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Online Colleges for Nutrition

You don't have to be a foodie to appreciate the power of a good meal. From everyday events to holiday celebrations, food is an integral part of our lives. However, in recent decades, food has undergone a transformation, with the most easily obtainable meals becoming ever more refined and processed. This change has heralded a radical shift in our overall health. Obesity plagues our communities while chronic, preventable diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes are on the rise. Nutrition professionals are on the front lines in this fight against poor health. Some work directly with individuals while others may be responsible for creating meal plans and food service programs at health care facilities and schools. Online nutrition programs offer an education that can lead to a range of career options in this critically important field.

Best Online Colleges for Nutrition

Students who wish to find jobs in nutrition and human health typically pursue degrees in nutrition since most states require licensure to work in the field. Our list of the best online colleges for nutrition degrees was compiled using data provided by the National Center on Education Statistics. The list uses many important data points, such as total cost of in-state tuition, graduation and admissions rates, to generate a snapshot of the five best online colleges for nutrition degrees. You can read more about the methodology used to create this list at the bottom of this article.

1

Barton Community College

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$3,200
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
39.19%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
33
School Type
2-year

Barton Community College in Central Kansas serves residents of Rice, Rush, Stafford, Pawnee Ellsworth and Barton counties, but 40 percent of the college's 17,000 students are enrolled in online classes. BCC is a natural leader for our list because it ranked No.1 for both favorable cost of tuition and the percentage of nutrition degrees it awarded to students in 2015, out of 12 analyzed schools. That the school has an open admissions policy is icing on the cake.

The college offers several options in nutritional studies, including an Associate in Science degree with an emphasis in dietary management. This program is primarily designed for students interested in obtaining the Certified Dietary Manager or Certified Food Protection Professional certifications, with the eventual goal of transferring to a four-year university to complete a bachelor's degree and earn the Registered Dietician certification. BCC partners with Kansas State University to make transfer easier. Students interested in studying in the field of nutrition also can earn A.A. degrees in science with an emphasis in pre-dietetics or nutrition and health at Barton Community College. Each degree path requires 64 total credit hours to complete.

Accreditation:

  • Higher Learning Commission

Location:

245 NE 30th Road
Great Bend, KS 67530
2

Gaston College

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$2,562
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
52.33%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
3
School Type
2-year

Gaston College celebrated its 50th year of serving students in Gaston and Lincoln counties in 2014. The college has campus locations in Dallas, Lincolnton and Belmont. Although Gaston College offers a fully online A.A.S. degree for students who wish to become dietetic technicians, students who study online must complete the supervised practice part of the program under licensed supervision from a properly credentialed agency. The dietetic technician program at Gaston College requires 70 total credit hours to complete. Students can complete the program in two years by following a suggested course outline provided by the college. Students are expected to take 18 credit hours the first two semesters, and seven credit hours in summer school. The workload lightens a bit in the second year of the program to 15 credit hours in the fall and 12 in the spring.

Gaston College lands in the No. 2 spot in our list due to having affordable tuition -- it ranked second of 12 institutions -- an open admissions policy, and the most online Nutrition programs of the five schools on this list, tied only with Barton County.

Accreditation:

  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Commission on Dietetic Registration

Location:

201 Hwy. 321
South Dallas, NC 28034
3

University of Northern Colorado

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$8,166
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
25.04%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
11
School Type
4-year

The first university in our list to offer a B.A. degree in nutrition, the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley had a student enrollment of just under 12,000 in fall of 2015. Almost 7,750 students were residents of Colorado. UNC features on our list thanks to coming in second for graduation rate and third for percentage of awarded Nutrition degrees.

UNC's online didactic program in dietetics is for students who wish to complete their B.A. degree requirements and graduate with a dietetics Bachelor of Science degree, or for students who seek a second bachelor's degree. The B.S. degree requires 120 total credit hours to complete, and online programs begin each summer. Students applying to the program as transfer students must have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 and must have completed 60 credit hours of coursework. The online distance dietetic program requires 30 classes spread out over five semesters. Transfer students are required to complete a minimum of 30 credit hours at University of Northern Colorado.

Accreditation:

  • Higher Learning Commission
  • Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics

Location:

Carter Hall Room 4000
Greeley, CO 80639
4

Kaplan University-Lincoln Campus

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$15,352
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
N/A
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
53
School Type
4-year

Kaplan University serves more than 33,000 degree-seeking students each year, and 95 percent are enrolled in online programs. Kaplan University offers multiple start dates each year (typically in May, June and July) for students seeking a Bachelor of Science in nutrition science degree. The degree path requires 180 total credits for completion, including 33 credits in core curriculum and 60 credits in the program major. Students also must complete 87 credit hours in open electives.

Kaplan University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, but the college notes that its Bachelor of Science in nutrition science program is not accredited through the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics. This means that students who complete the program through Kaplan are not qualified to sit for the Registered Dietitian examination. Students are encouraged to check with their home state for licensing requirements to work as a dietician prior to enrolling in the program at Kaplan University.

Accreditation:

  • Higher Learning Commission

Location:

1821 K St.
Lincoln, NE 68508
5

University of Alabama

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$10,170
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
26.03%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
30
School Type
4-year

Rounding out our top 5 list is the University of Alabama, which delivers online education through its Bama By Distance portal. Students who complete the university's B.S. degree in human environmental sciences, food and nutrition degree along with a dietetic internship are eligible to work as registered dieticians upon passing the RD examination administered through the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics. Students must hold a minimum 3.0 GPA throughout the program to be eligible to earn the RD credential. The online program at UA requires 120 total credit hours to complete, including 56 hours in the program major and 20 hours of science courses. The remaining 44 credit hours fall under UA core requirement classes. UA steals our fifth position in no small part thanks to having the No.1 ranked graduation rate of all the schools in our methodology for online bachelor's degree programs in nutrition.

Accreditation:

  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics

Location:

739 University Blvd.
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0166

Degree Overview: Nutrition

Are fats good or bad? Should we eat carbs or not? Our imperfect knowledge of this subject is always changing, and nutrition professionals must stay current to understand how foods work in the body and how best to feed it. This kind of education is the entire purpose of online programs for nutrition. Here's an overview of what students might be able to expect from these programs.

Online Nutrition Courses

Colleges offering online nutrition degree programs can provide them at the undergraduate and/or graduate level. Associate degrees in nutrition often provide practical foundations, emphasizing the basics of nutrition such as vitamins and minerals, eating disorders and weight management, nutritional counseling, sports nutrition, pregnancy and pediatric nutrition and even herbal or holistic science.

Online bachelor's degrees in nutrition or dietetics gives a broader overview of the sciences involved in nutrition and how to apply those toward interventions and counseling. The Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that dietitians or nutritionists generally need bachelor's degrees, and the reason for this recommendation is the combination of theoretical and practical coursework these programs typically offer, both halves of which are important for a nutritionist career. Coursework in these programs may include topics such as:

  • Food science
  • Lifecycle nutrition
  • Experimental nutrition
  • Organic chemistry
  • Physiology
  • Community nutrition
  • Nutrition education

The information taught in online education for nutrition is often sufficient to prepare students to sit the Registered Dietitian (RD) exam. This is important, as many states require licensure in order to practice.

At the graduate level, programs tend to be designed for registered dietitians. These programs may feature a heavy emphasis on research skills, and may also enable students to specialize in specific career areas -- for example, community nutrition or clinical nutrition. Coursework may include methods for nutritional counseling, nutrition communication, nutrition assessment and intervention or research methods.

Career-Related Skills to Develop

On paper, aspiring nutritionists or dietitians need only to earn their degrees and licensure to begin practicing. However, in practice, they will also want to dedicate some time to honing certain skills that are essential to performing this work professionally, such as:

  • Interpersonal skills: Interpersonal skills are essential for success in connecting with clients and helping people to be healthier. Nutritionists may have trouble succeeding if they are not able to listen and build trust with their clients. These professionals must come to understand the nutritional goals and challenges of their clients, and they will need to tailor their approach to each client's personality and needs.
  • Communication and public speaking: Nutrition is a science, and its language can be hard for the layperson to understand. Future nutritionists should strive to explain complicated health information in ways that clients can understand. Plus, they should learn to be comfortable with public speaking, as much of their work involves one-on-one counseling and presenting educational material to groups.
  • Research: So much about nutrition involves following the latest research and then translating nutritional data in order to give advice about diet that the average person can follow. These professionals must be motivated enough to pursue research from all over the globe and follow it to its completion, keeping themselves informed about new developments in the field.
  • Analytical skills: Nutrition is not a one-size-fits-all science. Every person's body responds differently to different foods and diets. Nutritionists must learn to evaluate patients' needs and lifestyles in order to develop food recommendations or manage health conditions.

Nutrition Career Outlook

Those seeking a degree in nutrition or a closely related field will be pleased to learn there are many job options out there, including some that they might never have considered. Here's a sampling of those options, including the duties, tasks and responsibilities a graduate might expect to encounter in the course of day-to-day work.

Dietitians
Average Salary Average salary refers to the 2016 mean salary for all U.S. workers in this job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
$59,670
Projected Job Openings Projected job openings refers to the estimated number of job openings from 2014-2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
16,000
Projected Job Growth Projected job growth refers to the estimated rate of increase in the number of jobs in this profession from 2014-2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
16.4
Entry-level Education This refers to the typical entry-level education needed to obtain a position in a particular job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016
Bachelor's degree

You may be wondering: just what is the difference between a nutritionist and a dietitian? In fact, a dietitian is a nutritionist -- one who has become registered with Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR). Becoming registered requires earning a bachelor's degree at minimum, then completing an internship and passing a national exam.

Dietitians use food to promote a healthy lifestyle and manage disease. They spend a great deal of time with clients: analyzing their nutritional intake and needs, creating meal plans, offering counseling and evaluating nutritional outcomes. These professionals might choose to work with individual clients, or they might opt for work in the public health arena -- teaching nutrition in schools, community centers, hospitals and the like. Some even choose to work as management dietitians, planning out menus for schools, hospitals, prisons, assisted living facilities and more.

Animal Nutritionists
Average Salary Average salary refers to the 2016 mean salary for all U.S. workers in this job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
$72,890
Projected Job Openings Projected job openings refers to the estimated number of job openings from 2014-2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
1,200
Projected Job Growth Projected job growth refers to the estimated rate of increase in the number of jobs in this profession from 2014-2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
7.3
Entry-level Education This refers to the typical entry-level education needed to obtain a position in a particular job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016
Bachelor's degree

A unique position for those with a nutrition degree, animal nutritionist careers are just what they sound like: planning out and providing ample nutrition for animals of all kinds. They might choose to work with agricultural farm animals, exotic species kept in zoos, or companion animals. They work closely with farmers, veterinarians, zoologists and animal scientists to formulate the best nutritional options for a variety of creatures. Their work might mean they deal with individual animals, or they might choose to ply their expertise in laboratories, research facilities and the like to mass-produce balanced, nutritious food for certain animal groups.

Health Educators
Average Salary Average salary refers to the 2016 mean salary for all U.S. workers in this job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
$57,900
Projected Job Openings Projected job openings refers to the estimated number of job openings from 2014-2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
19,500
Projected Job Growth Projected job growth refers to the estimated rate of increase in the number of jobs in this profession from 2014-2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
12.2
Entry-level Education This refers to the typical entry-level education needed to obtain a position in a particular job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016
Bachelor's degree

Health educator careers focus on promoting the key components of a healthy lifestyle, including nutrition. They work with individuals and communities to plan out and implement strategies that enhance and improve nutrition, as well as overall wellness. These professionals might create educational materials, talk to the community about nutrition and health, teach individuals how to manage existing health conditions, provide training for others and/or evaluate how well certain community initiatives are working. They can also serve as strong advocates for those who need better nutrition but are in a position that makes it difficult to find it, such as those who live in food deserts or those dealing with a humanitarian crisis.

Sources and Methodologies
Methodology

To be included in these rankings, all colleges had to meet the following criteria for the specific subject being ranked:

  1. Offer an undergraduate degree (either associate or bachelor's) in that subject online
  2. Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in 2014-15

Once we had our list of schools for each subject, we ranked them on five criteria:

  1. In-state tuition, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
  2. Graduation rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014
  3. Accessibility, based on the admissions rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014
  4. Program prominence, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded in 2014-15 were in this particular subject, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
  5. Related subjects, based on the number of similar topics for programs in relevant CIP codes that are offered at any level, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015

Sources:

  1. About Barton, Barton Community College, http://www.bartonccc.edu/aboutbarton
  2. Career Programs & Training: Dietary Manager, Barton Community College, http://www.bartonccc.edu/careerprograms/dietary
  3. Dietetic Technician, A.A.S., Gaston College, http://catalog.gaston.edu/preview_program.php?catoid=15&poid=2129&returnto=527
  4. About UNC, University of Northern Colorado, http://www.unco.edu/about/facts-figures/index.aspx
  5. Dietetics: Bachelor of Science or Didactic Program in Dietetics, University of Northern Colorado, http://extended.unco.edu/programs/dietetics/bachelors-didactic/index.asp
  6. Nutrition Science Bachelor's Degree Program, Kaplan University, http://www.kaplanuniversity.edu/health-sciences/nutrition-science-bachelor-degree.aspx
  7. Kaplan University Facts, Kaplan University, http://www.kaplanuniversity.edu/about/annual-report.aspx
  8. Nutrition Science Bachelor's Degree Program, Kaplan University, http://www.kaplanuniversity.edu/health-sciences/nutrition-science-bachelor-degree.aspx
  9. Associate of Science in Applied Nutrition, Huntington College of Health Sciences, Nutrition Programs and Degrees, accessed Sept. 27, 2017, https://www.hchs.edu/course/associate-science-applied-nutrition
  10. Career: Dietitians and Nutritionists, College Board, Big Future, accessed Sept. 27, 2017, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/careers/health-diagnosis-treatment-dietitians-nutritionists
  11. Career Programs & Training ? Dietary Manager, Barton Community College, accessed Sept. 27, 2017, https://bartonccc.edu/careerprograms/dietary
  12. Dietitians and Nutritionists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2016-17 Edition, 2017, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dietitians-and-nutritionists.htm
  13. Dietetics: Bachelor of Science or DPD-Only (Didactic Program in Dietetics), University of Northern Colorado, Extended Campus, accessed Sept. 27, 2017, http://extended.unco.edu/programs/dietetics/bachelors-didactic/index.asp
  14. Dietetics: MS (With or Without Dietetic Internship), University of Northern Colorado, Extended Campus, accessed Sept. 27, 2017, http://extended.unco.edu/programs/dietetics/masters-internship/index.asp
  15. Major: Nutrition Sciences, College Board, Big Future, accessed Sept. 27, 2017, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/multi-interdisciplinary-studies-nutrition-sciences
  16. Overview - BS in Food and Nutrition, The University of Alabama, Bama by Distance, accessed Sept. 27, 2017, http://bamabydistance.ua.edu/degrees/bs-in-hes-food-and-nutrition-online/index.php
  17. Overview - MS in Human Nutrition, The University of Alabama, Bama by Distance, accessed Sept. 27, 2017, http://bamabydistance.ua.edu/degrees/ms-in-hes-with-a-specialization-in-nutrition-blended/index.php
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Sources and Methodologies