Written by: Staff Writers
Last Updated: February 12, 2021
Americans interested in maintaining a healthy lifestyle increasingly seek the guidance of nutritionists, dietitians, and other professionals in the health and food industry. A master's in nutrition, online or in a traditional format, provides the necessary training for in-demand careers in clinical practice, nutrition education and research, food development and safety, and food service management.
While a bachelor's in nutrition satisfies entry-level career requirements, a master's — requiring 1-2 more years of study — leads to more promising opportunities, higher salaries, and eligibility to qualify for the certified nutrition specialist credential. The Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) established the master's degree as the minimum educational requirement for dietitian certification beginning in 2024. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nutritionists and dieticians, who currently earn a median annual salary of $61,270, can expect a projected 8% increase in employment from 2019 to 2029.
Use these rankings to explore how an online master's degree in nutrition can provide a flexible and affordable pathway to a rewarding career.
The Most Affordable Online Master's in Nutritional Science Degree Programs
#20. University of Texas at Austin – Austin, TX
Master of Science in Nutritional Science (MSNS)
Net Price: $11,742 in-state /$22,564 out-of-state
If you're hoping to improve the livelihood of people everywhere without having to go anywhere, the completely online Master of Science in Nutritional Science from the University of Texas at Austin might be a good option for you. This program presents students with the essential knowledge of nutritional science while also opening the door to specialize in a more focused sector. The two specialization track options are Health Promotion & Disease Prevention and Biochemical & Functional Nutrition. Additionally, the core curriculum counts as part of the requirements for the Board Certified Nutrition Specialist (BCNS) certification. It does not include the necessary prerequisites to become a registered dietician. Still, students can find opportunities in teaching, public health administration, and technical positions after completion of the program in as little as a year.
#19. Bowling Green State University, Main Campus – Bowling Green, OH
Master of Food and Nutrition
Net Price: $11,057 in-state/$18,593 out-of-state
After the completion of 40 total credit hours, you can obtain a Master of Food and Nutrition online through Ohio's Bowling Green State University. In order to apply, it is necessary to have completed coursework in biochemistry, anatomy, and physiology. The master's curriculum is split into four parts: core courses, minor courses, research hours, and a final project. Minor courses are chosen to match the student's individual career goals and can cover public health, education, psychology, microbiology, or scientific writing. The choice of a final project, or culminating requirement, includes a master's project or an exam. The entirety of the program is held online, with the exception of an in-person presentation if you choose to present a thesis or master's project. This program's part- and full-time flexibility, minor opportunities, and available mentors make it a unique and enticing program for ambitious nutrition students.
#18. Kansas State University – Manhattan, KS
Nutrition, Dietetics, and Sensory Sciences Master's Degree
Net Price: $10,135 in-state/$25,492 out-of-state
Kansas State University offers flexibility to students looking to expand their nutritional career through its College of Health and Human Sciences. All students are expected to have passed human nutrition and science of food courses during undergraduate studies before applying. The Master of Science in Nutrition, Dietetics, and Sensory Sciences consists of 30-35 credit hours, which can be fulfilled based on the student's own preferences as to how they'd like to complete the curriculum. The options include a master's thesis, master's report, or full coursework options. All three options will require courses such as Graduate Seminar in Human Nutrition, Fundamentals of Biostatistics, and Regression and Analysis of Variance. Keeping each student's varied and personalized career goals in mind, there are also options to take courses in fields such as animal sciences, biochemistry, anatomy, psychology, or marketing and business.
#17. West Chester University of Pennsylvania – West Chester, PA
Master of Science in Community Nutrition
Net Price: $10,111 in-state/ $21,591 out-of-state
If you're a nutrition student interested in a more evidence and research-based career, the Master of Science in Community Nutrition from the West Chester University of Pennsylvania is a good option for advancing your education. The program specifically targets registered dietitians, nurses, and other professionals with a BSN degree already under their belt The 33-credit curriculum is broken up between three sections: Nutrition Science, Applied Nutrition, and Electives. It all comes together with a three-credit final systematic review capstone project that's rooted in students' personal interests. With doctoral-level faculty with expertise in the field, every student will have an equal opportunity to create a world-class representation of their master's level knowledge.
#16. Framingham State University – Framingham, MA
M.Ed. Concentration in Nutrition Education Specialization in Nutrition Education
Net Price: $9,920 in-state/ $16,000 out-of-state
Nutrition is about much more than just knowing what to eat on your own. It's also important to be able to relay that knowledge and spread wellness throughout the community. For those whose goal is to be able to educate the masses on how to improve their health through nutrition, Framingham State University offers an online Master of Education in Nutrition Education. This degree, with a specialization in Nutrition Education, combines three courses in education, four in applied nutrition, and three elective courses that help to personalize the curriculum to fit individual goals. Everything is held online, including the final capstone, which is in the form of an exam. Emerging students will be able to interpret and integrate current research into nutrition education that reaches varied audiences.
#15. University of Memphis – Memphis, TN
Master of Science in Nutrition: Environmental Nutrition
Net Price: $9,317 in-state/ $21,029 out-of-state
The University of Memphis brings its Master of Science in Nutrition to a new level by adding sustainability into the fold. The Environmental Nutrition focus of this degree presents traditional food practices and how they relate to food justice and alternative approaches to nutrition. Required courses for this concentration include Humanitarian Nutrition, Cultural Foods and Nutrition, and Food Policy. The entirety of this 33-credit hour program is held online, optimizing accessibility for working students. There's added flexibility in the electives, including an opportunity to study abroad. This international experience is an ideal way to apply and improve on lessons concerning nutrition and food across other cultures.
#14. University of Nebraska-Lincoln – Lincoln, NE
MS in Nutrition and Health Sciences
Net Price: $8,978 in-state/$24,098 out-of-state
There are three options of study when you consider the Master of Science in Nutrition and Health Sciences from the University of Nebraska: two that call for a thesis and one that doesn't. Based in Lincoln but presented online, incoming students can choose from a concentration in Dietetics, Community Nutrition & Health Promotion, Biochemical and Molecular Nutrition, or Nutrition and Exercise. All students will be required to submit a full Memorandum of Courses about halfway through the program. This Memorandum serves as an outline for the remainder of your studies, indicating your degree option, a minor (if any), and courses with "removed deficiencies" to prepare you for the final exam or thesis. Along with submitting the Memorandum, all students will also submit a Final Examination Report, where you can schedule your final exam or declare your thesis topic to be reviewed. This very hands-on approach helps to keep you organized and firmly on track to complete your MS.
#13. Texas Tech University – Lubbock, TX
Master of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics
Net Price: $8,860 in-state/$18,652 out-of-state
Texas Tech University has created an ever-evolving and expanding curriculum for registered nurses and dieticians to advance their education. This Master of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics combines core and elective courses to help personalize the next steps of your career. The four required courses for all students include research, statistics, and two areas of core nutrient classes. Electives are even broader, and every student has room for seven of them in their schedule. The elective options are focused on up-to-date issues and challenges presented in present-day diet and nutrition. Students are able to choose courses in skills that they may have otherwise had little exposure to and are interested in weaving into their careers, such as diabetes, maternal health, obesity management, and sports & exercise. If desired, there's also the option to make a specific area of expertise an added concentration. The entire program is presented online and is considered the second-best Online Master's in Nutritional Sciences from CollegeChoice.net.
#12. Oklahoma State University – Stillwater, OK
Master of Science in Nutritional Science: Dietetics
Net Price: $8,738 in-state/$23,776 out-of-state
At Oklahoma State University, registered dieticians, or those verified through a didactic program, can move into the next chapter of their education with a Master of Science in Nutritional Science. This degree, which is focused on dietetics, shares its research-based education with most other programs. What makes it unique is the breadth of combined core work. Students will get to explore biomedical sciences, human behavior, and management, while also leaving room for 18 elective credits. The online program offers flexibility in both time and content for dietetic-focused students, however it is worth noting that the program is ideal for students who plan to move on to a Nutrition Practice Doctorate and not a PhD. At the program's conclusion, all students will present a research paper and presentation, reaffirming what they're learned and proving their capability to work in the field.
#11. University of North Dakota – Grand Forks, ND
Net Price: $8,447 in-state/$20,047 out-of-state
The University of North Dakota boasts of a flexible, affordable, and top-tier online Master of Science in Nutrition. Online formatting allows you to work the curriculum into your individualized schedule, even on a part-time basis. Classes are taught in small class groups over a live feed, allowing for individualized attention for all students. Core courses will cover 16 credits, examples include Nutrition Education, Micronutrients, and Research Methods. The remainder of course requirements will stem from a chosen concentration and an additional four credits of electives. What makes this quality education so affordable is that in-state tuition is extended to all students, regardless of your location. There is one mandatory on-campus visit that will take place over a week and helps to familiarize you with practicum requirements, which can be completed locally wherever you reside. Completing the program makes you a well-equipped master of nutrition, paving the way for various jobs in dietetics and nutrition.
#10. South Dakota State University – Brookings, SD
M.S. in Dietetics
Net Price: $8,441 in-state/$11,689 out-of-state
The MS in Dietetics from South Dakota State University allows standing registered dieticians to expand their knowledge so they can progress in the field. The program is part of a network of institutions, creating a diversified educational experience, and involves 36 credits. There are three paths of study that incoming students can choose from: thesis, research paper, or coursework only. These 36 credits are mandatory regardless of the end goal chosen for the curriculum. Every student will also take the four core courses: Vitamins and Minerals in Human Nutrition, Statistical Methods, Research Methods in Dietetics, and Current Trends in Dietetics Practices. The remainder of courses, which includes lectures, experiential learning, and lab time, are all delivered online. The outcome prepares students for roles in education, team leadership, agency settings, and more.
#9. University of Southern Mississippi – Hattiesburg, MS
Master of Science in Nutrition and Food Systems
Net Price: $8,218 in-state/$10,218 out-of-state
The University of Southern Mississippi created a Master of Science in Nutrition and Food Systems that blends local experience with an easily accessible online format. Intended for active affiliated dietetic interns, the first portion of the curriculum is fulfilled through supervised practice. The second half of the program requires an application to the 12-credit program, which is fully online. The program is designed to emphasize dietetics, and meets the requirements set in place by ACEND. Core courses include Research Techniques for Nutrition and Food Systems, Biostatistics, and Introduction to Educational Statistics. Dietetic Practice requirements move into a more specialized approach, covering Advanced Medical Nutrition Therapy, Community Health and Nutrition, and Food and Nutrition Public Policy. Since it's fully online, every student can enjoy this education without paying out-of-state fees.
#8. The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley – Edinburg, TX
Master of Science in Health Sciences in Nutrition
Net Price: $7,587 in-state/$17,547 out-of-state
For students interested in taking on management positions, the accelerated Master of Science in Health Sciences in Nutrition allows you to learn online while working toward your goal. Here, students get the chance to explore advanced policies, research, and principles of nutrition courses. The entirety of the program is 36 credit hours and can be completed in 12 months time, making it the sole accelerated program in the state of Texas. It will prepare you for several advanced jobs within the industry, but does not serve as preparation for the Registered Dietician Exam. Instead, you'll likely find success in homes, facilities, and centers where an expertise in nutrition-related diseases will help to improve the health of the population.
#7. University of Central Missouri – Warrensburg, MO
Nutrition MS-Clinical Nutrition Option
Net Price: $7,520 in-state/$14,150 out-of-state
Existing dietitians and nutritionists can enjoy the ease of an online program and improved proficiency in the field through the Master of Science in Nutrition from the University of Central Missouri. This program teaches nutrition knowledge and principles through a scientific scope, allowing professionals to enhance their skills. Continuing to learn about nutrition gives any professional an edge in this ever-changing field. The Clinical Nutrition option particularly emphasizes being able to work closely with patients and to design programs rooted in nutritional principles. Since this program is intended to create professionals who work with the population, they make a point to instill the proper way to behave professionally with clients and conduct nutritional practice into its students. Both the thesis and non-thesis track call for 18 hours of electives, giving you the flexibility to customize your education and further personalize your career.
#6. Texas Woman's University – Denton, TX
M.S. in Nutrition
Net Price: $7,486 in-state/$17,446 out-of-state
The MS in Nutrition through Texas Woman's University is customizable, affordable, and open to all students regardless of gender. The completely online option offers the same education as students on campus receive, but without the necessity for a thesis presentation. The full program can be completed in as little as one year, but the online option allows all students to complete the full 30 credit hours at their own pace. Required courses include Nutrition and Human Metabolism and Human Nutrition in Disease, and expands into elective courses like Vegetarianism, Preventative Nutrition, Food Safety, and other related topics of your choosing. Unlike many other programs, this MS does prepare students to sit for the RDN exam. Denton campus graduates have maintained a 100% pass rate of the RDN exam.
#5. Eastern Carolina University – Greenville, NC
Master of Science in Nutrition
Net Price: $7,143 in-state/$23,420 out-of-state
Registered dieticians, or anyone in the field of nutrition, can advance their knowledge through the Master of Science in Nutrition from Eastern Carolina University. The 33 semester hour program covers topics such as clinical and community dietetics, current issues in clinical nutrition, food and behavior, drug-nutrient interactions, and more. Mandatory core courses include Physiology and Metabolism, Biostatistics, and Methods in Research. All courses are completed online, unless you opt for the thesis option, allowing students from any state (except for Alabama, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Maryland, and Ohio) to partake in the program without needing to report to campus.
#4. Logan University – Chesterfield, MO
Master of Science in Nutrition and Human Performance
Net Price: $6,860 in-state and out-of-state
Clinical application of up-to-date research is the focus of the curriculum within Logan University's Master of Science in Nutrition and Human Performance. This is one of the few programs that build on aspects of fitness science without having to make that your sole focus. This award-winning program takes the changing landscape of technology into consideration through its Media, Technology and Public Health course. Students also explore courses such as Health Policy, Sustainable Food Systems, and Natural Therapies: Herbology & Detoxification. Given the mounting research on the importance of the gut microbiome in connection with overall health, there is also a course titled Gut Microbiome, Nutrition, & Behavior. Current research is a central theme of all courses, ensuring your tool kit is cutting edge. The communication, critical thinking, information management, and values you'll get through this MSNHP prepare you for a career of your choice within the field while also avoiding immense student debt when its complete.
#3. North Carolina Central University – Durham, NC
Nutritional Sciences Concentration, M.S. Family & Consumer Science
Net Price: $6,399 in-state/ $19,106 out-of-state
At North Carolina Central University, students can complete a Master of Science in Family & Consumer Science degree with a Nutritional Sciences Concentration, but can also choose from three other concentrations: Nutritional Science (NS), NS-RDN (Nutritional Science to Registered Dietitian, or NS-DIP Track (Dietetic Internship Program). Each concentration will have its own set of requirements, but they all share six credits of required professional core courses, covering Research in Foods and Nutrition as well as Biostatistics. A total of 33 credits are required to complete the program, and all students are expected to complete a final exam and achieve a 3.0 GPA. The program is held online, allowing students to centralize their education on their own terms while sticking to an affordable budget.
#2. University of North Florida – Jacksonville, FL
Master of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics
Net Price: $6,394 in-state/ $20,798 out-of-state
Registered dietitians and those who have a background in related fields can choose one of four concentrations when fulfilling a Master of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics through the University of North Florida. All four concentrations in Global Health, Dietetics Professional Studies, Nutritional Sciences, and Healthcare Informatics are presented online. Each path of study will move through a total of 35 semester hours of core requirements, major requirements, and electives. This program offers a global approach to learning about nutrition, with classes including Nutrition and Health in Refugee Populations, Sociocultural Influences on Nutrition, and Nutrition for Global Health. Only the concentration in Nutritional Sciences requires a thesis. Students also get the option of learning part-time or full-time, with a full-time schedule concluding in as little as 18 months.
#1. Colorado State University, Global Campus – Fort Collins, CO
Master of Science in Food Science and Nutrition
Net Price: $1,260 in-state and out-of-state
The top spot for most affordable online master's goes to Colorado State University for their Master of Science in Food Science and Nutrition. The program targets registered dietitians and aims to expound on their existing knowledge. Biomedical sciences are taught through courses like Micronutrients and Nutrigenetics and Advanced Lipid Metabolism. Courses like Issues in Dietetic Practice as well as Nutrition Education in the Community teach methods for managing and designing nutrition programs for groups of people. In total, students complete 37 credits, but are able to do so at their own pace. Getting your master's is a soon-to-be requirement for all professionals in the field, and the global mindset of the MS from CSU helps to give you an edge in the marketplace without overpaying.
Applying to an Online Master's in Nutritional Science Degree Program
While each school establishes its own criteria, entrance requirements for the online master's degree in nutrition typically include the following:
- Bachelor's degree: Degree seekers must hold a bachelor's in nutrition or a science-related major from a regionally accredited school.
- Standardized test scores: Although some schools require the GRE, many online programs do not consider standardized test scores, focusing instead on GPA and previous experience.
- Prerequisites: Most programs require applicants to have completed biology, chemistry, nutrition, and other specific classes as undergraduates. Students who hold a non-science bachelor's degree must complete prerequisites before they enroll.
- Work or volunteer experience: Nutrition-related employment or volunteer experiences may give applicants a competitive edge.
- Professional credentials: Some dietetics programs only admit applicants who already hold registered dietitian certification. However, most master's programs prepare students to sit for the registered dietitian exam while completing their degree or soon after completion.
Frequently Asked Questions
What qualities are important for nutritional scientists?
Graduate training provides nutritional scientists with the analytical, organizational, and problem-solving skills required for advanced professional positions as well as state licensure and certification. Because these professionals work with people from diverse backgrounds, they must develop the listening and speaking skills, empathy, and compassion needed to help clients address their health and nutritional needs.
Which states offer the highest salaries for nutritional scientists?
According to the BLS, dietitians and nutritionists in the U.S. earn an average annual salary of $62,330. However, earnings vary widely by geographic location. California, Alaska, Massachusetts, Hawaii, and New Jersey rank as the top paying states for these professionals. All five states pay an annual mean wage above $70,000, with California offering the highest salary of $77,040.
Are nutritionists in high demand?
Between 2019 and 2029, the U.S. workforce could add 5,900 new dietitian and nutritionist positions, an overall 8% increase compared to the national rate of 4% for all occupations. As the baby boomer generation ages, their growing interest in making healthy food and nutritional choices continues to drive the demand for these professional services.
How can you tell if a program is accredited?
ACEND serves as the national accrediting agency for dietitian nutritionist or nutrition and dietetic technician educational programs. Graduates of ACEND-accredited programs may sit for the registered dietician examination required for certification. Students can determine a school's accreditation status on their website or by checking the ACEND online listings of accredited programs.