These top-rated bachelor’s in nutritional science degrees could be your launchpad for a career in one of the most rapidly growing and diverse jobs in healthcare.
To nutritionists and dietitians, “you are what you eat” is more than an adage. It’s a professional mantra: to be well, you must eat well.
Nutritional science uses scientific principles to understand the intersection between food and wellness. Out of this constantly evolving field, food trends like quinoa, coconut oil, and spaghetti squash explode into mainstream consciousness.
Research in nutritional science teaches us what to eat for weight loss and disease prevention. Through emerging food production technologies ranging from 3D printing food to growing vegan “meat” in a laboratory, nutritional science researchers pave the way for tomorrow’s full bellies and favorite recipes.
What is a Bachelor’s in Nutritional Science Degree?
In an undergraduate nutritional science program, you learn professional clinical skills and the science of how foods and nutrients impact health – essentially, all you need to know to get started in professional practice. Graduates are prepared to assess diets, advise patients on what to eat to achieve their health goals, and plan dietary programs.
Bachelor’s in nutritional science curricula include studies in chemistry and biology. Most core coursework revolves around food science and human nutrition. Courses such as Food and the Consumer and Issues in Human Nutrition impart knowledge of nutritional science. Classes like Nutrition and Health Assessment and Communicating Nutrition Messages focus on developing the skills to work as a nutritionist.
For some bachelor’s in nutritional science programs, you must meet a minimum GPA requirement. Students considering nutritional science should take biology, chemistry, and other physical and social science classes in high school and their first two years of college.
Careers for Nutritional Science majors
The most popular career paths for nutritional science majors are nutritionist and dietitian. Although both roles involve advising patients on what to eat, they are distinct. Dietitians practice medical nutrition in accordance with disease management guidelines. They face more rigorous education, training, and professional credentialing requirements than nutritionists, who take a more holistic approach to promoting wellness through diet.
Dietitians and nutritionists work in many different environments and job functions, from hospitals and nursing homes to private practices, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. Nutritional science can also prepare you to work in research, public health and policy roles, and the food industry.
You can go far in the field of nutritional science with just a bachelor’s degree, but those who choose to go to graduate school are in good company. Around 33 percent of nutritionists and dietitians pursue a post-baccalaureate certificate and 24 percent earn a master’s degree, O*NET reported.
Nutritional Science Salary Potential
Considering that the career requires only a bachelor’s degree, nutritionists and dietitians have plenty of earning potential. The median salary for these related occupations is $60,370 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which reports that the highest 10 percent of earners make upwards of $84,610.
PayScale reports a somewhat higher average salary for Registered Dietitians (RDs), at $51,868, than for nutritionists, at $44,689. The average starting salary is $48,201 for Registered Dietitians and $40,031 for nutritionists, according to PayScale. Bonuses, commissions, and profit sharing also factor into the total compensation package for these occupations.
The most qualified dietitians and nutritionists are usually the best compensated. One way to improve your earning potential is to attain the Board Certified Specialist credential from the Commission for Dietetic Registration in one of several specialties, including pediatric nutrition, oncology nutrition, renal nutrition, and sport dietetics.
What are the Best Nutritional Science Degrees?
We know that you have educational goals that you’re itching to pursue, but you may not know where to start. The editors of CollegeRank utilize a unique ranking methodology based on the following three aspects:
40% Potential Salary After Graduation: Average mid-career salary of school alumni
30% Institutional Accreditation: Regional and National Accreditation for the 2019-2020 school year
30% Overall Degree Affordability: Average cost of undergraduate and graduate tuition per schoolAt CollegeRank, we strive to do our best to guide you and your family toward a fruitful academic career. The pursuit of knowledge is a noble one, and we want to help you reach your goals. For questions, comments, badge downloads, or data corrections, please feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com.
The school that students and fans affectionately refer to as “U-Dub” hugs Puget Sound and is surrounded by urban Seattle. The University of Washington is one of the top academic destinations in the Pacific Northwest. U.S. News & World Report ranks it No. 22 on its Public Schools list and No. 62 among all universities. Washington’s athletics program is a big draw, with Huskies fans cheering for both women’s and men’s teams. The university has an undergraduate enrollment of more than 32,000.
Washington offers an undergraduate major in Food Systems, Nutrition, and Health that leads to a Bachelor of Arts degree. Students learn how the study of food touches areas such as economics, the environment, labor policies, and social justice. The degree requires 180 semester credit hours, including 30 hours of core classes such as U.S. Food Systems Policy and Food Systems: Harvest to Health, along with 20 hours of upper-division electives.
Washington considers this a minimum requirement major. Before applying, students must complete 45 credit hours with a minimum 2.0 GPA. Completed classes must include five hours of English composition and Nutrition 200 (Nutrition for Today). Washington will also consider a credit transfer of basic nutrition courses from other 4-year schools or community colleges.
The University of Texas at Austin is like the state: big. The university has the U.S.’ eighth-largest enrollment for a single campus, with more than 50,000 students, including about 40,000 undergraduates. Texas, well known for its Longhorn athletics program, ranks No. 14 on U.S. News & World Report’s Public Schools list. Alumni include former First Lady Laura Bush, actor Matthew McConaughey, and personal computer magnate Michael Dell.
Texas, through its College of Natural Sciences, offers a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition degree that has six options. One lays the groundwork for licensing as a Registered Dietitian. Other options are designed for students who plan to continue graduate studies in the field and those who want to apply the bachelor’s degree to entry-level positions in public health and nutrition. There’s also an “international” option that includes a semester studying abroad.
Students pursuing a bachelor’s in nutrition must earn a grade of C- or better in all math and science courses required for the degree, to maintain a minimum GPA of 2.0 in those courses. The degree calls for at least 36 semester credit hours of upper-division courses, at least 24 of which must be in nutrition.
Purdue University’s annual student-orientation program, called Boiler Gold Rush, is a big deal. The event, held right before the start of fall classes, features campus tours, a “meet the schools” picnic, and a sports pep rally. The West Lafayette, ID, university has an undergraduate enrollment of more than 32,500, and U.S. News & World Report ranked Purdue No. 18 on its Public Schools list.
Purdue’s College of Health and Sciences offers undergraduate degrees in nutritional science. There are four options for majors: Nutrition and Dietetics; Food and Nutrition in Business; Nutrition, Fitness, and Health; and Nutrition Science. The first major offers a pathway to becoming a credentialed dietitian or dietitian nutritionist. The Nutrition Science degree is designed for those who expect to go on to graduate studies in the field.
Classes in the major include Food Chemistry, Nutritional Assessment, and Public Health Nutrition. Out of the 120 semester credit hours needed for the bachelor’s degree, about 38 are nutrition-related and another 65 to 74 are specific to the major, such as chemistry, biology, and fitness.
California State University, Los Angeles has a special relationship with the space program. The NASA University Research Center is unique in California. Cal State LA also has a robust engineering program that competes regularly in solar and high-mileage vehicle competitions. The university is about a 20-minute drive from the Staples Center, in downtown Los Angeles, and about a 45-minute drive from Disneyland, depending on traffic, of course. Alumni include tennis icon Billie Jean King and actor Edward James Olmos.
The university’s College of Kinesiology and Nutritional Science offers a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutritional Science. With its location in one of the nation’s largest metropolises, Cal State requires that students perform projects that build on classroom experience with community engagement and service-learning. The undergraduate degree can prepare students for an internship in dietetics, which leads to certification as a dietitian. Graduates also can become food service managers, health advocates, and teachers.
Out of the 120 credit hours required for the bachelor’s degree, 72 are requirements for the major. Classes in the major include Cultural Cuisine and Medical Nutrition Therapy. There are nearly 30 electives in the major that students can use to fine-tune their food knowledge. Electives include Grant Writing in Community Nutrition and Food Microbiology. Prerequisites for the major include introductory classes in sociology, chemistry, and psychology.
One of the biggest events every year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the UNC Dance Marathon. Thousands of students and faculty take part in the fundraiser, which raises money for UNC Children’s Hospital. North Carolina is ranked No. 26 among all universities by U.S. News & World Report. North Carolina’s alumni include basketball icon Michael Jordan, actor Ken Jeong, and comedian Lewis Black.
The university’s well-regarded Department of Nutrition offers a Bachelor of Science in Public Health (BSPH) with a major in nutrition. Students must complete 26 semester credit hours of prerequisite courses with a minimum GPA of 2.0 before applying to the program. Coursework in the major includes classes such as Nutrition Across the Life Cycle and Human Metabolism: Macronutrients.
Graduates will have the academic background to apply to schools of pharmacy, medicine, dentistry, and veterinary medicine. Students who want to focus on nutrition-based research can pursue a dual degree that combines the BSPH degree with Master of Science coursework. The dual degree can be completed in one calendar year.
James Madison University is nestled in the city of Harrisonburg, VA, about a two-hour drive from either Washington, D.C. or Richmond, VA. The university has a total enrollment of roughly 22,600, including about 20,700 undergraduates. U.S. News & World Report ranks James Madison No. 47 among Best Value Schools. Freshmen are required to live on campus.
James Madison’s Department of Health Professions offers a Didactic Program in Dietetics, a Bachelor of Science degree. The program prepares students to become Registered Dietitians. The academic experience includes classwork, computer applications, case studies, and, in the student’s senior year, a real-life practicum at an organization in the region. James Madison’s program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND).
Before applying to the dietetics program, students must complete several undergraduate courses in subjects such as chemistry, psychology, and writing. The prerequisites must be passed with a GPA of 3.0 or better, and this GPA must be maintained in all major coursework. The bachelor’s degree consists of 121 semester credit hours, with classes such as
Not many universities have their own creamery, but Utah State University has had one since 1888, when the school was founded. The dairy industry looms large in Utah State’s College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences. The university is located in Logan, UT, which, with a population of about 51,000, isn’t even twice the enrollment of Utah State (about 28,000). Logan is about an hour and a half north of Salt Lake City, and only about 20 minutes south of the Idaho border.
Utah State’s ag college, mentioned earlier, offers a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition Science. The major has two areas of emphasis: pre-health, which aims students toward medical school with coursework such as lab research, epidemiology, and clinical nutrition; and sports nutrition, which prepares students for careers in the dietary, nutrition, and health fields, as well as coaching, marketing, and personal training.
Transfer students or those applying to the degree from another Utah State program must have a cumulative GPA of at least 2.75. Upper-division classes in the major include Current Issues in Food Regulatory Affairs, Nutrient Gene Interactions, and Nutritional Neuroscience. The Utah State Nutritional Science degree has students study food down to the molecular and cellular levels, so they understand the building blocks of food and its impact on consumers.
The University of Minnesota is literally in the Twin Cities. There are two campuses, one in St. Paul and another in Minneapolis, about three miles apart. The latter is considered the main campus. Minnesota has an undergraduate enrollment of about 34,600. It ranks No. 9 on U.S. News and World Report’s list of best public health programs. Freshmen aren’t required to live on-campus, but about 80% do. The campus has an extensive Greek system, with about 200 organizations.
Minnesota’s undergraduate major in nutrition is offered through the College of Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resource Science. The major has three tracks; all lead to Bachelor of Science degrees. The Didactic Program in Dietetics is the required path for a student who wants to become a Registered Dietitian or dietitian nutritionist. The Nutrition Science track is for those who plan to continue graduate-level work in medicine, pharmacy, nutrition research, or a similar discipline. The third track, Nutrition Studies, is for students who plan to enter the workforce with a bachelor’s degree.
The major’s first two tracks can be joined after a student completes 60 hours of prerequisite coursework; the third can be started at any time. In general, a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 is needed to enter the major. Required credit hours in the major range from 72 to 96. Classes include Medical Nutrition Therapy, Life Cycle Nutrition, and Experimental Nutrition.
Youngstown, OH, a city of about 65,000, sits halfway between Cleveland and Pittsburgh, a little more than an hour’s drive from each. Youngstown State University is a relatively small institution, with a total enrollment of about 12,600, which includes about 11,300 undergraduates. The campus has a planetarium, along with a student wellness center that features a 53-foot-high rock wall.
Youngstown State’s Bitonte College of Health and Human Services offers two undergraduate science majors in food and nutrition studies. One is the Coordinated Bachelor’s Program in Dietetics, which prepares graduates for application to become a Registered Dietitian. The other is a Didactic Bachelor’s Program in Dietetics, which also targets a Registered Dietitian career.
The difference? The former folds prerequisites in the program and requires 132 credit hours. In the latter, students start as a pre-dietetics major and must satisfy admission criteria for applying to the program. The didactic program covers five semesters. It includes 1,200 clock hours of supervised practicums in areas such as community wellness, medical nutrition therapy, and maternal and child services.
The State University of New York at Buffalo, also known as SUNY Buffalo, has the largest enrollment in the SUNY system, with about 31,500 total students, including about 21,600 undergraduates. It is spread across three campuses, with its main campus located in North Buffalo. Each spring before finals, the university hosts Oozefest, billed as the world’s largest collegiate mud-volleyball tournament.
SUNY Buffalo offers two undergraduate tracks in nutrition science that can lead to careers as a Registered Dietitian: the Didactic Program in Nutrition and Dietetics, and the Dietitian Education Program. Both are Bachelor of Science degrees accredited by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The programs can be completed in four years, and students must maintain a cumulative 2.75 GPA. Classes in the major include Applied Food Chemistry, Medical Nutritional Therapy, and Dietetics Field Experience. About 75 of the 120 credit hours needed for graduation are required coursework in the major.
Indiana State University is located in Terre Haute, ID, about 70 miles southwest of Indianapolis. Indiana State has a total enrollment of more than 13,500, including about 10,950 undergraduates. An annual spring event, Tandemonia, is believed to be the only tandem bicycle competition held on a U.S. college campus. It’s part of the Spring Week celebration.
Indiana State offers a Bachelor of Science in Food and Nutrition, with an optional Coordinated Program in Dietetics. The program is accredited by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The major includes coursework in chemistry, biology, and management, along with instruction on food and nutrition.
Also required are 1,200 clock hours of supervised fieldwork in clinical locations such as hospitals and nursing homes. Only 16 students per cohort are accepted into the Coordinated Program, and their average GPA is 3.6. Graduates have the background needed to apply for licensure as a Registered Dietitian.
The University of Illinois at Chicago is located in the central part of the city, near the Chicago Loop. U.S. News & World Report ranks UIC No. 9 among best public health programs. The campus has a total enrollment of more than 30,500, including about 19,400 undergraduates. Spark in the Park, an annual music festival, has featured acts such as Kendrick Lamar and Nick Jonas.
The Bachelor of Science in Nutrition program at UIC is offered through the College of Applied Sciences. There are three tracks. Nutritional Science is for students who are aiming for careers in medicine, dentistry, food service, pharmacy, or other health professions. The Coordinated Program is for students who want to be Registered Dietitians; the program includes hundreds of hours of supervised fieldwork. The Didactic Program is similar to the Coordinated Program, but does not include an internship.
Classes serving the entire program include Clinical Nutrition, the Science of Food, and Nutritional Assessment. According to UIC, 76% of its graduates are offered nutrition internships, compared to the national average of 50%. Nearly all of its graduates, 98%, successfully pass the Registered Dietitian exam.
The University of Missouri has the only NCAA Division I-A program in the state of Missouri, which means Mizzou’s Tigers are a big part of campus life. Missouri has a total enrollment of more than 30,000, including about 22,400 undergraduates. The campus is almost equidistant from St. Louis and Kansas City, about a two-hour drive each way. Missouri’s home city of Columbia, MO holds an annual Roots ‘n’ Blues ‘n’ BBQ music festival.
Missouri offers a Coordinated Program in Dietetics, a Bachelor of Science degree that includes an extensive internship in a professional setting. The program provides all the preparation necessary to take the examination to be a Registered Dietitian or dietetic nutritionist. The major calls for about two years of pre-dietetics classwork and three years in the Coordinated Program.
After five years of coursework, students will hold both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in dietetics. A maximum of 20 students are accepted into each year’s new cohort. A cumulative GPA of at least 3.2 is required. Classes include Nutrition Therapy, Teaching and Counseling, and Food Service.
The University of Connecticut is located in the small town of Storrs, about 30 minutes from Hartford, CT, and 90 minutes from Boston. The campus has an annual mud-volleyball tournament called Oozeball, and a popular lip-synching contest during Homecoming Week. UConn has a total enrollment of about 32,250, which includes about 24,000 undergraduates.
UConn offers a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics that integrates coursework with 1,200 clock hours of practicum in a real-world, nutrition-related setting. Graduates of the program can apply immediately for licensure as a Registered Dietitian. The program requires two years of coursework in the major, plus six weeks of internship, which is completed during the summer.
The university also offers a Bachelor of Science in Nutritional Sciences that is similar to the other track but without the practicum requirement. An internship in dietetics can be taken completed separately through UConn; the internship takes more than nine weeks to complete.
Washington State University is a strong choice for a student who wants the feel of a big campus but not the bustle of a big city. WSU is located in Pullman, WA, in the eastern part of the state, amid a broad, rolling green landscape known as the Palouse. The athletic program competes in the Pac-12 Conference. Alumni include Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, Nobel Prize chemist Irwin Rose, and NBA basketball star Klay Thompson.
Washington State’s College of Medicine offers a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology. After completing the coursework, students can apply for several types of certifications offered by the American College of Sports Medicine. Graduates can work at public health agencies, fitness centers, and health care facilities as certified exercise physiologists or diet technicians.
Applicants to the program must have a cumulative GPA of 3.0. There are 63 credit hours that apply directly to the degree. In the student’s senior year, he or she can choose a track in applied exercise, or community and population health. Classes include Vitamin and Mineral Metabolism; Cardiopulmonary Physiology; and Exercise, Diet, and Disease.
North Dakota State University is a great place to bundle up. The average high temperature in May in Fargo, ND, is 64 degrees. In February, that plummets to 23. The community averages 49 inches of snow per year. There are 15 national sororities and fraternities on campus. North Dakota State’s Thundering Herd football teams are a powerhouse in NCAA Division II. A former player, Carson Wentz, is the quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Students seeking an undergraduate degree in dietetics can apply to the Dietetics Education Program, which prepares graduates for entry-level positions in the field. A cumulative GPA of 3.0 is required. The program offers a concentration in gerontology.
Also available is a Didactic Program in Dietetics that leads to a Bachelor of Science degree. The 3.0 GPA requirement also applies here. Graduates qualify to apply for internships that can lead to licensure as a Registered Dietitian. Generally, GPAs of 3.25 or higher are needed for acceptance to an internship.
North Dakota State’s dietetics program operates the 800 Cafe, which prepares artisanal, healthy meals that contain fewer than 800 calories.
The University of Texas at San Antonio has a total enrollment of more than 30,600, including about 26,000 undergraduates. UTSA has one of the more robust Reserve Officers’ Training Corps programs in the nation, with more than 200 Air Force cadets. Fiesta UTSA and Best Fest are popular music, food, and cultural events.
UTSA’s College of Education and Human Development offers a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics. This is a combined program, which means a supervised off-campus internship is integrated into the coursework. Completion of the program certifies students to take the exam to become a Registered Dietitian.
Students can declare this major as sophomores. If they want to extend their studies into graduate-level work, a combined track will allow students to earn credits toward a Master of Dietetics Studies while still completing undergraduate work. Classes include Applied Food Science, Community Nutrition, and Medical Nutrition Therapy.
The hometown of the University of Massachusetts-Lowell is about a half-hour drive northwest of Boston. UMass Lowell has an enrollment of about 18,200. It is one of the nation’s few public universities to offer undergraduate degrees in meteorology and nuclear engineering. Its Greek system was restored in 2012 after being banned from campus in 1987.
The Bachelor of Science in Nutritional Science degree at UMass Lowell has three tracks: dietetics, nutrition and wellness, and general. The dietetics option prepares students to become Registered Dietitians or nutritionists; it does not include an internship program.
Business and entrepreneurship coursework is integrated into the nutrition and wellness option, which prepares students for positions in disease prevention and health promotion. The general option leans toward the science side of the field and is aimed at research professions or graduate-level learning. This also is a strong pre-health degree that prepares students to work as a physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner, or doctor. UMass Lowell offers a Master of Public Health Coordinated Program in Dietetics.
Classes in the bachelor’s program include Lifecycle Nutrition, Obesity and Weight Control, and Nutrition and Metabolism.
If students want the big-school experience, it’s tough to top The Ohio State University. Ohio State has more than 1,000 student organizations and clubs, an extensive Greek system, and the powerful Buckeyes athletics program that excels in multiple sports. If that isn’t enough, U.S. News & World Report ranks Ohio State No. 54 among all U.S. universities.
Ohio State offers a Bachelor of Science in Human Nutrition with three concentrations: Dietetics, Nutrition in Industry, and Nutrition Sciences. There also is a Bachelor of Science in Health Promotion, Nutrition and Exercise Science. The degree covers a broad range of academic and professional goals, from preparing to be a Registered Dietitian to pursuing graduate studies and research in the field.
The university also offers a separate internship program for students preparing for licensure as a dietitian. Coursework requirements in the majors vary, from 54 credit hours for Nutrition in Industry to 21 credit hours for Nutrition Sciences. All have extensive additional course requirements in the sciences.
Wayne State University is located in midtown Detroit. U.S. News & World Report ranks it No. 63 among the nation’s most innovative colleges and universities. The university is named after Anthony Wayne, a U.S. congressman whose fiery personality while an officer in the American Revolutionary War earned him the nickname “Mad Anthony.” Wayne State has an undergraduate enrollment of about 17,500 and enjoys research partnerships with Michigan State University and the University of Michigan.
The nutrition and food science program at Wayne State offers three paths to a bachelor’s degree, depending on the student’s career goal. The Bachelor of Science degree is for those interested in the nutrition, food science, or health care fields. A Bachelor of Arts is aimed at students who want to take on non-technical roles in the food industry. The Bachelor of Science in Dietetics degree can lead to licensure as a Registered Dietitian.
Each degree requires 120 semester credit hours of undergraduate coursework, which includes 71 to 72 hours of classes specific to the degree; all are offered by the university’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Classes include Organic Chemistry, Food Laws and Regulations, and Nutrition and Disease.
Senior undergraduates with a GPA of 3.5 or better can qualify for Accelerated Graduate Enrollment, or AGRADE. Under the program, students can apply up to 16 credit hours to both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in nutrition and food science.
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