thesis.
Why Do Some Degree Programs Require Students to be a Registered Dietitian?
The programs that require students to be registered dietitians are professional degrees, meaning that the main purpose is to prepare students to earn advanced credentials as a Registered Dietitian. These programs would not be a good fit for anyone who didn’t have the credentials because the subject matter would be too advanced and nuanced for someone who comes from a different educational background.
Many schools also require that their students provide evidence that they are a Registered Dietitian because practicums and internships at the graduate level will not take students without the credential. These are real-world workplaces and they need to protect their clients, their staff, and their company from those who are not qualified to work in those spaces. In many cases, these field experiences are necessary for the completion of the degree and so students without the credential would not be able to graduate.
Nutritional science is a field that affects everyone on a daily basis. The human body is a delicate thing and it requires balance, especially in the food that individuals introduce into their system. With an online Master’s in Nutritional Science, professionals are arming themselves with the best education possible in order to help all individuals maintain their health, something that is the driving passion for all of these professionals.