Nutritional Sciences

How to Choose the Best Online Master of Nutrition Program for You

How to Choose the Best Online Master of Nutrition Program for You
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Kristen Mills profile
Kristen Mills September 10, 2019

A Master's of Science in Nutrition can open doors to careers as a registered dietician, a nutrition scientist, and educator, or a journalist. Earning it online will exponentially increase your choice of programs and allow you to complete the degree without relocating.

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You’ve completed your bachelor’s degree in nutrition or a health sciences-related subject, you’re passionate about helping people find wellness through diet and nutrition, and you’re on the hunt for a master’s degree program that can fit with your current commitments. Congratulations: you are a prime candidate for an online master’s in nutrition program.

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • An overview of online Master of Science in Nutrition programs
  • The job outlook for someone with an online Master of Science in Nutrition
  • The best online Master of Science in Nutrition programs
  • The best value online Master of Science in Nutrition programs

Master of Science in Nutrition online program overview

Earning a Master of Science in Nutrition is a great way to enter a career helping people achieve their optimum health.

The degree opens a number of options. You could become a registered dietician (RD) and evaluate a client’s dietary needs based on a condition or diagnosis (such as diabetes), create an individualized nutrition plan, and monitor progress. RDs also work as consultants to the healthcare industry, businesses, food services, and community groups. Or, you might choose to become a nutrition educator or nutrition journalist. Either way, you’ll be providing people with the best available information on diet and nutrition. Finally, you could work as a nutrition scientist, conducting research for universities, the government, and the food, biotech, agricultural, and pharmaceutical industries.

No matter what career you decide to pursue, earning a master’s degree in nutrition gets you closer to helping people make wiser food choices. Master’s programs differ in their emphasis, but all share the common goal of providing an understanding of how to achieve whole-person wellness for clients, patients, and students alike.

An online master’s program offers not only the foundation for you to find your niche in the field but also the flexibility needed to efficiently and effectively study nutrition and dietetics remotely, on your own schedule.

A variety of universities offer the Master of Science in Nutrition online. Most are part-time, non-thesis programs with 30 to 36 required credits, including online lectures covering topics such as:

  • Biostatistics
  • Ethics
  • Nutrient metabolism
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Nutritional wellness
  • Public health
  • Sports and fitness nutrition
  • Statistical analysis
  • Vitamins
  • Weight management

When choosing a master’s program, it is important to consider your timeline. In a full-time program, you can earn your MS in nutrition in 1.5 to 2 years; a part-time program, obviously, will take longer. It is also critical to verify that your program includes a 1,200-hour dietetic internship (DI) component to provide hands-on experience and training through supervised practice, and that it is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND), as this is an essential requirement for becoming a registered dietitian.

Job outlook for people with an online Master of Science in Nutrition

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) website, jobs for dieticians and nutritionists should increase by 15 percent between 2016 and 2026. According to the BLS, in 2018 the median wage for dieticians and nutritionists was $60,370, with the highest 10 percent in the field, earning an average of $84,610. Payscale reports a somewhat lower median wage of $51,816. A master’s degree should increase your earnings potential and allow you to bypass entry-level positions.

Becoming a registered dietician nutritionist (RDN) is a natural complement to earning your online master’s in nutrition. In order to meet RDN qualifications, you must verify that your program is accredited by ACEND, the accrediting agency of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. You must also complete your education, including your DI, and pass credentialing exams. The RDN is often the baseline requirement to apply for a dietician and nutritionist position.

Best online Master of Science in Nutrition programs

Once you have determined that a master’s in nutrition is right for you, you still need to determine which program best suits your needs. If you aspire to become an RDN, you will want to attend an ACEND-accredited program, which will include the DI program critical to concurrently earning your master’s in nutrition and the nationally recognized RDN credential.

So, which program is best for you? That depends on your definition of “best.” Are you most concerned about cost and flexibility? Or do you want the program you can complete in the least amount of time (some programs take only 16 months to complete)? Do you want to specialize in a specific subject area? How highly do you value program reputation and faculty expertise? Your priorities will guide your choice.

Whether you are looking to guide patients to nutritional wellness in hospitals, educate groups in the private sector on how to foster healthy eating and exercise habits, or study metabolism in the laboratory, there is a program for you.

For example:

Best value for online Master of Science in Nutrition programs

So what about value? This is a subjective issue that depends on many factors, including your budget, whether you are pursuing an RDN credential, and whether you can concurrently gain the hands-on training and experience you need to practice and succeed in nutritional sciences. Particularly important when reviewing an individual program is verifying its ACEND accreditation with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

The three online programs listed below successfully provide quality graduate nutrition education on a flexible schedule at an affordable cost.

  • The University of North Dakota offers an Online Master of Science in Nutrition that can be completed in two years. All students regardless of residence pay $404 per credit or $12,120 for the 30-credit program.
  • Kansas State University offers a 36-credit Online Master of Science in Dietetics with both a thesis and non-thesis option .All students regardless of residence pay $530 per credit, for a full-program tuition of $19,080.
  • The The University of Alabama‘s online programs (called Bama By Distance) include a 30-credit Master of Science in Human Nutrition. At $420 per credit, tuition for this program totals $12,600.

Reaching a decision

No online Master of Science in Nutrition program can offer all things to all people; each program has its strengths and weaknesses. List your priorities and compare them to the assets of each program you consider.

Take into account each program’s research goals and opportunities, and whether it provides the opportunity to network for DIs or future jobs. Online MS nutrition programs with options for becoming an RDN are hugely valuable. Also consider whether the program addresses the important relationship between nutrition and physical fitness; such programs incorporate kinesiology exercise science courses.

In your search to find the best-fit online MS in nutrition program, be sure to analyze whether those programs within your budget also include other value-added characteristics that will help you achieve success. Whichever program and path you choose, working toward an MS in nutrition will be a beneficial launching point to a career as a nutritionist and dietician.

(Last Updated on February 26, 2024)

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About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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