Nutrition Degrees

Nutrition jobs are available for those with varying types of nutrition degrees. To obtain nutrition degrees you will need to attend a college or university for two to eight years or more depending on your long term work goals. There are four nutrition degrees most often earned by those seeking nutrition jobs – associates, bachelors, masters, and doctorate.

Nutrition degrees build on each other as you advance into higher education; therefore it is ideal to know your long term nutrition degree goal to ensure you have the necessary base of education to eventually achieve it.

The years of study listed are general estimates and may be more or less than what is needed to actually earn the degree. Factors such as being a full-time or part-time student, semester breaks, and the specific program offered by the college or university will determine the exact amount of time it will take.

Associate’s Degree

To become a Dietetic Technician, Registered you must earn a two year associate’s degree from an institution accredited by the American Dietetic Association (ADA) and complete 450 hours of supervised field work. You must then successfully pass the national exam conducted by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) to earn the DTR credentials.

Bachelor’s Degree

A bachelor’s degree can be earned in four years by full-time students. A bachelor’s degree in dietetics from a program accredited by the ADA is necessary to become a Registered Dietitian. In addition, you will need to complete a 6 to 12 month internship and pass a national exam conducted by the CDR.

A Nutritionist must also earn a bachelor’s degree and this may be from a dietetics program, but it might also be in a complementary program such as nutritional sciences, or a combined program such as nutrition, fitness and health promotion.

Master’s Degree

A master’s degree is a graduate degree which can often be earned through two years of coursework beyond a bachelor’s degree. In addition to the coursework students may have the option to choose a thesis or non-thesis program of study. Successfully completing a thesis master’s program involves conducting a research project which is presented to and approved by a thesis committee within your college department. Completing a thesis is necessary to remain competitive if you plan to seek a doctorate. Non-thesis programs often require you to conduct a research project at the end of your studies, but the requirements are not as rigorous as those for a thesis program. Passing an oral and/or written exam may also be required to earn the degree.

A nutrition master’s degree can be in dietetics, but it may also be in a field of study that complements the nutritional work you wish to do with your degree.

For example, food science, health promotion, health communication, journalism, public health, culinary arts and exercise physiology are popular choices.

Many dietitian students seek internships combined with master’s degrees offered by colleges and universities. This allows individuals to earn a master’s degree while completing the necessary supervised work that enables them to sit for the national exam to become a Registered Dietitian. Some states require a graduate degree for non-dietitians to be registered or certified for practice in the field of nutrition. In addition, some master’s degree programs are combined with doctorate programs.


A doctorate is the highest level of nutrition degree and is necessary to work in nutrition research and to be a professor at most colleges and universities.

Earning a Ph.D., a doctorate of philosophy, or an Ed.D., a doctorate of education, often takes three years beyond earning a master’s degree, but can take much longer for some students. In many cases those with a bachelor’s degree seek curriculums which combine the master’s and doctorate program. This is often the most time efficient way to earn a doctorate; however, it does force you to earn both degrees in the same field of study.

In addition to the coursework required for a doctorate you will also be required to complete a dissertation. With the help of your advisor you will select a dissertation committee. You will develop your own research program, propose and defend your ideas, conduct and present the research and write the dissertation with the goal of successfully publishing a research article in a peer-reviewed journal.  Passing an oral examination may also be necessary to earn a doctorate.

Much like the master’s degree, a doctorate can be in nutrition, but it may also be in a field of study that complements the nutritional work you wish to do with your degree. For example, food science, health promotion, health communication, public health, food policy, sociology, anthropology and exercise physiology are other options.

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