Online degree programs specifically in holistic nutrition are rare, although online master's degree programs in complementary and alternative medicine that offer holistic nutrition courses are available. These programs may be available entirely online or in a hybrid format. Online programs typically include a master's thesis or capstone course, and applicants need to hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. In addition to online courses, students may need to visit a proctored facility or the campus to complete examinations. It is important to note that some states have licensing or certification requirements for nutritionists or holistic practitioners, so check for state-specific regulations when choosing an educational program.
Master's Degree - Holistic Nutrition
Students looking for an online master's degree program in holistic nutrition that's been accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education may need to look for a program in a related field. Accredited online master's degree programs that cover holistic nutrition in the context of nutrition and alternative medicine are available. These programs confer master's degrees in human nutrition, complementary alternative medicine or holistic health studies. Programs are offered either entirely online or in a hybrid format that blends online courses with on-campus attendance. Some schools set a time limit for the completion of the program.
Information and Requirements
Online master's degree programs related to holistic nutrition can require anywhere from 31-37 credits. Some programs include a thesis or capstone project. Applicants usually need to complete an accredited bachelor's degree program. Some master's degree programs require undergraduate majors in nutrition, biology or biochemistry, physiology, anatomy or statistics.
A valid e-mail account and a computer equipped with multimedia capabilities, high-speed Internet access and an updated Web browser are standard requirements for participation in online programs. Online classes are typically delivered through a course management system, such as Blackboard. Assignments, reading, homework and examinations are generally accomplished online. Final examinations may require students to travel to the school's home campus or obtain the services of a proctor.
List of Common Courses
Some programs supplement classwork with special online presentations, interviews and articles. Classes could feature interactive online discussions between the instructor and the students. Sample classes include:
Advanced Holistic Nutrition
This course focuses on holistic nutritional therapy as a whole, and how good nutrition can prevent disease and increase a person's overall health. Students learn about the factors that affect nutrition, including an individual's stage of life and metabolism, and the absorption of micronutrients and macronutrients. Course topics explore the potential interactions between food and dietary supplements or drugs.
Biochemistry and Nutrition
This course addresses the biochemical composition of nutritional components, such as carbohydrates, fats or lipids, amino acids, proteins, hormones and vitamins, and how these elements interact. Students also study enzyme levels and human metabolism.
Nutrition and Human Development
The focus of this course discusses how nutrition can affect an individual throughout life. The nutritional requirements of infants, children, adolescents, adults and the elderly are studied in depth. Topics cover the special needs associated with pregnancy and lactation, as well as disorders resulting from nutritional deficiencies at different stages of life.
Eastern Perspectives on Nutrition
Students study Eastern theories regarding nutrition, particularly those based on traditional Chinese medicine. Lessons examine the ways in which Eastern methods can complement and support Western nutritional practices.
Graduates of an online master's degree program in holistic nutrition can become dietitians in schools or health care facilities, consultants in the food service industry, private nutritionist practitioners and nutritional counselors. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't track data specific to holistic nutritionists. However, the BLS projected that jobs for all dietitians and nutritionists would grow by 16% from 2014-2024, much faster than the average growth of all U.S. jobs (www.bls.gov). The BLS reported the average annual salary as of May 2015 for this group of workers was $58,410.
According to the BLS, most states in the U.S. require dieticians to be licensed, certified or registered. State certification could require education credits, examinations and internships that conform to allopathic or conventional nutrition and health models. Holistic practitioners may have to pursue a traditional educational path in order to qualify under state regulations.
One voluntary certification nutritionists can earn is the Registered Dietician (RD) credential offered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR), which is the credentialing arm of the American Dietetic Association (ADA). Requirements include completing a bachelor's degree program that's been approved by the ADA's Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education (CADE), passing an exam and completing a CADE-approved supervised internship program (www.eatright.org). The CDR and other organizations offer RDs additional certification in specialized areas of dietetics, such as nutrition support.
In addition, the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists (CBNS) offers a Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) credential to applicants who meet the board's requirements (www.cbns.org). Candidates of the certification must possess an advanced degree (either a master's or a doctorate) in nutrition or a related field from an institution accredited by the U.S. Department of Education, and they must pass an exam. An advanced degree from a school outside the United States could be considered. Documented, supervised experience as a nutritionist might also be required.
While it may not be possible to find an online master's degree program specifically in holistic nutrition, master's degree programs in complementary and alternative medicine often include courses that allow students to explore nutrition from a variety of perspectives, including modern science and Eastern medicine. When they graduate, students may seek licensure so they can practice as dieticians or nutritionists within their state.