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MPH Vs. MS in Nutrition

Jan 23, 2018

Aspiring nutritionists and other professionals seeking graduate degrees can advance their careers by earning an MS or MPH. These degree programs prepare graduates for specialized work in areas such as clinical nutrition or population-based nutrition intervention.

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If you are thinking about advancing your career as a nutritionist or making a career change, a Master of Science in Nutrition or a Master of Public Health in Nutrition may be the pathway to reaching your goals. Many colleges and universities throughout the U.S. offer these degree programs on campus and online.

Master of Public Health in Nutrition vs. Master Science in Nutrition

Master of Public Health in Nutrition

A Master of Public Health (MPH) in Nutrition program prepares students for careers in public health and is also the degree of choice for some registered dietitians (RDs) with a bachelor's degree, as well as professionals with a Master of Science (MS), Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees. Typical courses taken in the MPH program include:

  • Introductory Biostatistics
  • Principles of Epidemiology
  • Design of Health Studies
  • Public Health Nutrition
  • Social & Behavioral Approaches to Public Health

Some schools offer RD/MPH programs that prepare candidates with undergraduate nutrition degrees to meet the requirements to take the licensing exam for registered dietitians. Registered dietitians and others who earn the MPH degree will be prepared to work in public health clinics, government organizations, schools and similar settings. RDs interested in careers in public health administration or policy making find that the MPH in nutrition prepares them for those roles. The work of public health nutritionists and others who earn the degree is often population-based. Rather than providing individual counseling or treatments that might be offered in a clinical setting, a nutritionist with an MPH might design interventions to be used with groups who are at risk for chronic conditions associated with unhealthy eating. For example, the MPH graduate might develop interventions to help people at risk for type 2 diabetes reduce the likelihood of developing the disease.

Master of Science in Nutrition

The Master of Science in Nutrition program focuses on the clinical aspects of nutrition and is designed for registered dietitians who seek advanced knowledge or individuals with undergraduate degrees in nutrition who plan to earn the registered dietitian credential. A registered dietitian with an MS degree might offer dietary guidance in clinical settings such as hospitals, long-term care facilities, physicians' offices or in private practice. The MS in nutrition prepares the candidate for research and to study for a PhD in nutrition. Some of the required courses in the MS program include:

  • Health Communication
  • Clinical Nutrition
  • Biostatistics
  • Nutritional Epidemiology
  • Vitamins and Minerals

An applicant without an undergraduate degree in nutrition who wants to become a registered dietitian would be required to enroll in a didactic program in dietetics while completing an MS in nutrition. A didactic program consists of core nutrition and science courses required to earn an undergraduate degree in nutrition. Some MS in nutrition programs also offer the option for candidates to participate in a dietetics internship, which is required for those seeking the RD credential. When the goal is to become a registered dietitian, the applicant should make sure the master's program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics.

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Master of Public Health in Nutrition and Master of Science in Nutrition Admission Requirements

Admission Requirements for Master of Public Health in Nutrition Programs

Admission to an MPH in nutrition program requires a bachelor's degree, but not necessarily in nutrition. If you plan to apply to an MPH in nutrition program that also has a registered dietitian option, having a bachelor's in nutrition will be an advantage. However, an MS, MD or PhD is acceptable for admission into an MPH program. If you apply for admission to an MPH program, you need a good GPA--3.0 or higher. You will need to submit transcripts of your undergraduate and graduate courses. If you have a bachelor's degree, MPH programs require you to take the GRE (Graduate Record Examination). However, if you already have a master's degree or higher, most likely you would not need to take the GRE. The program may require the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) if English is not your first language. Demonstrating cultural competency is also important if you plan to pursue the MPH because as a public health practitioner, you will work with individuals from diverse groups.

Admission Requirements for Master of Science in Nutrition Programs

If you plan to apply for admission to an MS in nutrition program, you must have a bachelor's degree. A bachelor's degree in nutrition is preferred. You will need to submit official transcripts of any undergraduate and graduate work. If you do not have a bachelor's degree in nutrition, you may be able to take the required nutrition and science courses before beginning courses in the MS in nutrition program. You should have at least a 3.0 grade point average and a better than average score on the GRE. If English is not your first language, you may be required to demonstrate English proficiency by taking the TOEFL. Since admission to MS in nutrition programs can be competitive, a resume outlining work experience and letters of recommendation will strengthen your application.

Before applying to a Master of Public Health or Master of Science in Nutrition program, think carefully about your career goals and review what each program has to offer. Look carefully at admission requirements, courses and opportunities that may be open to you once you complete the degree.

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