Types of Nutrition Science Degrees

Types of Nutrition Science Degrees

Whether you want a nutrition-science career in public health or the private sector, this degree gives you the tools to help people on a personal level by teaching them what their bodies need to be healthy in order to feel better and live longer lives. To work in the nutrition science field, you will need at least a bachelor’s degree. Luckily, you can earn a nutrition science degree in a traditional, online, or hybrid platform. Online accredited degree programs offer the most flexibility, which is a great option for those who are already working or have families.

It’s likely that you will also need to be registered, licensed, and/or certified to be perceived as fully qualified to potential employers. Each state has different qualifications, and you would be astute to research your state’s requirements early in order to accurately plan your educational path.

You can either read on or explore the links below to learn more about the various types of nutrition science degrees.

You have chosen an excellent time to pursue a degree in nutrition science. With obesity still a nation-wide issue, educated nutrition science professionals are needed now more than ever. As shown by The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) graph below, careers in this field are expected to continue to grow 16% – 17% over the next several years.

Nutrition Science Job Outlook Graph

To take full advantage of these exciting career opportunities, it’s important to make sure that you choose the right degree program.

What is nutritional science?

As with any degree, it is vital that the program you are enrolled in and graduate from is accredited by an organization that is recognized across that field. For nutrition science degree programs, you’ll want to make sure they have received accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). This will ensure that you will be allowed to take registration exams, and that your degree will be recognized by other educational institutions and future employers.
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Supervised Training

To become a professional in the nutrition science field, you will need a set amount of hours of supervised training. This is also referred to as an internship and, depending on the degree program, is taken either during the last semester of your undergraduate studies, immediately after you have graduated from a bachelor’s degree program, or during your graduate years. It’s prudent to research any degree programs you’re interested in to ensure that they either provide an internship for you, or that they offer plenty of career-related services that can help you find an internship on your own.

Most colleges and universities, online or otherwise, have staff that can help you construct your resume, portfolio, curriculum vitae, cover letter, and/or references. You’ll also want to look for a job board that the school may have. Organizations listed on those job boards have made an agreement with your school that allows their jobs and internships to be posted on the school’s job board. Since those organizations have agreed to hire students, they should be able to prepare a hands-on learning environment and be more flexible with your schedule.
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What are my degree options in nutritional science?

Degree programs in nutritional science are specifically designed to train students to work as a nutritionist, educator, researcher, and a number of other careers that focus on how science and health work together. Depending on your career goals, there are a number of different degree options to choose from. Our list of schools will help you find the right program that meets your needs:

SchoolPrograms
Kaplan University
Kaplan University

Accreditation:
  • HLC
  • NCA
Creighton University
Creighton University

Accreditation:
  • HLC
  • NCA
Liberty University
Liberty University

Accreditation:
  • SACS
Ashford University
Ashford University

Accreditation:
  • WSCUC

Click to see even more Nutrition Science programs


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Bachelor’s Degrees

A Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Nutrition Science takes about four years to complete (not including your supervised training hours if they take place after you graduate). Nutrition science degree programs focus heavily on biological, physical, and social sciences, and you will learn about how nutrients interact with and affect our bodies. Many students pursue these programs as a precursor to enrolling in a dental, medical, pharmacology, or veterinary school.

You do not have to go to graduate school in order to use this degree for your career. If you want to go directly into the professional workforce, you can work as a nutritionist or dietitian in biomedical science fields, healthcare, public health nutrition, and nutrition-related research. There is a difference between nutritionists and dietitians, but both require at least a bachelor’s degree as well as proper licensure or registration that is determined by your state.

The title may vary slightly with every school, but most nutrition science degree programs will teach you the following subjects:

  • Principles of Nutrition
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Research Methods in Nutrition
  • Human Anatomy & Physiology
  • Food Science
  • Professional Issues in Nutrition
  • Community Nutrition
  • Diet & Disease
  • Nutrition During the Life Cycle

These are just a sample of the subjects that are typically offered in a nutritional science degree program. You can take additional classes that focus on a specific field of nutrition science, should you choose to pursue a concentration or a minor.

Concentrations

There are a variety of nutrition science degree options, or concentrations, that are each designed to prepare you for a specific set of career paths. The most commonly offered (and associated with nutrition science) degree with a concentration is a B.S. in Nutrition Science and Dietetics, and they are also referred to as a Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD). An ACEND accreditation is especially important for those interested in concentrating on dietetics, since you cannot become a Registered Dietician without having attended an ACEND accredited program. We will discuss how to become a Registered Dietitian later on.

Here are several of the other frequently offered nutrition science concentrations available.

  • Physiology & Metabolism
  • Food Service Administration
  • Food & Business Nutrition
  • Nutrition Education
  • Public Health Nutrition & Policy

Many of these concentrations are available at the masters and doctoral level as well. As you progress through your education, your studies will give you a deeper and more complex understanding of whichever area you choose to focus on.
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Master’s Degrees

As previously stated, many of the concentrations that are available to you in your undergraduate studies are still present as you continue your education. If you want to only focus on nutrition science as a whole without a specialty, you may delve further into any of the following aspects of nutrition science:

  • Research
  • Education
  • Consulting
  • Professional Practice
  • Administration

Similar to your main options at the baccalaureate level, during your graduate studies your two primary degree choices are a Master’s of Science (M.S.) in Nutrition Science and a M.S. in Nutritional Science and Dietetics. The chart below outlines the differences in these two degree programs:

M.S. in Nutrition Science M.S. in Nutrition Science & Dietetics
Are there other names for this degree program? Not typically. Sometimes it is referred to as a M.S. in Nutrition or Nutrition & Food Science, but those degrees are not always the same as a Nutrition Science degree. Be sure to do your research Yes, this can also be referred to as a M.S. Nutrition Science and Dietetics Coordinated Program or a M.S. in Nutrition Science with a Dietetic Internship.
How long does it take to complete? 1-2 years. It can take shorter or longer to complete depending on the program and how much time you are able to dedicate to your studies (full or part time). 1.5 – 2 years. It can take shorter or longer to complete depending on the length of your internship, your program, and how much time you are able to dedicate to your studies (full or part time).
Is an internship and/or thesis required? Internship: Usually, but not always. If you completed an internship during your undergrad, you may not need another one, but it depends on the graduate program.

Thesis: This depends on the program. A non-thesis program is typically supplemented with additional courses and may be less focused on research than a thesis program.

Internship: Yes, a Dietetic Internship will take place during the latter half of this degree program.

Thesis: This depends on the program. A non-thesis program is typically supplemented with additional courses and may be less focused on research than a thesis program.

What does this degree prepare you for? You will be ready to take any registration, licensure, and/or certification exams that may be required by your state.

Once you have completed the proper exams, you can join the workforce in an entry level position. If you have previous professional experience in the field, with this degree you may be more qualified to move into leadership and executive positions.

You will be ready to take the exam necessary to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), and any other licensure and/or certification exams that may be required by your state.

Once you have completed the proper exams, you can join the workforce in an entry level position. If you have previous professional experience in the field, with this degree you may be more qualified to move into leadership and executive positions.

Students can also enroll in a masters-doctorate hybrid program after having received their bachelor’s degree. These programs usually take around five years to complete, but can take shorter or longer to complete depending on the program, and how much time you are able to dedicate to your studies (full or part time). They also require a dissertation and internship (at the doctorate level, it can be a practicum, apprenticeship, assistantship, fellowship, and/or seminar).
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Doctorate Degrees

A doctoral degree in nutrition science (also known as a PhD. in Nutrition Science) is less classroom-oriented and more focused on practical experience and research. Having said that, there still are a handful of in-class or online courses that you will need to take. These classes will vary and depend on both the degree program you are enrolled in and what your nutrition science focus is.

There are two ways for you to obtain a PhD. in Nutrition Science. We have already touched on one way, which is enrolling in a master’s-doctorate hybrid degree program after you have completed your B.S. in Nutrition Science. The other way is for you to complete both your undergraduate and graduate degrees individually, and then enroll in a separate doctorate degree program. A doctorate program on its own can take around three years to complete.

There is virtually no difference between the two different methods. Students who wish to join the workforce sooner rather than later, will likely not enroll in a master’s – doctorate hybrid program. Rather, they will complete their bachelor’s and/or master’s, then perhaps wait a few years before pursuing their doctorate, if they do at all.

Nutrition science students and professionals enroll in doctoral programs if they want to teach at the university level, or work in a laboratory and conduct research. Nutrition science research typically pertains to nutrition, health, and how different nutrients interact with the body on a cellular level.
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Registration, Licensure, and Certification

Very few states do not require any registration, licensure, or certification, but employers almost always prefer to hire people with those credentials. Plus, it always looks great on a resume. If you’re interested in working in the dietetic field (typically as a dietitian), you will need to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or a Registered Dietetic Technician (RDT). You can find out if you are eligible for registration and find the registration agency in your state through the Commission on Dietetic Registration, which is the credentialing agency for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

For other nutrition science students who wish to pursue a career outside of dietetics, you will need research what your state requires in order for you to become a licensed/registered professional. Certificates, for dietitians or otherwise, are usually not required, but they are highly encouraged. People typically attend certification courses in order to learn more about a specific sub field of nutrition science. This extra credential may help you to gain prestige and credibility in the field, and possibly give you more opportunities to advance your career. The following organizations can help you learn more about registrations, licenses, and certifications for the nutrition science field:

The nutrition science field is full of educational and career possibilities. With people becoming more health conscious everyday and our effort to combat obesity, this is a prime time to get your nutrition science education started. Take a look at our guide, Top 10 Most Popular Alternative Dietary Lifestyles, and explore the rest of our website to learn more about what it takes to become a professional in this field.
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