Holistic Nutrition PhD Programs: Prerequisites and Curriculum

Holistic nutrition involves caring for the body through whole foods, supplements, exercise, and other means. Doctoral programs specifically in holistic nutrition are rare, but there are nutrition master's and Ph.D. degree programs in clinical nutrition.

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Essential Information

Some master's degree programs in nutrition include a holistic nutrition specialization or related elective coursework. Students learn how nutrition plays a part in holistic well-being and the human life cycle. A doctoral program in human or clinical nutrition is research-based and focuses mainly on dietetics, chemistry, and nutrition assessment. Students must prepare and defend dissertation research, which may focus on a holistic nutrition topic of their choice. Fields of study within these programs include nutrition, clinical nutrition and human nutrition. An undergraduate degree and a related master's degree are required for admission to a doctoral-level program. A thesis requirement might be included in a master's program.


Master of Science in Nutrition

Although Ph.D. programs in holistic nutrition are not available, there are some schools that offer lower-level degrees with a focus on holistic nutrition. Bastyr University's Master of Science in Nutrition focuses on the role nutrition plays in holistic health. Students take classes in the production of whole foods, the role of nutrition in the life cycle, and the global issues of nutrition. All master's degree students complete a thesis; many focus on a component of holistic nutrition.

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Doctor of Philosophy in Human or Clinical Nutrition

Students interested in learning about holistic nutrition at the doctoral degree level can earn a Ph.D. in human or clinical nutrition. Many programs are interdisciplinary and incorporate food studies, public health, biology, human ecology, and education into the curriculum. Students can research a topic in holistic nutrition for their dissertation. When choosing a school, prospective students may want to look for programs that have faculty members who specialize in holistic nutrition. Much of a doctoral degree program is researched based. However, students usually take several courses at the beginning of a program. Common graduate-level courses cover:

  • Minerals and vitamins
  • Nutrition assessment
  • Carbohydrates, protein and fats
  • Disease prevention through nutrition
  • Geriatric nutrition

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 59,740 nutritionists and dietitians working in the U.S. in 2015. This number is expected to grow by about 16% from 2014-2024, faster than the average for all occupations. However, most graduates of Ph.D. programs seek research and teaching positions at universities. The BLS reports that post-secondary teachers earned a median annual salary of $63,000 as of May 2014. The BLS predicted faster-than-average job growth of 13% from 2014-2024 for post-secondary instructors.

Those interested in holistic nutrition can also seek employment as alternative medicine practitioners. Salary and employment data for this profession is not widely available.

Continuing Education

Nutritionists and dietitians need to be licensed in 35 states and certified in 12, according to the BLS. Doctoral degree students who worked prior to enrolling in the program may already be certified or licensed.

Students interested in achieving a doctoral degree in holistic nutrition may want to consider enrolling in a Ph.D. program in human or clinical nutrition. These programs teach students about health, biology and food studies and give them the freedom to focus their studies specifically towards dietary health.

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