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Best Online Master’s Degrees in: Nutrition

Editor’s Picks: Online Schools for Nutrition

Value
The award for best online master’s degree in nutrition for value goes to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which offers an online Master of Science in Food Science and Human Nutrition. The university had an annual return on investment (ROI) of 10.7% for in-state students and 9.1% for out-of-state students, according to PayScale.com’s 2012 ROI rankings. Those percentages go up to 12.5% and 10.1%, respectively, for students receiving financial aid.

Flexibility
Texas Women’s University, which offers an online Master of Science in Nutrition, wins the award for best online master’s degree in nutrition for its fully online program designed for busy individuals with full-time jobs. Students have up to six years to complete the program on a part-time basis, but can complete the program in as little as two years if they attend the program full-time, according to the university website. This allows students to complete their degree at a comfortable pace. The program does not require students to report to campus except for the exit examination, but students who live further than 100 miles from campus can take the exit exam under alternative arrangements.

Career Support
The award for best online master’s degree in nutrition for career support goes to the New York Institute of Technology, which offers a Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition completely online. Besides providing job search and resume writing support, the institute’s Career Services department offers the Alumni Mentor Program, which matches current NYIT students with alumni who have already achieved professional success and can provide advice and encouragement to students as they carve out their own career path. In addition, students can participate in annual career fairs, connect with NYIT Career Services on Facebook, and search for jobs, internships, and volunteer opportunities using NYIT CareerNet, an online job search service accessible only to NYIT students and alumni.

Financial Support
The New York Institute of Technology wins the award for best online master’s degree in nutrition for financial support. NYIT’s financial aid staff are dedicated to helping students navigate the sometimes confusing waters of financing their graduate education, and the Student Solutions Center is committed to answering student questions about financial aid, tuition, and fees. Graduate students may be eligible for scholarships, graduate assistantships, or state or financial aid, according to the university website. NYIT also allows students to sign up for a monthly tuition payment plan, so they can spread out the cost of tuition over time, and provides students the option of purchasing tuition refund insurance.

Technology Support
The award for best online master’s degree in nutrition for technology support goes to the University of Massachusetts Amherst, which offers an online Master of Public Health in Nutrition. The program’s courseware is supported by UMass Online, which provides a 24/7 help line over the phone and also provides support via email, according to the university website. Students can also receive support via live UMass Amherst Technical Support Chat, which is available 24/7 throughout the year.

Student Engagement
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign wins the award for best online master’s degree in nutrition for student engagement because its program utilizes interactive, real-time course delivery. Unlike other online programs that emphasize asynchronous courseware, the University of Illinois’ nutrition courses are available live, with students all logging in at the same time of day to take part in class. This allows students to interact with their fellow students and participate in question and answer sessions with their professors using microphones, according to the program website. Other features that encourage student engagement are the use of Blackboard Collaborate, which provides tools for students to work on group projects together, and the fact that the live format allows students to give presentations to their class—even at a distance.

Disability Support
The award for best online master’s degree in nutrition goes to Northeastern University, which offers an online Master of Science in Applied Nutrition. Northeastern was recognized by the Huffington Post as a college having one of the top learning disability programs in the nation. The college’s Disability Resources Center serves students with a variety of conditions, including ADHD, Asperger’s, hearing/vision loss, limited mobility, psychiatric problems, and more. Northeastern also provides comprehensive services to students with learning disabilities through the Learning Disabilities Program.

Library and Research Support
Northeastern University’s libraries are home to approximately 933,000 printed volumes, 206,500 e-books, and 59,900 licensed electronic journals, according to the NU Libraries website. Online students have access to these resources as well as interlibrary loan privileges, and they can download digital resources to their iPad, Kindle, or Nook. Students can also access Northeastern’s librarians via email, phone, text message, or 24/7 live chat, the website explains. In addition, students can get support from a subject librarian who specializes in nutrition. These are just a few of the reasons the Northeastern wins the award for best online master’s degree in nutrition for library and research support.

Learning Support
The best online master’s degree in nutrition for learning support is at North Dakota State University, which offers an online Master of Science in Health, Nutrition, and Exercise Science with a specialization in dietetics. Student resources include an advising resource center, which answers advising-related questions by phone or email within 24 hours for students who are unable to report to campus; Atomic Learning, an online resource with instructional videos on various topics such as Excel, PowerPoint, Skype, MLA/APA style, and more; and Versatile PhD, an online resource that helps grad students explore non-academic careers, according to the university website. Distance learners also have access to library services and technical support.

Faculty Credentials
The award for best online master’s degree in nutrition for faculty credentials goes to Northeastern University, whose College of Professional Studies employs 70 full-time faculty members. Not only are half of the faculty published authors, but 99% of faculty are certified to teach online, according to the university website. Faculty members bring to the table both academic, research, and professional experience, and boast more than $50 million in faculty research grants. The applied nutrition master’s program is led by real-world practitioners, including dietitians, an exercise scientist, and a clinical psychologist, according to the program website.

Faculty Accessibility
The best online programs are ones that promote close interaction between faculty and students. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s master’s program comes about as close to face-to-face faculty-student interaction as possible without being in an actual classroom because of its live online course delivery format. Because graduate students are able to ask their faculty questions and interact with their classmates in real-time, the University of Illinois wins the award for best online master’s degree in nutrition for faculty accessibility.

Alumni Engagement
The award for best online master’s degree in nutrition for alumni engagement goes to the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Alumni from UMass Amherst’s graduate nutrition program stay involved with their alma mater by serving as guest lecturers, providing supervision for student field experiences, and even participating in Department of Nutrition activities. Of particular interest to alumni is the annual Virginia Beal Lecture and Dinner, which hosts renowned nutrition researchers, who speak on a variety of topic of interest to nutrition professionals. Alumni can also remain involved by serving as a Minuteman Mentor to students or other alumni, or connecting locally to the alumni network.

Prior Learning Options
One mark of a quality online nutrition program is the ability to transfer in prior credits from equivalent graduate course work completed at another accredited nutrition program. Texas Woman’s University allows a maximum of nine hours to be transferred from other institutions, provided the credits receive a nod from the program’s advisory committee . This is a valuable policy for students interested in TWU’s program who have completed a significant amount of graduate work in nutrition elsewhere. Because of this generous transfer policy, TWU wins the award for best online master’s degree in nutrition for prior learning options.

New Online Student Orientation
Students who earned their undergraduate degrees on a traditional campus may find the transition to online learning difficult, which is why it’s so important for schools that offer online graduate programs to offer new online student orientation. The University of Bridgeport, which offers an online Master of Science in Human Nutrition, wins the award for best online master’s degree in nutrition for new online student orientation. One week before classes begin, students receive email instructions for the online orientation, an interactive course that teaches students the ins and outs of Blackboard, the university’s online course delivery system. This week-long orientation is required for all new online students and teaches strategies for being a successful online student as well as familiarizing students with Blackboard.

Explore a Master’s Degree in Nutrition

An online master’s degree in nutrition, or Master of Science in Nutrition, opens up opportunities for careers in the health care industry. Those already in the industry might work towards this degree to increase their qualifications and incomes. Non-health care professionals, on the other hand, might jump on the M.S. in Nutrition track to become registered dietitians (R.D.s). Nutrition students will evolve their previous skills and knowledge to a place that enables them to give highly-educated dietary advice. Students also specialization in certain area of nutrition; examples of common concentrations are clinical nutrition, and obesity and eating disorders.

A typical degree will take full-time pupils between two and three years to complete. Usually, two years is the earliest someone can complete this degree, and it requires fall, spring, and summer studies. Part-time students and those with previous master’s credits can expect the time it takes to complete their degree to deviate from the typical.

Class Curriculum

Master’s nutrition courses are highly focused on the science behind the nutrition humans need to live healthy and happy lives. Students should expect courses that emphasis both research and theory, both of which will eventually be applied to their practice in the health care field. Students’ courses will also examine how the human diet is tied into disease and illness prevention and treatment. Common class curriculum is:

  • Nutrition and Metabolism. Nutrition and metabolism teaches students the relationships of various nutrients, and how they affect human physiology and metabolism. Metabolism principles, biochemical regulation, and toxicological standards will also be taught to students.
  • Nutrition and Human Diseases. This course considers how healthy food and lifestyle choices can ward off disease, and how opposing choices can cause them. Students will learn about the techniques being used to promote healthy lifestyles, as well as the process behind creating lifestyle programs.
  • Research Methodology. In a research methodology course, students learn the methods and practices used by nutrition professionals to conduct research. Students will also be taught how to analyze and understand that research, both of which are skills they will later use in their nutrition-related careers.

Reading assignments and online lectures will occupy much of master’s students’ time. Quizzes, tests, and research projects are characteristic in this type of program. A thesis, or in-depth research project that endeavors to answer a nutrition-related question, is an integral end-of-degree component many schools require students to complete. Some schools also dispense a comprehensive final exam to accompany, or in lieu of, a thesis. Field work, or a practicum, is usually mandatory for master’s in nutrition programs. Said course enables students to gather workplace experience by using their new knowledge and skills in the supervised position they hope to pursue after graduation.

Building a Career

Post-graduation, students will find they have a deeper scientific knowledge of how nutrition affects the human body; they will have also developed necessary research and technical skills. Through this new knowledge and skill set, graduates routinely occupy jobs as registered dieticians and pharmaceutical sales representatives. Registered dietitians, or R.D.s, stay up-to-date with nutrition research and provide services to people in need of healthier lifestyles. To become a R.D., you must have at least a bachelor’s degree, pass an exam given by the Commission on Dietetic Registration, and complete a practicum or internship.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, formerly the American Diabetic Association, about 50% of R.D.s have an advanced academic degree. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics collected salary data in 2011 that indicated that R.D.’s made an average of $54,470 nationwide; it also conveyed that the career outlook for this occupation is better than many, with the industry’s employment needs anticipated to grow by 20% in the next few years.

Pharmaceutical sales is another side of the health care industry that master’s holders find themselves in. Pharmaceutical sales representatives are employed by drug companies, and visit doctors, nurses, and health care technicians to educate them on their companies’ medical products. They do this in an effort to convince those professionals to prescribe their companies’ products to patients. This career choice requires a broad knowledge of the medical industry and different drug types, along with a people-oriented personality. The BLS reported $74,750 as the average salary for pharmaceutical sales representatives in 2011, and that employment in this industry is expected to increase by 16% in coming years. However, keep in mind that these job prospect and salary figures are not guaranteed, as they can vary from individual to individual, depending on his or her experience level and employer.

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