Since the 18th century, scientists have studied the relationship between nutrition and health. Some of the earliest research was done on sailors with scurvy until the link between Vitamin C and the disease was determined. Through the centuries, the study of diets, nutrition, and individual health has evolved into a precise science.
Today’s certified Clinical Nutritionists and Dietitians rely on scientific research to evaluate and assess a patient’s nutritional needs to prevent disease and to maintain health. The need for certified professionals in this field is projected to grow at 11% between 2018-2028 which is considered much faster than average (Bureau of Labor Statistics). The Bureau of Labor Statistics also places the salary for clinical nutritionists and dietitians to range between $38,460-$84,610, depending on geographic and employment areas. Jobs in this field can be found in government agencies, healthcare systems, long-term or assisted living care centers, as well as outpatient centers.
Most states require Nutritionists and Dieticians to be licensed or certified, in addition to holding a bachelor or masters degree in clinical nutrition, foods and nutrition, or related area. Colleges and universities offering degree programs in the field of nutrition, frequently will offer nutrition certification programs to prepare students and nutrition professionals to sit for certification exams. Certification is awarded by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) or the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists (CNS) and nutrition certification programs are available online.
Best Health Degrees have identified some of the best certification programs we found.
Our Method: Best Online Nutrition Certification Programs
To rank the best online nutrition certification programs, Best Health Degree editors focus exclusively on Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) known for mentorship, networking, and exceptional education. Programs are ranked according to cost, reputation, and outcomes, including data from IPEDS, College Scorecard, Niche, and U.S. News & World Report.
1. Colorado State University
Through its Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Colorado State University Online offers a graduate Nutrition Science certificate focusing on disease prevention and health promotion. This year-long certificate program is specifically created for bachelor prepared nutritionists, as well as other healthcare professionals.
The program’s objective is to enhance nutritional research skills and communication with clients and patients. An emphasis is placed on evidence-based dietary research and it’s application to a daily practice. CEU credits are available as well.
Established in 1870, Colorado State University has been innovative in its commitment to supporting online/distance education for over 50 years. The university prides itself on providing the same quality education for its online students as the students enrolled on campus. This dedication to quality is expressed by the 70 faculty and staff working with the Division of Continuing Education. CEU credits are available with this program
2. University of Texas San Antonio
Offered 100% online, UTSA offers a Graduate Certificate in Community Nutrition that requires 12 credit hours for completion. You’ll need an accredited Bachelor’s degree in Health Education, Health Promotion, Public Health, Psychology, Nutrition, or Dietetics.
The certificate provides a solid foundation in evidence-based practice, community nutrition advancement, and nutritional needs across the lifespan. Communication, promotion, and analyzation skills are highlighted to train students in addressing community nutritional needs and program development. The program includes studies in the connection between nutrition and disease, community resources, economic and social impact of nutritional programs, and influences of nutrition on various life stages.
UTSA developed this program in response to the growing nutritional needs of rural Texas communities and across the country. The graduate certificate is provided by the College of Kinesiology, Health, and Nutrition and requires students maintain a 3.0 GPA throughout the program.
3. Simmons University
The Certificate in Sports Nutrition (CSN) Simmons University appeals to students from a wide variety of disciplines. Professionals in athletic training, nutrition, physical therapy, sports medicine, biology, and other backgrounds will find this CSN beneficial. The certificate concentrates on studies in nutrition, wellness, sports psychology, assessment, as well as nutritional consultation. An undergraduate degree is required for admission with certain studies needed in anatomy, physiology, fundamentals of nutrition, and nutritional science classes.
Located in Boston, MA, Simmons University has a long history dating to 1899 devoted to expanding opportunities for women. Today, the university is coed and offers more than 60 majors and programs, both on campus on online. U.S. News and World Report rates Simmons University one of its “Best Value Schools.”
4. Appalachian State University
Appalachian State University has an online Graduate Certificate in Public Health Nutrition that requires 15 credit hours for completion. The certificate provides a comprehensive program curriculum which includes topics in nutrition and disease prevention, health promotion, physiology, as well as nutrition and food policy.
The part-time program takes approximately 12 months for completion and may require prerequisite coursework. Test scores aren’t required, but you do need a bachelor’s degree and submit an application requires academic transcripts, resume, and a personal statement.
Tuition costs at Appalachian State are competitive (NC residents pay $266 per credit hour). More than 98% of fulltime faculty hold terminal degrees in their field and the school offers a 16:1 student-faculty ratio. Appalachian State rightfully boasts of its national recognition by Forbes, The Princeton Review, MONEY, and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazines. Applachian State University is a member Association of Graduate Programs in Public Health Nutrition (AGPPHN)
5. University of Arizona
Long known as a leader in online education, Arizona University offers an online graduate certificate in Applied Nutrition (GCAN) which focuses on skills and studies in clinical nutrition. This program examines nutritional assessment and support, medical nutritional therapy, nutrigenomics, research methods, and more. Intended for continuing education for physicians, nurses, health/wellness coaches, etc.
Admission to this 14-credit hour certificate program requires a Bachelor of Science in Life Sciences degree (a Bachelor of Arts in Nutrition is also accepted) with a 3.0 GPA. The GRE is not required and there’s no residency requirement for tuition purposes.
6. University of Wisconsin Madison
The University of Wisconsin online Clinical Capstone in Clinical Nutrition program is designed to be completed within a year while you continue working. The 12-credit hours in this program can be applied toward a graduate degree. Topics covered include advanced clinical nutrition in pediatrics, critical care nutritional support, counseling, education, and nutritional research. CEU credits are available as you complete the courses.
Admission requires a baccalaureate degree (minimum 2.80 GPA) with completed didactic dietetics program or prerequisite courses. The University of Wisconsin, established in 1848, is a highly regarded school and recognized for its innovation, value, and national standing by U.S. News and World Report. UWM has offered nutritional studies since 1965.
7. KU Medical Center – University of Kansas
Kansas University Medical Center is well known for its quality online degrees and certificates and the Dietetics and Integrative Medicine Graduate Certificate is one of those programs. The certificate program is specifically designed for working professionals and concentrates on a multidisciplinary approach to the prevention and treatment of chronic disease and illness.
The four, 3-credit hour courses include topics in dietary issues, herbal supplements, integrative medicine, regulation of immune and inflammatory processes, nutrigenomics, and nutrigenetics.
Admission to the certificate program is not limited to dietitians, but is open to other healthcare professionals, as well. A Bachelor of Science in any field is required for admission (completion of a medical nutrition therapy course is needed, however), a 3.0 GPA, GRE scores, as well as a background check. The reasonable tuition costs are not subject to residency requirements.
8. University of Cincinnati
This is an online graduate certificate in Human Nutrition. The program is ideal for medical students, clinicians, and other health care professionals and concentrates on nutritional therapy and metabolism throughout the life cycle. This program requires 12- credit hours in Vitamins and Minerals, Macronutrients, Nutrition and Wellness, Study Design and Analysis, Nutrition in Health and Disease, IRB Submission Process, and Community-Based Participatory Research.
You’ll be required to have a baccalaureate degree with a 3.0 GPA, and prerequisites. These prerequisite courses include biochemistry, anatomy and physiology, general chemistry and lab, and introductory nutrition. The school has a rolling application and accepts applications for fall and spring semesters. Scholarships are available for this certificate through UC’s Department of Rehabilitation, Exercise, and Nutrition Sciences.
9. Bowling Green State University-eCampus
Bowling Green University’s eCampus offers an online Food and Nutrition Graduate Certificate (FNGC) program. This is a 15-credit hour certificate requiring graduate-level courses in food and nutrition. Students may take courses in Community Nutrition, Clinical Nutrition, Weight Management, Sports Nutrition, Special Topics: Environmental Nutrition, and others. Dietetics interns may classes in Community Nutrition, Clinical Nutrition, Dietetic Internship, etc. The program is not currently approved by any professional organization and doesn’t carry any licensure privileges.
Applicants need to hold baccalaureate degree with coursework in anatomy and physiology, biochemistry, and nutrition. Additionally, GRE scores are required, letters of recommendation, academic transcripts, as well as a resume. Bowling Green is ranked #1 in midwest universities for student satisfaction by the Wall Street Journal.
10. Tufts University
Tuft University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy believes in options. have six considerations for its online Graduate Certificates in Nutrition. Among the certificate choices are: Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems , Developing Healthy Communities, Nutrition Science for Health Professionals, Nutrition Science for Communications Professionals, Global Nutrition Programming, or Nutrition for Industry Professionals and Entrepreneurs.
All certificates are designed with the working professional in mind. Each certificate can be completed in 1-3 years and requires 3 courses to gain a Certificate of Graduate Studies from Tufts University. Some courses may require prerequisites. Working with the Program Director, you can even “Build Your Own Certificate,” by choosing courses to fit your needs. Depending on the course, you may need completes prerequisites to continue.
Online courses at Tufts are interactive and you’ll be expected to participate in virtual classroom discussions. This certificate program has been accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) and courses meet the same academic standards as on-campus programs.
What If I Already Have A Bachelor’s Degree?
Unless your undergraduate degree includes a nutritionist certification, or if you want to add a specific certification (i.e., dietetics, public health nutrition, etc.), you may want additional certification. The post baccalaureate, online nutrition certification programs typically are four courses which can be completed in a year or less, and provides a concentrated study.
While certification isn’t necessarily required for nutritionists (depending on their work), having certification can influence your salary.
Do I Need a Degree to Become a Nutritionist?
Yes and no.
It’s possible to work in nutrition without formal nutrition education. Nutrition is not a regulated word, meaning anyone can call themselves a nutritionist; but depending on what they do, it may not be legal. States have differing laws and may not require nutritionists to be licensed to practice. You may want to obtain specific certification and training to work in a specific area such as sport nutrition or community nutrition. It’s possible to gain knowledge of nutrition through employment or corporate training. For instance, companies that sell nutritional supplements or other health products may offer in-house training on the nutritional benefits of their product.
Yes, there are jobs you can find in dietetics and nutrition that don’t require a degree. Positions in areas such health coaches, consumer weight loss program coordinators (think Weight Watchers), chefs, food critics/writers, retail food industry, etc. Spas, fitness centers, alternative medicine or holistic health businesses, or nonprofit or for-profit organizations may employ people with a knowledge in nutrition.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Dietician?
Becoming a dietician will take four years of undergraduate study from the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). Dietetic programs will include general education courses in the humanities, English, social science, etc. as well as dietetics specific coursework. Students will also complete 1200 hours of supervised practiced. These requirements will allow students to sit for the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) exam.
Colleges and universities may offer degrees in nutrition science and dietetics for students who don’t have an undergraduate degree in the field. Usually, students will be required to have coursework in biology, chemistry, microbiology, or other science classes for admission to a nutrition science program. Other prerequisites may also be needed.
Community colleges offer Associate’s degrees in dietetics and nutrition. Dietetic programs should also hold ACEND accreditation, and will prepare students to be Dietetic Technicians. These programs will include coursework and a minimum of 450 hour internship under the supervision of a Registered Dietician. University dietetic programs will normally accept transfer credits from a community college and apply them to the hours required for a baccalaureate degree.
Community colleges may also offer Associate’s degrees in nutrition which will include general education courses, with an emphasis on science studies in microbiology, chemistry, etc.