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Nutrition programs give students a thorough understanding of the relationship between nutrients and human health. Graduates work in hospitals, nursing homes, government agencies, or open independent practices where they can use nutrition to assist people with their short—and long-term health goals. Typical careers for nutrition students include nutritionists, dieticians, food scientists, and health educators.

In 2023, nutritionists earned a median annual salary of $69,680. However, wages vary depending on location, industry, and position. Those who work in nursing facilities have a median yearly salary of $65,690, while those employed in outpatient care centers have a median annual salary of $77,740. The United States now needs more nutritionists than ever, as nearly one in three Americans are overweight — employment in the field is expected to increase by 7% by 2032.

Most undergraduate nutrition programs require four years of full-time study, with the completion of 120 to 155 credits required for graduation. The average annual tuition and fees for a bachelor’s degree in nutrition is $16,618. Total costs will vary depending on the institution and student living requirements. Those who require room and board pay an average of $12,415 more annually.

How to Choose a Nutrition Program

Choose your area of study

There are four degree types available for students pursuing a career in nutrition: associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate. These degrees vary in their curriculum, length, and career outlooks.

An associate degree in nutrition teaches students the foundations of nutritional science and prepares them for entry-level jobs, such as nutrition technicians and dietary aids. Most associate programs require 60 credits and two years of full-time study.

A bachelor’s degree in nutrition typically requires four years of full-time study. It combines core and elective coursework to give students a thorough understanding of nutritional science. This degree prepares students to become nutritionists, dieticians, and food scientists.

Students who pursue advanced careers in the field can obtain a Master of Science or Master of Public Health in nutrition. Master’s programs often take two years of full-time study to complete and expand on the foundational knowledge of a bachelor’s degree to develop expertise in a specific area of the field.

Those who wish to continue their studies can pursue a Doctor of Philosophy in nutritional science or a Doctor of Clinical Nutrition, among other Ph.D. programs. These research-heavy programs require four to six years of full-time study and prepare students for academic positions, leadership roles in public health, and senior positions in research institutions.

Many nutrition programs offer specializations that align with a student’s career goals and interests, such as clinical nutrition, food science, dietetics, pediatric nutrition, and global nutrition.

Research schools and programs

When researching schools and programs, look for those that are institutionally and programmatically accredited.

Schools receive institutional accreditation on a regional and national level to certify that they meet quality standards set by the Department of Education. Institutional accrediting bodies include the Higher Learning Commission, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, and the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

Nutrition programs can receive programmatic accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics. Programmatic accreditation ensures that the program provides a high-quality learning experience and adequately prepares students for their careers.

To learn more about the culture, available programs, and campus life of prospective schools, consider furthering your research by:

  • Visiting them in person
  • Attending open houses
  • Browsing their website
  • Following them on social media
  • Speaking with an admissions counselor

Prepare for tests and applications

Review the admissions page of prospective programs to determine the application deadline, fees, and requirements. The required materials will vary by school, but most will ask you to submit the following:

  • A personal statement or essay
  • Official transcripts
  • SAT or ACT scores
  • Letter(s) of recommendation

Speak with an admissions advisor before submitting your application to ensure you include the correct materials and meet the requirements.

Select your program

When selecting a nutrition degree, evaluate your options based on your career goals and logistical needs. Consider the following when making your choice:

  • Learning options
  • Cost
  • Program length
  • Housing availability
  • Specialization options

For guidance in narrowing your options, speak with an academic advisor or program representative. They’ll review the programs and help you find the best choice for your needs.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Create a budget outlining your academic and living expenses to determine whether you can pay for the program on your own or require financial aid. Include tuition, fees, supplies, housing, transportation, and extracurriculars in your calculation.

Visit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) website and apply to learn the amount of financial assistance you’re eligible for, including grants, scholarships, work-study funds, and loans. If you’re currently employed in the nutrition field, you can also ask your employer if they offer employee tuition assistance benefits.

Best 50 Accredited Nutrition Degree Programs

Best Nutrition Degree Programs_2024 badge

Purdue University

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

University of Minnesota Twin Cities

University of Washington

The University of Texas at Austin

Ohio State University

University of Missouri

Wayne State University

University of Pittsburgh

California State University, Los Angeles

Rowan University

University of Illinois at Chicago

Utah State University

Indiana State University

Texas Christian University

University of Vermont

Washington State University

Buffalo State University

University of Mississippi

Colorado State University

The University of Texas at San Antonio

University of Montevallo

University at Buffalo

Youngstown State University

Utica University

The University of Akron

University of Massachusetts Lowell

University of Idaho

University of Kentucky

Grand Valley State University

University of Cincinnati

Delaware State University

La Salle University

Discover More Options

How we rank schools

This list focuses on programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels in nutrition, dietetics, and food science. We looked at programs held on campus, online, or in a hybrid of the two formats.

All our chosen schools are accredited by the appropriate organization for that region. This includes agencies such as the Higher Learning Commission and the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Many of the options featured in this guide also have programmatic accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics.

We evaluated each program based on flexibility, faculty, course strength, cost, and reputation. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score for each program on a scale from 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out our ranking methodology.

What Can You Expect From a Nutrition Program?

Nutrition programs teach students how to improve people’s health through nutritional science. Programs often begin with foundational coursework focusing on nutrition, biology, chemistry, and anatomy, then incorporate electives tailored to a student’s chosen specialization. The curriculum will cover a wide range of topics, including human physiology, food science, public health, and global nutrition.

Students will use various learning methods, including lectures, labs, case studies, research projects, and exams, for a well-rounded and immersive curriculum. Many programs also include an internship or research capstone that allows students to demonstrate the skills and knowledge they have learned throughout the program.

Potential courses you’ll take in a nutrition program

  • Biology of Cells and Organisms. Students will study molecular, cellular, and organismal biology, focusing on cell structure and function, metabolism, molecular genetics, diversity, and anatomy.
  • Kinesiology. This course gives an overview of kinesiology and examines the fundamental concepts of human movement, how they intersect with nutrition, and how both concepts impact general health and well-being.
  • Culture and Food. Students examine the food habits of different cultures, learn to recognize and evaluate food systems, and review how food is synonymous with different cultures.
  • Clinical Nutrition II. This course examines the principles of nutrition, pathology, education, psychology, and biochemistry and how they relate to the management of diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS.

Nutrition Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to a nutrition program?

To apply for a nutrition degree, visit the program website and review the application process and required materials. Most instructions will require you to submit your high school transcripts, test scores, a personal essay, and letters of recommendation. Contact an admissions advisor before submitting your application to ensure you gather the correct materials and understand the admissions process.

How much does a nutrition degree cost?

The average annual cost for a bachelor’s degree in nutrition is $16,618, but it will vary by school and program. Those enrolled in part-time or online programs may see lower expenses due to reduced overhead costs or fewer courses taken per semester. Students should also consider additional expenses, including housing, supplies, and transportation, that may increase their yearly costs.

How long does it take to earn a nutrition degree?

Most undergraduate nutrition degrees require four years of full-time study, consisting of 120 to 155 credits. Those who need a more flexible schedule can opt for part-time or asynchronous programs that allow students to complete the degree at their own pace. Accelerated programs are also available for those who wish to complete the program in less time.

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