Nutrition Graduate Programs: Prerequisites and Requirements

Get detailed information about graduate programs in nutrition. Find out what certificates or degrees can be earned, what prerequisites must be satisfied and what courses will be taken in each program. Learn about common career choices in this field as well as continuing education options and employment and salary statistics.

Essential Information

Students interested in nutrition who have completed a bachelor's program can pursue a Master of Science in Nutrition or a Ph.D. in Nutrition. Applicants to these programs who don't have an undergraduate background related to nutrition may need to complete prerequisite courses in nutrition principles, anatomy and chemistry. Master's programs may prepare students for licensure as dietitians or nutritionists, while doctoral programs can lead to careers in university-level instruction or policy development.

Graduate certificate programs in nutritional science are considerably shorter in length than master's or doctoral degree programs. They may focus on nutrients, supplements, food industry regulations and diet instruction, and some classes may be offered online. Admission requirements for graduate certificate programs are similar to those of graduate degree programs.

Graduate Certificate in Nutritional Science

Graduate certificate programs in nutritional science typically require completion of 4-6 classes covering advanced practical and theoretical approaches to nutrition. Many graduate certificate programs in nutrition are available online. Students gain research skills and learn to develop effective health programs.

Educational Prerequisites

Applicants to a graduate certificate program in nutritional science must have a 4-year degree from an accredited college, preferably in health, nutrition, science or a related field. Prerequisite coursework covers nutritional foundations.

Program Coursework

Graduate students must typically maintain a 3.0 GPA for successful completion of a nutrition science certificate program. Topics of study include:

  • Nutrients
  • Fats
  • Supplements
  • Food regulations
  • Trends in nutritional science

Popular Career Options

Professionals already working in nutrition or weight management may earn a graduate certificate in nutrition science as part of a professional continuing education program. The graduate certificate program typically assists:

  • Personal trainers
  • Sports medicine athletic trainers
  • Nutrition therapists
  • Dietitians
  • Nurse practitioners

Graduate Certificate in Nutrition Education

Nutrition education graduate certificate students generally complete six classes. Programs are often geared toward current health educators seeking advanced training, as well as nutrition program developers.

Educational Prerequisites

Nutrition education certificate candidates must have a relevant undergraduate degree, preferably with a 3.0 GPA or higher. Applicants are generally required to submit recommendation letters, a personal statement and a resume.

Program Coursework

To earn the nutrition education graduate certificate, students must usually maintain a minimum GPA of 2.0 in classes that include:

  • Nutrition for athletes
  • Nutritional issues affecting public schools
  • Diet and nutrition instruction
  • Nutritional programs for communities
  • Regulations in health care

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Employment of health educators was predicted to rise 37% beginning in 2010 and continuing through 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, In 2012, health educators averaged a salary of $53,100 annually, the BLS reported.

Master's Degree in Nutrition

Nutrition master's degree programs usually take two years to complete. In addition to readying students for work as nutritionists, master's degree programs also prepare individuals for work in public health administration or education. Graduate students may specialize in nutrition for particular life stages, such as pregnancy or infancy.

Educational Prerequisites

Master's degree-seeking students need a bachelor's degree, preferably with a 3.0 GPA or higher. Reference letters are usually required. Students must also have taken courses in anatomy, chemistry, biology and nutrition.

Program Coursework

Master's degree students complete a thesis project. Students also take lectures in:

  • Human nutrition and disease
  • Nutrition and metabolism
  • Nutrition and exercise
  • Vegetarianism
  • Preventative nutrition
  • Eating disorders

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Graduates of a nutrition master's degree program may find work in food or pharmaceutical laboratories, schools or medical facilities. In 2012, nutritionists and dietitians earned a mean yearly wage of $56,170, noted the BLS. The BLS also projected a 20% increase in the number of nutritionists and dietitians between 2010-2020, faster growth than average for all occupations.

Professional Certification and Continuing Education Information

Nutrition master's degree program graduates interested in becoming dietitians or nutritionists may need to obtain state licensure. Voluntary certifications, such as the Registered Dietician credential, are available through nutritional organizations, including the American Dietetic Organization and the Commission on Dietetic Regulations. To qualify, applicants must have completed an approved educational program, participated in a professional work experience and pass an exam.

Ph.D. in Nutrition

Doctoral nutrition programs are largely research-based. Students learn how nutrients, drugs, toxins and other environmental factors affect human health. Doctoral nutrition programs typically consist of traditional coursework, research problems, group discussions, seminars and teaching assistantships.

Educational Prerequisites

A minimum of a bachelor's degree is required for acceptance into a doctoral-level nutrition program. Students who do not have a related master's degree must complete prerequisite coursework before beginning the doctoral program. Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores must be submitted.

Program Coursework

Nutrition doctoral students conduct original research and complete a dissertation. However, before they can prepare for their graduate dissertation, they must prove competency in the discipline of nutrition through a verbal and written assessment. Graduate students also take required courses in:

  • Food safety
  • Metabolism
  • Food toxicology
  • Nutritional evaluations
  • Biostatistics

Popular Career Options

Graduates of a doctoral degree program in nutrition may work for government agencies, private institutions and non-profit organizations. Specific job titles include:

  • Food science researcher
  • Nutrition professor
  • Nutrition consultant
  • Food and dietary policy developer
  • Scholarly writer

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