Nutrition Science Degree Program Information

Individuals wishing to study nutrition science can pursue bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs in the field. Nutrition science is a broad discipline that leads to opportunities in various healthcare institutions.

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Essential Information

While studying food science and nutrition fundamentals, participants in nutrition science programs learn nutritional concepts applicable to many fields and career paths. Bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees are available in this major. Bachelor's programs are typically completed in four years and teach food science fundamentals. Master's degree programs examine the biochemistry of nutrition and biochemical reactions between nutrients and the body. These programs usually have thesis and non-thesis tracks available. Ph.D. programs are research and seminar-intensive and require doctoral dissertations.

Bachelor of Science in Nutrition Science

Students must have a high school diploma to be admitted into this program. Bachelor's programs in nutrition science draw on concepts from biology and chemistry to examine the role nutrients play in human metabolism and human health. Students learn to analyze and apply information from disparate sources when devising nutrition plans. Oral and written communication skills are developed and used to convey ideas about nutritional care.

Some programs may be organized into a track that prepares students for a medical industry career or a track leading to an academic or health research career. General education courses in psychology, sociology and the humanities are typically incorporated into the nutrition science bachelor's degree program. Additional course topics include:

  • Human physiology and development
  • Nutrition concepts
  • Food science fundamentals
  • Microbiology
  • Nutrition and public service

Master of Science in Applied Health Science

To be admitted into a 2-year master's program, students must have a bachelor's degree in a related field or previous coursework in related topics. A master's degree program for applied health science covers the same theory as nutrition science programs. Nutrition programs are based on a set of core courses addressing fundamental theories, models and behaviors.

Further examination of concepts introduced in bachelor's degree programs--biochemistry of nutrition, biochemical reactions between nutrients and the body, implications for human health--are explored through both classroom study and lab research. Students also have the opportunity to focus on specializations such as nutrition therapy, nutrition education and nutrition entrepreneurship. Some programs are offered online and on campus. Thesis and non-thesis tracks may be available. Master's degree nutrition courses often discuss:

  • Food chemistry
  • Medical nutrition
  • Nutrition therapy
  • Nutrition research
  • Sports nutrition

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Doctor of Philosophy in Nutrition Science

This 5-6-year program requires a master's degree in a related field to be admitted. An intensive focus on research is the defining characteristic of doctoral degree programs in nutrition science. Students complete advanced courses and attend seminars covering the current state of research in the field.

From there, students devote their time to a dissertation that extends nutrition science's theoretical and practical knowledge base. Some programs may offer an emphasis or specialty, such as food production or medical nutrition. Nutrition science doctoral degree programs are typically organized into core, elective and dissertation courses. Some topics may be covered in depth across two or three levels. Courses typically include the following:

  • Macronutrient metabolism
  • Micronutrient metabolism
  • Statistical analysis
  • Public health and policy
  • Nutrition and disease

Popular Career Options

A bachelor's degree is usually the base level of education needed to start a career related to dietetics and nutrition. Graduates can become:

  • Nutrition research assistants
  • Registered dietitians
  • Public health nutritionists

University health centers, research hospitals, food corporations and government agencies are entities that employ individuals with doctorates in nutrition science. Career possibilities at this level include:

  • Industrial consultant
  • College or university professor
  • University research director
  • Government researcher

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of nutritionists and dietitians will grow 16% during the years 2014-2024. Growth is expected to result from increased public awareness about the importance of proper nutrition and increased emphasis on preventive medicine. In May 2015, the BLS reported that dietitians and nutritionists earned a median annual salary of $57,910 (

Continuing Education Information

Most states require licensure or certification for dietitians and nutritionists. Degree-holders can also earn the Registered Dietitian credential offered by the American Dietetic Association if they complete an accredited program, participate in a supervised internship and pass the association's exam. Nutritionists who intend to become senior researchers or are interested in teaching at the postsecondary level can pursue a doctorate.

Bachelor's programs in nutrition science focus on science coursework to educate students in human metabolism and heath, while master's students learn about food chemistry, nutrition therapy and research, and medical nutrition in a classroom and lab setting. Doctoral students spend their time researching on advanced topics in nutrition and may specialize in a field.

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