Best Online Nutrition Degrees 2021

| TBS Staff


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Bachelor's degrees in nutritional science give students the skills and knowledge they need to help individuals and communities improve their health through nutritional choices.

Combining studies in food science, medicine, and mental health, these comprehensive programs qualify learners to take on a variety of roles. Graduates can pursue jobs as nutritionists, agricultural and food scientists, fitness trainers and instructors, and health educators. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects these roles to grow 7-11% between 2018 and 2028. These jobs offer median annual salaries ranging from $39,820 for fitness trainers to $64,020 for agricultural and food scientists.

Top 5 Online Bachelor's Degrees in Nutrition
#1 Kansas State University Manhattan, KS
#2 The University of Alabama Tuscaloosa, AL
#3 Arizona State University Tempe, AZ
#4 University of Arizona Tucson, AZ
#5 Eastern Michigan University Ypsilanti, MI

Featured Online Schools

What Is Nutrition Science?

Nutrition science examines nutrition processes, the various chemical compounds found in foods, and how components like protein, energy, and vitamins affect human health and disease. Learners in a bachelor's in nutrition science program study multidisciplinary topics related to social and life sciences, including behavioral psychology, mental health, and physiology.

What Is a Bachelor's in Nutrition Science Degree?

Prospective nutrition science students can choose between an associate or a bachelor's program in nutrition science. While an associate degree qualifies graduates for some entry-level support roles, it does not qualify graduates for industry credentials. Graduates with a bachelor's degree qualify for more roles as well as industry licenses and certifications.

Bachelor's students can often specialize in specific areas of nutrition science to prepare for niche roles working in nutrition and fitness, nutrition and food safety, nutrition management, or agricultural food science.

Choosing an Online Nutrition Degree Program

Prospective students should consider several factors before selecting an online nutritionist degree, such as a program's cost, size, and type. Typically, in-state public schools cost less than private schools and out-of-state public schools. However, some programs allow all online students to pay in-state tuition rates regardless of residency.

"Prospective students should consider several factors before selecting an online nutritionist degree, such as a program's cost, size, and type."

Additionally, students should consider the size of a school and program. Some students may prefer the more individualized attention a smaller school provides, while learners looking to specialize in an area of nutrition science may prefer the larger variety of specializations and programs that bigger schools often offer.

Distance learners should also research whether a program is fully online or has some on-campus requirements. Students who don't live near their prospective schools should ensure that they can meet all on-campus requirements.

Accreditation for Online Nutrition Degree Programs

Accreditation indicates that a school meets high standards with respect to faculty qualifications, student learning outcomes, and academic rigor. Accreditation benefits students in several ways. For instance, only students attending an accredited program qualify for federal financial aid, and many schools only accept and recognize credits and degrees from regionally accredited institutions. Additionally, many employers prefer to hire candidates with accredited degrees.

"Students can verify a school's accreditation status through the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation."

Schools may receive regional or national accreditation, with regional accreditation generally considered the more prestigious of the two. Students can verify a school's accreditation status through the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

Programs within a school may also receive accreditation. Nutrition science degree programs may receive accreditation through the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics. Students may need to hold a degree from an accredited program to qualify for licensure or certification.

Nutritional Sciences Concentrations

Some nutritional science programs offer concentrations that allow students to tailor the degree to their interests and goals. We cover several common concentrations and their associated career paths below.

Dietetics and Nutrition

In this concentration, students learn how to adjust and manage diets to improve individual and community health. Students gain critical thinking and problem-solving skills as they pertain to clinical and community nutrition.

Careers this concentration prepares for:

Registered dietitian, registered dietitian nutritionist, food scientist

Food Management

This online nutrition degree concentration emphasizes the principles of food preparation, nutrition, and management to prepare students for supervisory roles in schools, hospitals, and food agencies. The concentration combines scientific and business studies, offering courses in chemistry, accounting, and labor relations.

Careers this concentration prepares for:

Food service administrator, director of food and service

Food Safety and Nutrition

This concentration includes courses in food science, nutrition, and microbiology. Learners study topics like sensory evaluation, microbial biology, fermentation science, and food safety with regard to production, processing, marketing, preparation, and consumption.

Careers this concentration prepares for:

Food safety specialist, food safety/QA manager

Applied Nutrition

This concentration focuses on the regulation of food and dietary supplements and how to apply scientific findings to food production, healthy eating practices, and diverse population management. Students also learn how to apply nutritional principles and alternative practices to nutrition.

Careers this concentration prepares for:

Holistic nutritionist, nutritional counselor, nutritional manager

Nutrition and Fitness

This concentration examines nutrition and exercise science. Students learn how to apply nutrition and physical fitness theories and practices to improve health. Courses include kinesiology, physiology of exercise, human anatomy, and sports nutrition.

Careers this concentration prepares for:

Sports nutritionist, health and wellness director

Curriculum for an Online Bachelor's Degree in Nutrition

Online bachelor's in nutrition degrees include general education, elective, and major coursework. Learners typically take foundational classes in biology, chemistry, and physics before delving into nutrition-specific courses. Curricula vary by program, but the following list highlights several common courses found in nutrition science programs.

  • Aging and Nutrition: This course examines the nutrition needs of the aging population. Learners study how physiological changes affect nutrition across the lifespan and learn about common community programs that serve older adults' nutritional needs. Learners may use case studies to understand how the dietary needs of this population differ from other life stages.
  • Principles of Foods: This foundational course introduces students to the tenets of food safety, preservation, and composition. Learners study common food systems, microbiological and biotechnological considerations in food systems, and food deterioration. The course emphasizes common methods of food preservation, including dehydration, heating and freezing, and pressurization.
  • Fundamental Microbiology: This course examines how microorganisms affect food processing and preservation methods. Learners examine how improper relationships between microorganisms and food can lead to issues around food quality, foodborne illnesses, and fermentation. Students also learn about common ways to control harmful microorganisms. Other course topics include gram-positive and gram-negative organisms, infections caused by non-living forms, natural origin food preservatives, and probiotics.
  • Human Nutrition: This course reviews how protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals contribute to health and disease. Learners study common dietary sources, reasonable intake levels, and major nutrient requirements. They also learn how specific nutrients contribute to health across the lifespan and how key nutrients can prevent chronic illnesses.
  • Nutrition Research: This survey course covers common nutrition research terms and methodologies. Learners study outcome-based, quantitative, and qualitative study design; appropriate uses for research findings; and common methods of disseminating findings. Students also review well-respected nutritional research and identify key factors that help those pieces stand out. Most of these courses require learners to submit a research project.

Nutritionist Degree Jobs

Graduates with an online nutrition degree can pursue diverse roles, depending on their interests and goals. Some graduates may want to work in an office setting, providing one-on-one or group counseling, while others may feel drawn to field-based roles, analyzing products for food safety. The following list outlines several common jobs for graduates with a nutrition science degree.

$60,370 Nutritionist
Median Salary: $60,370 Projected Job Growth: 11%

Commonly known as certified nutritionists or certified nutrition consultants, these professionals can complete a nutrition certification program rather than a full degree to qualify for the profession. Many nutritionists work as freelancers, providing nutrition and wellness consultations for clients.

Nutritionists can provide guidance on diet choices, help clients address issues around weight loss, and support individuals adhering to specific diets based on their needs, such as diets for individuals with high blood pressure or celiac disease.

$60,370 Dietitian
Median Salary: $60,370 Projected Job Growth: 11%

Often known as registered dieticians or registered dietitian nutritionists, these professionals take on more medically focused roles than nutritionists. They work with individuals experiencing illnesses affected by nutrition, like diabetes or heart disease, and create specialized meal plans that cater to individual needs.

Some dieticians conduct research on how nutrients affect human health and give presentations on their findings. Others may incorporate guidelines around fitness and exercise to create a holistic plan for better health. These professionals need a bachelor's degree and a license to practice.

$64,020 Food Scientist
Median Salary: $64,020 Projected Job Growth: 7%

Food scientists work for food manufacturers, research groups, and government agencies to ensure food production meets safety and efficiency standards. They may look for new ways to improve and stabilize the sustainability of certain crops or find safer and healthier ways to produce existing foods.

Some food scientists test new and existing products to ensure they meet safety regulations. Food scientists must stay updated on crop diseases and harmful additives that can affect the nutritional benefits of food and crops.

$71,130 Environmental Scientist
Median Salary: $71,130 Projected Job Growth: 8%

Environmental scientists study and apply the natural sciences to improve human health and natural environments by identifying materials in the environment that can cause harm. They may collect soil and water samples to identify, prevent, or repair issues affecting crops or analyze existing samples to identify harmful ingredients.

While many environmental scientists spend much of their time in a laboratory, they also go out in the field to collect data and learn about emerging and existing concerns.

$55,420 Health Educator
Median Salary: $55,420 Projected Job Growth: 11%

Health educators work in clinical and community settings, teaching people how to take better care of their bodies. They may develop training materials, lead community workshops, supervise staff, or develop and monitor program budgets.

Some health educators work in advocacy roles, where they bring awareness and understanding about health-related struggles affecting certain communities.

$57,530 Nutrition Journalist
Median Salary: $57,530 Projected Job Growth: 4%

Nutrition journalists publish news and opinion pieces on nutrition. They may work as freelancers or for a single publication, such as a magazine, newspaper, or blog. They identify and pitch timely nutrition topics, research information, and draft and edit articles.

Nutrition journalists may also work with social media professionals to publicize new articles and content managers to develop new ideas for pieces.

Nutrition Science Membership Associations

Nutrition science students and professionals can take advantage of professional organizations to support their studies and advance their careers. The following professional organizations offer benefits like networking, professional development, and financial aid opportunities.

Established in 1959, ACN works to advance the field of nutrition science and better prevent and treat diseases. Membership includes clinicians, students, and researchers. Members have access to publishing opportunities, award eligibility, and professional discounts. SNEB represents the interests of nutrition educators worldwide through research, policy, and practice. The organization promotes effective nutrition education and better health outcomes. Members have access to public policy updates and networking, professional development, and continuing education opportunities. Founded in 1985, NANP is a professional business league that represents the holistic nutrition industry. It offers education standards for nutritional consultants and natural chefs. Members have access to a member directory, career center, certifications, and professional discounts. ASN was formed in 2005 from the merger of three organizations: the American Society for Nutritional Sciences, the American Society for Clinical Nutrition, and the Society for International Nutrition. Today, the society aims to foster and enhance nutrition-related research for humans and animals. Founded in 1917 to help the U.S. government conserve food and improve public health and nutrition during WWI, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics serves more than 100,000 members in the food and nutrition industry. The organization works to advance the profession through research, education, and advocacy.

Best Online Bachelor's in Nutrition Programs

Kansas State University View School Profile $$$ Manhattan, KS 64% 46% 25% Kansas State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Founded in 1863, K-State offers a customizable program designed to introduce students to the complex world of nutrition.

K-State offers an online bachelor of science in nutrition and health. Students take courses in basic nutrition, the science of food, and nutritional assessment to complete their degrees. Motivated students can apply up to nine credits of their bachelor of science to a later master of science degree.

To apply, students need a minimum GPA of 3.25, a minimum ACT score of 21, or a minimum SAT score of 1060. Students must submit all transcripts and a completed application to begin.

The University of Alabama View School Profile $$$$ Tuscaloosa, AL 72% 39% 39% The University of Alabama is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

UA offers an online bachelor of science in food and nutrition, providing a path for an established career as a registered dietitian. Major courses include an introduction to human nutrition, food science, nutrition counseling, and a directed professional independent study.

UA requires a minimum 2.0 GPA to qualify for admission, with standardized test requirements waived through fall 2021. UA accepts applications for online programs year-round, making it easy to get started.

Arizona State University View School Profile $$ Tempe, AZ 14% 55% 97% Arizona State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

A public university with innovative degree programming, ASU offers a unique nutrition degree, mentoring students interested in the intersection of food, science, and research.

ASU offers students the chance to earn an online bachelor of science in food and nutrition entrepreneurship. Students learn to develop an online presence and build the expertise needed to build nutrition-based startups or initiatives. Courses include applied food principles, community nutrition, and nutrition entrepreneurship.

ASU requires a minimum 3.0 GPA to start. Standardized tests depend on residency, with an ACT score of 22 required for in-state applicants, an ACT score of 24 for out-of-state applicants, an SAT score of 1120 for in-state applicants, and an SAT score of 1180 for out-of-state applicants.

University of Arizona View School Profile $$$ Tucson, AZ 64% 37% 39% The University of Arizona is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Programmatic accreditation is from the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND).

Founded in 1885, UArizona online offers students a competitive education without stepping onto campus.

The school offers an online bachelor of science in nutritional sciences. Students choose the dietetics or nutrition track and take courses in science and best practices for health. Dietetic-track students take courses such as lifecycle nutrition. Nutrition-track students choose options like sports nutrition.

Applicants do not need to submit standardized tests but must possess a minimum 3.0 GPA to qualify for admission.

Eastern Michigan University View School Profile $$$ Ypsilanti, MI 45% 64% 34% Eastern Michigan University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

EMU offers an online bachelor of science in dietetics and human nutrition. The program helps students build meaningful careers in nutrition or continue on to further research.

Students finish 120 credits solely online, taking courses such as nutrition therapy, community nutrition, and food services systems management. The degree can also lead to an additional online master's degree for motivated students.

Students must complete the application and send relevant academic transcripts to apply.

Online Bachelor's in Nutrition Programs Ranking Guidelines

We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.

The motto of TheBestSchools.org is Finding the best school for you. Here is how we do it:

The value of any ranking list of schools and/or degree programs depends on having a methodologically sound assessment of each school’s/program’s characteristics, especially insofar as these can be objectively measured. A college or university is a complex entity, with numerous factors to consider, and distilling these down to the place where meaningful comparisons can be made to form a defensible ranking list becomes part science and part art.

To meet this challenge—and thereby provide you with the most useful and insightful educational rankings on the Internet — TheBestSchools.org formulates our rankings based on five informational categories (six, when considering online schools). The major metrics and qualities for which we rank are these (with expanded, detailed considerations and weights listed):

1. Academic excellence based on a school’s curriculum generally or within the selected discipline [weight = 25%]

  • Weighs school against known leading schools in that discipline
  • Weighs number of core curricula listed as advanced courses within that discipline and compares against introductory courses
  • Weighs school’s curriculum against known knowledge needs of major employers in that discipline
  • Considers number and types of specializations offered within that discipline
  • Considers faculty expertise in that discipline
  • Considers range of electives within that discipline
  • Considers quality of online environment offered to students (if applicable), particularly within that discipline

2. Strength of faculty scholarship [weight = 25%]

  • Considers education background of the faculty
  • Considers years of faculty experience both inside and outside of academia.
  • Considers faculty membership and leadership within relevant, prominent associations
  • Considers academic papers published by faculty in relevant, prominent periodicals
  • Considers awards and recognitions given to faculty members from prominent organizations and from other sources

3. Reputation [weight = 20%]

  • Considers a school’s reputation among academic peers and employers regarding the following:
    • Faculty
    • Curriculum
    • “Freshness” of academic knowledge
    • Adaptability to changes in employment sectors
    • Suitability of graduates for the workplace

4. Financial aid [weight = 10%]

  • Mandatory: Requires full accreditation from an agency endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education and listed on the federal register to accept student federal financial aid
  • Considers range of school-sponsored financial aid such as scholarships and grants

5. Range of degree programs [weight = 20%]

  • Considers range of degree levels: associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral and professional
  • Considers range of degree subjects offered, such as art & design, computers & technology, education & teaching, criminal justice, and business

6. Strength of online instruction methodology (if applicable) [weight = 25%; subtract 5% from each of the above for online schools/programs]

  • Considers the following of the online classes:
    • Types of online technology used to deliver content
    • Pedagogy style: asynchronous, synchronous, or both (depending on the degree)
    • Extent and quality of the online, community learning environment, including options for communication, interactivity, and collaboration between students and also between students and instructors
    • Variety, breadth, and depth of coursework, and its support, including project options and online tutoring
  • Considers the following of instructors:
    • Extent of training for teaching within an online learning environment
    • Amount of timely, consistent feedback to students
    • Extent of collaboration with prospective employers to ensure suitability of instructional materials for achieving desired skills
    • Ratio to number of students in a class
  • Number and quality of internships in a student’s geographical area for applicable degrees

Because students tend to review a variety of information when choosing a school, the weight a student gives any one criterion will vary. For instance, it’s not enough to offer a carefully constructed ranking of great schools if many are too expensive or too difficult to get into.

To better serve the needs of prospective students, we are therefore increasingly offering filters that help you better use our rankings to find the schools that match your specific needs. These supplement our ranking criteria and include:

  • Accreditation
  • Public or private status
  • Acceptance rate
  • Retention rate
  • Graduation rate
  • ACT/SAT requirements
  • Cost in-state / out of state
  • Undergrad, grad, or both offered
  • Region
  • State
  • City

Get the best rankings here AND get them to suit your personal needs. That’s TheBestSchools.org advantage!

If you have any questions about our ranking methodology, please contact us.

Citations: For a broader account of our ranking methodology, especially as it relates to TheBestSchools.org's underlying educational philosophy and, in other ranking articles, looks beyond academic excellence (as here) to such factors as return on investment or incidental benefit, see our article "Ranking Methodology: How We Rank Schools at TBS." Reputation of schools and degree programs can at least in part be gauged through the school or department's publishing activity, citations, and desirability. At TheBestSchools.org, we keep track of such social and peer validation: "Making Sense of College Rankings." For nuts-and-bolts information about colleges and universities, we look to the National Center for Education Statistics and especially its College Navigator. Insofar as salary and inflation data are relevant to a ranking, we look to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Finally, nothing beats contacting schools and degree programs directly, which our researchers often do, with the result that all the entries in this article should be considered as belonging to this citation!

Frequently Asked Questions

true What Can I Do With a Nutrition Science Degree?

Graduates with a nutrition degree qualify for a variety of jobs focused on nutrition, healthy living, fitness, and health education.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Nutritionist Degree?

A bachelor's degree typically takes four years of full-time study to complete.

What Is a BS in Nutrition Science?

A bachelor of science in nutrition includes general education, elective, and major-specific courses.

What Type of Science Is Nutrition?

Nutrition programs incorporate interdisciplinary studies in the social sciences, biology, and chemistry.

What Qualifications Do You Need to Be a Nutritionist?

In addition to a bachelor's degree, some states require nutritionists to hold a license. Dieticians in all states need a license to practice.

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