Online Nutrition Degrees

The global nutrition and supplement industry has boomed over the past decade as new diet fads and scientific research have emerged, encouraging more people to focus on their health and the role that nutrition plays. As a result, there is an increasing need for professionals who can provide guidance on proper eating regimens and supplement choices.

Nutrition professionals work directly with clients or patients to improve their overall nutrition through targeted meal plans and evaluation. Graduates of online nutrition degrees may pursue careers as health educators, nutritionists, dietitians and public health professionals, among others. Candidates should have strong communication skills, a passion for working with others, technical knowledge of tools used to assess general health, and a knowledge of medical software and analytical databases. Prospective students should seek programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND).

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nutritionists and dietitians face a much higher than average rate of job growth at 16% between 2014 and 2024. Those who earn their online degree in nutrition stand to enter a strong job market with the knowledge and tools necessary to secure jobs that are both enjoyable and beneficial to public health.

Meet our expert

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Shawna Kunselman Nutrition

“The online program gave me the perfect opportunity to reach my goals as well as maintain my busy, structured life.”

Online Nutrition Degree Overview

Degree Avg Degree Cost Avg Loan Default Rate Time Commitment Early Career Pay Mid-Career Pay Unemployment Rate
Associate $11,167 15.25% 2 years $30,900 $52,100 N/A
Bachelor's $17,351 12.42% 4 years $41,700 $57,700 6.4%
Master's $17,401 4.35% 2 years $49,800 $70,400 2.9%
Whether you are new to the field, or looking to advance in your current career, you should weigh the costs and time of getting a new degree against its benefits. There is no one-size-fits-all degree. The best choice for you will depend on your current educational background, financial standing, employment history, and area of interest. For instance, those with no experience may want to consider an associate degree, due to its shorter time commitment and lower cost. If finances are tight for you, then you should prioritize the student loan debt and default categories, as you will want to choose a degree that offers you the best chance of improving your financial standing with minimal risk. If your employer or someone else is paying for your education, then you might want to consider the degree that will offer you the highest salary. All salary information is sourced from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and/or PayScale

Most entry-level nutritionists have a bachelor’s degree, and though advanced degrees are not required, the additional education gained from an online nutrition degree will prepare professionals for conducting research or teaching. Professionals holding higher degrees enjoy higher salaries and return on investment (ROI), but this depends on experience and job location. Job availability in the nutrition and dietetics field is predicted to increase 16% by 2024.

Choosing Your Nutrition Career

Average Nutrition Salaries

$35,330
$60,690
$34,980
$70,790
$56,950

Food Quality Assurance Manager

Salary: $35,330
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
0% 469,600 High School Diploma or Equivalent None

A food quality assurance manager or specialist evaluates food products throughout the production cycle and ensures that they meet all standards for safety and quality. With an average annual salary of $35,000, food quality specialists must rely on developed communication skills and should be extremely detail-oriented. Though there’s a reported zero percent growth rate, this is still a viable career path with opportunities available. Professionals who earn a nutrition degree online are potentially qualified for a higher salary.

Food Technologist

Salary: $60,690
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
5% 36,100 Bachelor's None

A food technologist focuses on ensuring the safety and quality of food. These professionals research new or existing product recipes, create fat-free or ready-to-eat items, and sample products. All of these duties are subject to strict regulations, requiring these professionals to be well-versed in the legislation that impacts the food industry. Food technologists who earn their nutrition degrees online can be employed in both private or public sectors. The average salary for a food technologist is $61,000 and job growth in this field is projected to increase by over 10% by 2022.

Personal Trainer

Salary: $34,980
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
8% 279,100 High School Diploma or Equivalent Certified Personal Trainer

Professionals in this field have a desire to help others commit to a healthier lifestyle, and must know how to motivate clients. Using tailored exercise programs and client evaluation, personal trainers prescribe effective exercise strategies based on a client’s current state and future health goals. These professionals typically maintain their own exercise and diet program to optimize health and fitness levels. Personal trainers who earn an online degree in nutrition can pull in average annual salary of $34,000.

Nutrition Professor

Salary: $70,790
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
13% 1,313,700 Masters Registered Dietitian

Nutrition professors typically work in teaching or research positions, meaning a master’s degree is required. Nutrition professors give lectures and conduct lab sessions in an undergraduate or graduate setting. Salaries in this field vary greatly based on the institution, but average around $39,000 for lecturers, $67,000 for associate professors, and up to $71,000 for professors. Researchers typically work at higher education-based medical centers or food science labs and can earn anywhere from $31,000 to $58,000 a year. A doctorate degree is further required to become a tenured professor, and can be earned with a nutrition degree online.

Clinical Dietitians

Salary: $56,950
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
16% 66,700 Bachelor's Registered Dietitians

Clinical dieticians typically work in hospitals or nursing homes and deal with patients directly to assess dietary needs and goals. Clinical dietitians also work closely with doctors, nursing staff, and other health professionals. Some specialties in this career track include focusing on overweight patients or the critically ill, while some professionals work in corporations where they assess the nutritional content of products. Though entering the clinical dietitian field typically requires a bachelor’s degree, those who pursue an advanced nutrition degree online have stronger credentials and can earn a higher salary.

Online Nutrition Degree in Action

Shawna Kunselman Nutrition

Shawna Kunselman is about to graduate with a Master’s in Applied Clinical Nutrition, where she has taken the entire two-year program through New York Chiropractic College online. It has been a great experience and a great program. She is a strident proponent of the online format: “Some people think there is not enough interaction through online courses, yet this is not true. Through discussion posts, email correspondence, conference calls, creating YouTube projects, and group projects, there has been a great deal of personal interaction and it has been a remarkable learning experience.”

Why did you pursue your degree in nutrition online?

I am married and a mother of 2 boys. I have a very busy Massage Therapy practice in the town in which I live and there is no university serving this type of degree close by. I could not pick up my whole life and move. The online program gave me the perfect opportunity to reach my goals as well as maintain my busy, structured life.

What were the biggest advantages of studying online?

Distance learning has so many benefits. The time is somewhat flexible to meet your schedule. Deadlines still have to be met, but you can attend the lecture learning at your convenience. It is very helpful for those with families or careers.

Were there any challenges or obstacles you encountered as an online student?

Deadlines still have to be met, studying still has to be done, tests are still taken. Pursuing any degree is challenging -- but well worth it!

How did the online format help prepare you for your career?

With a degree in nutrition, many times the practitioner will "see" a number of their patients through virtual methods such as Skype. Online learning format helps prepare an individual for this method of correspondence with their patients.

Online Nutrition Degrees

Associate

Earning an associate degree through an online nutrition program qualifies students for a variety of entry-level positions. It takes approximately two years with an average cost of $11,000 to complete an associate-level online nutrition degree. Depending on the position, professional certification or licensure through the Commission of Dietetic Registration (CDR) may be required.

Sample Courses
Understanding Nutrition, Nutritional Counseling, Weight Management, and Vegetarian Nutrition
Common Majors
Applied Nutrition, Nutrition and Dietetics, Nutrition Science, and Health and Wellness
Potential Jobs
Weight Loss Counselors, Food Technologists, and Nutritional Assistants
Average Income
$30,900
Employment Prospects
18% increase in the next 10 years

Bachelor’s

Bachelor's-level students who complete their nutrition degrees online can pursue more advanced careers in the nutrition, wellness, and healthcare fields. Students can complete an online degree in nutrition in around four years, and are required to pass an exam in order to become certified by the Commission of the American Dietetic Association.

Sample Courses
Nutrition Counseling, Human Metabolism, Human Nutrition Counseling, Food Safety and Microbiology, and Capstone In Nutrition
Common Majors
Human Nutrition, Dietetics Management, Nutrition Science, and Public Health
Potential Jobs
Nutritionists, Registered Dietitians, Community Nutritionists, Home Health Care Aid, and Nutrition Consultants
Average Income
$41,700
Employment Prospects
21% increase over the next decade

Master’s

A master's degree in a nutrition-related field opens the way for more responsibility, stronger credentials, and an increase in salary. Graduate students pursuing their nutrition degrees online are prepared to work in hospitals, nursing homes, and private practice. Completing an online degree in nutrition at the graduate level takes approximately two years on top of an undergraduate degree. Typically, students are required to pass an exam in order to become certified by the Commission of the American Dietetic Association.

Sample Courses
Community Nutrition, Environmental Health Practices, Nutritional Assessment, and Practicum In Nutrition
Common Majors
Food and Nutrition, Nutritional Science and Dietetics, and Human Nutrition
Potential Jobs
Research, Teaching, Obesity Prevention, Nutrition Science, and Pregnancy Health
Average Income
$49,800
Employment Prospects
16% increase by 2022

Doctorate

A doctorate degree (PhD) in nutrition covers laboratory and research skills based on leading scientific methods. Completing PhD-level online nutrition degrees can take anywhere from four to six years and costs between $20,000 and $40,000 depending on the institution and depth of program.

Sample Courses
Advanced Topics In Food Studies, Advanced Nutrition, Advocating For Community Health, and Doctoral Seminar and Dissertation
Common Majors
Public Health, Nutrition and Food Studies, Human Nutrition, and Nutritional Sciences
Potential Jobs
Researchers, Faculty Positions, and Administrative and Leadership Roles
Average Income
Varies based on position and field, typically starts at $49,800
Employment Prospects
16% increase by 2022

Professional Requirements

Registered Dietitian (RD) or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)

Registered dietitians (RDs) typically hold at least a bachelor’s degree accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). After completing an online nutrition degree, students must pass the Commission on Dietetic Registration Examination (CDR) in order to be credentialed as an RD. Most states require certification or licensure in the respective state where the RD will be practicing, and these professionals must maintain their credentials through continuing professional education (CPE) and by retaking the CDR every five years.

Is it required?

Yes

How long will it take?

Approximately four years

Nutrition and Dietetics Technician, Registered (NDTR) or Dietetic Technician, Registered (DTR)

Nutrition and dietetics technicians, registered (NDTRs) and dietetic technicians, registered (DTRs) work under the supervision of registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs). This position requires an associate degree in nutrition and 450 hours of supervised practice experience. After completing a nutrition degree online, technicians are required to pass the Registrations Examination for Dietetic Technicians, administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR), and must maintain credentials by completing 50 hours of continuing education every five years.

Is it required?

Yes

How long will it take?

Approximately two years

ISSA (Personal Trainer)

Those interested in becoming personal trainers must have a high school diploma or equivalent, and must complete a certification program accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). The International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) offers an online Personal Fitness Trainer Certification Examination that is nationally accredited by the Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). Prerequisites for certification include holding a current CPR/AED Certification with live skills check. Once certified, personal trainers can specialize in a variety of areas including group fitness instructor, health coach, or a medical exercise specialist.

Is it required?

Certification is preferred, possibly required by some facilities

How long will it take?

Average of 10 weeks