wikiHow to Get a Degree in Nutrition

Three Parts:Determining Your Career Goals as a NutritionistApplying for the DegreeEarning the Degree

The study of nutrition is a growing field that can lead to very rewarding and sustainable career options. Once you earn your degree, you can work in the several settings in the public and private sector, from hospitals and clinics to private research centers. Most careers in nutrition require a Bachelor’s degree in nutrition. Once you earn your Bachelor’s degree, you may decide to pursue a Master’s degree in nutrition and/or a Doctorate degree in nutrition. Though this may seem like a lot of schooling for a career, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 20% employment increase for dietitians and nutritionists from 2010 to 2020.[1]

Part 1
Determining Your Career Goals as a Nutritionist

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    Be aware of the different degree levels in nutrition. There are three possible levels of education you can receive in the field of nutrition: a Bachelor’s degree, a Master’s degree, and a Doctorate degree. Each degree has its benefits, and will lead to different careers in the field.[2]
    • A Bachelor’s degree: A Bachelor of Science in nutrition science can be completed in four years and can be a good way to kick start your career in the field. You will focus on exploring the connection between food and human health
    • A Master’s degree: A Master’s in nutrition science usually require at least two years of study. A MS will lead to more career options in different sectors. Graduate level programs will focus on the use of food to sustain human growth and metabolism, as well as the dysfunctional health states in humans.
    • A Doctorate degree: A Doctorate degree in human nutrition is usually done on the basis of specific research around nutrition. Getting your PhD or ScD will allow you to work in a variety of fields and conduct specialized research.[3]
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    Understand the possible careers available to you. Your career options will depend on the level of certification and education you receive in the field of nutrition. It’s important that you choose a degree level that will lead to the career you are interested in.[4]
    • A Bachelor’s degree: If you earn a Bachelor’s degree, you will be qualified to be a registered dietician or nutritionist. You can work in a variety of areas as a registered dietician or nutritionist, from hospitals and clinics, to food and nutrition management and public health nutrition. A complete list of possible sectors you can work in with this degree can be found here: As of August 2012, the average salary for registered and licensed dietitians was $41,175 to $59,794.[5]
    • A Master’s degree: Once you earn your Master’s degree in nutrition science, you are qualified to be a certified nutrition specialist (CNS) or a certified clinical nutritionist (CCN).[6] You are also qualified to be a community nutritionist, a home health care aid, a sports nutritionist, a private practice nutritionist, a nutrition consultant, and a dietetic technician.[7]
    • A Doctorate degree: If you earn your Doctorate degree in human nutrition, you will have advanced knowledge of nutrition and have conducted a research project in the field. You are qualified to work in the nutrition sector as a certified nutrition specialist, a certified clinical nutritionist, and/or as a professor of human nutrition at the university level.
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    Choose the degree level that is right for you. Many students get a Bachelor’s degree in nutrition as a way to work as a registered dietitian or nutritionist, or as a starting point to applying for a Master’s program in nutrition science.
    • Deciding if you are going to pursue a higher degree level once you receive your Bachelor’s degree will be based on whether you can afford tuition to a Master’s program or a Doctorate program, as well as if you would like to have different career options in the field.

Part 2
Applying for the Degree

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    Take high school classes in nutrition, if available. If you are a high school student who would like to pursue an undergraduate degree in nutrition, you should see if your school offers nutrition courses or courses on public health. Many public high schools offer classes on nutrition education and diet.[8] Ask your school's guidance counselor if there are any applicable classes you can take at your school that you can take to better prepare you for your undergraduate degree.
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    Research institutions that offer a Bachelor degree in nutrition. Many universities and colleges have a public health sciences department that offers a Bachelor’s degree in nutrition or nutritional studies, as well as dietetics. Look for programs that offer a four year program with an internship or hands-on experience in the field. Most Bachelor programs offer Didactic Programs in Dietetics (DPD) or Coordinated Dietetics Programs (CDP).[9]
    • Some Bachelor’s programs allow you to focus on specific areas in nutrition, such as nutrition and dietetics management, comprehensive nutrition, sports nutrition, human nutrition, and community nutrition.
    • A list of the top undergraduate nutrition degree programs can be found here:
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    Look at institutions that offer a Master’s degree in nutrition. When you are researching Master’s degrees in nutrition or nutritional science, you should consider the program’s rate of employment for graduating students and if the program offers any financial support or funding for incoming graduate students.[10]
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    Complete the application. Once you decide on the programs you are going to be applying for, you should complete the application process according to the requirements listed on the program’s website. Most Bachelor’s and Master’s programs have a detailed application process that you can complete online. Take note of the deadline for your applications and plan to complete them accordingly.
    • Most Bachelor programs require your high school transcripts and a 3.0 or higher GPA.[11]
    • Most Master’s programs require your undergraduate transcripts, two to three letters of reference from individuals who are familiar with your academic and professional background, and a personal statement of intent.[12] Some programs also suggest that you complete pre requisites at the undergraduate level in chemistry, biology, and physiology in a lab, as well as introductory courses in nutrition, biochemistry, and statistics. However, they are not required for all programs and many programs allow you to do these prerequisites as part of your Master’s degree. If you complete your Bachelor’s degree in nutrition, you will have these prerequisites already.[13]
    • Some Master’s programs in nutrition also require you to complete your Graduate Record Exam (GRE) in order to apply to the program. If your native language is not English, you will also need to complete a TOFL exam for some programs.[14]
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    Be prepared for the cost of tuition. The cost of tuition for Bachelor’s programs in nutrition will vary according to the institution, as most Bachelor’s programs have standard tuition costs for all four year undergraduate programs. This can vary from $50,000 to $65,000 total.[15]
    • The cost of tuition for Master’s programs will also vary according to the institution, but it is suggested that you look for programs that offer a level of funding or financial assistance. This could be in the form of Graduate Assistantships, Fellowships, scholarships, or a work study program.

Part 3
Earning the Degree

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    Complete the required coursework. There is different required coursework for a Bachelor’s degree in nutrition and a Master’s degree in nutrition.
    • A Bachelor’s degree will have a core curriculum that includes introductory courses in chemistry, biology, organic chemistry, biochemistry, physiology, and math. You will also need to take several core courses in nutritional sciences. In your last year in the program, you will take advanced courses in nutritional sciences and you will need to fulfill your general education credits to graduate. Some Bachelor’s programs have honors programs where you can conduct research in the field as an undergraduate.[16]
    • A Master’s degree will have a core curriculum of advanced courses in nutrition, including courses on nutritional science, clinical nutrition, and biostatistics. You will also be given credits towards specific research in nutrition, which you will complete with the assistance of a research advisor in the program.[17]
    • There may be variations in the coursework for specific programs. Always confirm the required coursework for your chosen program on the program’s website and through the program’s course advisor.
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    Do an internship or a practicum. Most nutrition programs offer hands on experience for students to better prepare them for their careers. Your Bachelor’s degree may offer an internship or work study opportunity and your Master’s degree may offer a practicum in the last year of your degree.[18]
    • In order to qualify to be a registered dietician, you will need to complete your Bachelor’s degree as well as 900 hours in a supervised internship through an accredited institution.[19] So it is important that your Bachelor’s program account for this requirement in its curriculum.
    • Most practicums offered by Master’s degree programs are 900 hours with a supervisor. To become a Certified Nutritional Specialist (CNS), you will need a graduate degree in nutrition and 1000 hours completed in a supervised internship.[20]
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    Prepare for the Commission on Dietetic Registration exam. If you have earned your Bachelor’s degree in nutrition and have completed your required internship hours, you can apply for the CDR exam. The CDR exam is required for graduates who would like to become dietetic technicians or registered dieticians.[21]
    • If you have a Master’s degree in nutrition, you may decide to take the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists (CBNS) exam to become a Certified Nutritional Specialist (CNS) or a Certified Clinical Nutritionist (CCN).[22]

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