With the perpetual importance of proper nutrition in overall health and wellness, the need for competent nutritionists and dietitians isn’t likely to go away anytime soon. An online master’s in nutrition program equips individuals with the necessary knowledge and skills for counseling patients and improving their eating habits and lifestyles.
Like many master’s degrees, an advanced degree in nutrition also opens up various career opportunities, including postsecondary teaching, research, and food development and safety. To help prospective students learn more about an online master’s program in nutrition, this guide provides information on the learning environment, costs, and courses associated with this online degree.
Yes, students interested in pursuing the best online master’s degree in nutrition can now earn their degree completely online through online education. According to data from OnlineU, there are currently over 200 programs and more than 90 schools offering an online master’s degree in nutrition (Logan, 2021).
Online learning has come a long way since the early 1990s, when the first online education programs were offered through the Internet (Kentnor, 2015). Advancements in pedagogy and educational technology have made online learning more convenient for instructors and students. These days, earning an online degree usually means logging onto a virtual classroom or a web-based platform to access course materials and submit coursework when needed.
College enrollment statistics also indicate that more students are exclusively taking online courses each year, especially at the post-baccalaureate level. According to the latest data from the National Center for Education Statistics, over 1 million students were enrolled in post-baccalaureate courses in the fall semester of 2019.
Source: National Center for Education Statistics
Yes, you can rest assured that employers will take your online degree seriously. According to a recent study on the value of educational credentials, 71% of organizations had recently hired an applicant with an online degree (Knerl, 2019).
Online degrees used to have the stigma of being products of diploma mills. However, this perception has changed since the U.S. federal government and reputable higher education institutions became more involved in developing academic standards for online education (Regis College, 2021).
Yes, online degrees are starting to gain global recognition and acceptance, especially since universities all over the world have shifted to online learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, students must also consider that there are various factors that affect the way online degree is perceived. For instance, an institution’s accreditation and reputation can also affect the perception of degrees earned online.
Online master’s degree in nutrition programs provide advanced studies on food and diet and their impact on overall health. These programs often allow students to focus on more specific areas of interest, including food development and safety, nutrition research, and health program management.
While a master’s degree isn’t necessarily a requirement for students who want to work as nutritionists or dietitians, an advanced degree is becoming an increasingly essential credential for these positions (U.S. News, n.d.). A master’s degree in nutrition or related fields is also a requirement for getting certification as a certified nutrition specialist or a registered dietitian or dietitian nutritionist.
Although an online master’s degree in nutrition usually shares the same curriculum with its on-campus counterpart, there are some significant differences to consider.
Unlike traditional campus degrees where students learn simultaneously in classes, most online degree programs in nutrition provide students with an asynchronous learning environment. In asynchronous learning, students can access lectures and other course materials on their own time. Aside from the benefit of accessing course materials at one’s convenience, pre-recorded lectures and presentations also make it easier for students to revisit course materials when needed.
As a result of asynchronous learning, most online degrees encourage self-paced learning and self-directed coursework. Given the level of independence and self-sufficiency expected of online students, it’s also wise to consider if this learning environment matches one’s learning style.
Students pursuing degrees on campus can easily approach their instructors and peers after classes to discuss course materials. However, online students must use online tools such as communication software to get the academic support they need. Students can also benefit from social media for collaborating with peers and maintaining communications with instructors.
Many studies have explored the use of social media in academic settings. One study by Sobaih et al. and published in Sustainability in 2020, explored the extent to which faculty members and students used social media sites for formal academic communication.
In their article “Responses to COVID-19 in Higher Education: Social Media Usage for Sustaining Formal Academic Communication in Developing Countries”, Sobaih et al. (2020) found that “… the research showed that, for the first time, both faculty members and students adopted social networking sites as an official platform for academic communication, especially for formal learning, and the level of usage was at a substantial or great level. Facebook and WhatsApp groups were the most used social media platforms by faculty members and students. Students perceived social media as a more appropriate tool for communication than other free online communication tools, e.g., ZOOM and Google Classroom due to its ease of use, usefulness and interactivity. Thus, they effectively used social media for a positive learning experience.”
Online degrees allow students to have a more flexible schedule, unlike on-campus degrees that follow a set class schedule and academic calendar. Most universities and colleges offering an online master’s degree in nutrition will allow students to follow their own study plan and enroll in courses as they see fit. Some universities also allow students to enroll in one or two courses at a time.
This flexibility is particularly important for graduate students, who have to juggle work and academic responsibilities. To accommodate professionals with busy schedules, many universities also offer online degree courses with multiple start dates.
The time it takes to complete the best online master’s degree in nutrition depends on the schedule a student chooses. A part-time student may take as long as three years to achieve this master’s degree, while a full-time student may earn the degree after one to two years of study.
The completion time for an online master’s degree in nutrition also depends on the number of credits required for the particular program. Some universities require nutrition majors to complete only 30 credits prior to graduation, while nutrition majors at other schools must complete 36 credits.
In many cases, an online degree can turn out to be cheaper than a traditional, on-campus degree. This is especially true if you choose to pursue your online degree courses in nutrition at the most affordable online colleges today.
Though they still have to pay for books and other learning materials, online students can enjoy considerable savings on expenses, such as room and board, transportation, personal care, and entertainment. According to data from EducationData.org, these additional expenses at four-year institutions can amount to up to $4,471.
Elearning methods and tools have come a long way since the days of correspondence education. Thanks to these advancements, an online master’s degree in nutrition is just as valuable as its traditional counterpart. Students enrolled in nutrition master’s degrees online and on-campus usually receive similar course materials and do the same coursework, so online students shouldn’t worry about missing out.
Accreditation also ensures that online degrees have an academically rigorous curriculum that adheres to standards, so it’s best to get a degree from an accredited institution.
Although an online master’s program in nutrition can be more affordable than its traditional counterpart, there are various factors that affect the costs of this online master’s degree. For instance, online degree programs from well-known, reputable institutions may cost more. A degree’s credit requirements can also drive up its costs, especially since tuition fees are often calculated per credit hour.
A student’s residence can also drive up the cost of an online master’s degree since many universities charge different tuition fees for in-state and out-of-state residents. For its Master of Science in Nutrition, for instance, Appalachian State University charges $304 per credit hour for North Carolina residents and $1,138 for non-North Carolina residents (Appalachian State University, n.d.).
To help set students’ expectations of the cost of pursuing an online master’s degree in nutrition, below are the per-credit costs for this program at selected U.S. universities.
|University of Arizona Global Campus||$1,082|
|Chicago School of Professional Psychology||$1,537|
|Concordia University Chicago||$751|
|Indiana Wesleyan University||$881|
|Nova Southeastern University||$1460|
According to college graduate statistics, degree programs in healthcare are popular among students today. This popularity may be due to the positive job outlook and high salaries associated with healthcare positions, including nutritionists and dietitians.
According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for nutritionists and dietitians is expected to grow by 8% throughout the next decade. This employment growth is equivalent to a projected over 80,000 jobs. Stable employment and high wages may make an online master’s degree in nutrition a worthy pursuit for individuals interested in working in healthcare.
A master’s degree in nutrition is also particularly useful to individuals seeking to become registered dietitians. By January 2024, a graduate degree will be the minimum degree requirement for taking the registration exam for dietitians (Commission on Dietetic Registration, n.d.).
Like tuition costs, admission requirements for online master’s degrees in nutrition depend on the institution. However, for most universities and colleges, applicants to master’s programs are required to have an undergraduate degree and an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0. Applicants are also required to submit transcripts from all institutions previously attended.
Other common requirements include:
Many universities also expect applicants to master’s degree in nutrition to have fulfilled credit hour prerequisites in certain courses. For instance, applicants to the Master of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics at SUNY Oneonta are expected to have completed coursework in fields of study such as basic nutrition, food science, foodservice, lifecycle nutrition, and food safety and sanitation (SUNY Oneonta, n.d.).
Students need basic knowledge of computers, the Internet, and productivity and communication software to smoothly navigate online degree programs. A stable Internet connection and a powerful computer ensure that students can easily access course materials and submit coursework whenever needed. Accessories such as headphones and webcams can also go a long way in ensuring efficient communication with peers and instructors.
The specific courses included in an online master’s degree in nutrition vary according to the institution and the concentration a student chooses. However, these courses tend to cover similar areas of study. Below are some courses you can expect from online degree programs in nutrition.
Some universities also allow nutrition majors to choose from a variety of elective courses. For instance, Arizona State University’s Online Master of Science in Nutritional Science (Dietetics) offers elective courses such as Evidence-Based Nutrition and Ethics and Policy of American Diets (Arizona State University Online, n.d.).
An online master’s degree in nutrition is available in many universities and colleges across the U.S. Taking the following factors into consideration, students can make sure that they’re getting their money’s worth from the online degree they choose.
Accreditation is one of the most important factors to consider in choosing from among online degree courses in nutrition. An online program at an institution of higher education is guaranteed to meet acceptable levels of quality (U.S. Department of Education, n.d.). Some institutions offer specialized or programmatic accreditation for their online master’s degree in nutrition as well.
Aside from academic quality and rigor, accreditation ensures that you can transfer credits you previously earned from other accredited institutions. This credit transfer option can help you achieve your master’s degree sooner.
Many universities and colleges charge additional fees on top of tuition. These additional charges may come in the form of technology fees, course delivery fees, or graduation fees. For instance, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln charges an additional $11 per credit hour as a technology fee (University of Nebraska-Lincoln, n.d.).
It’s best to do your research on the additional fees and total costs of pursuing the online master’s program of your choice. In this way, you can make sure you’re financially prepared for completing your studies.
If you’re planning to pursue an online master’s degree in nutrition to become a certified nutrition specialist or a registered dietitian, it’s best to choose a degree program that offers internship periods or practicum courses. The supervised practical experience provided by such courses is required for getting board-certified as a nutritionist or dietitian.
For instance, eligibility requirements to be a certified nutrition specialist include 1,000 hours of supervised practice experience. Similarly, aspiring registered dietitians must complete an internship of at least 1,200 hours with the supervision of a licensed professional. (Public Health Degrees, 2021).
With college costs these days, it’s also important to consider financial aid options that can help you get through your studies. Students enrolled at accredited institutions are eligible to receive federal financial aid and participate in work-study programs.
Many universities offer their own scholarship opportunities and financial assistance programs, so it’s best to do your research into this information as well. If you’re already employed, you can also consider asking your employer about tuition reimbursement programs.
Source: 2021 Trends in Online Student Demographics
The best online master’s degree in nutrition is the one that matches your needs and availability as an online student. The good news is that, with the number of schools offering these programs today, you have plenty of choices to consider. Many of these schools even offer multiple start dates, so you can easily fit studies into your busy schedule.
These schools also offer a wide variety of program tracks or concentrations for master of science in nutrition programs, such as clinical nutrition and nutrition education. With these specific concentrations, you can choose the nutrition specialty that best fits your career goals.
For more information on advanced degrees in healthcare, you can check our guide on the best online doctorate programs in public health.