Bachelor’s in nutrition and dietetics
A bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics gives you the expertise to understand dietary choices and how food affects health. One of the most exciting aspects of this degree is its breadth. Students majoring in nutrition and dietetics learn about biology, chemistry, psychology, and sociology to understand what causes people to eat the way they do.
Completing a bachelor’s in nutrition and dietetics prepares you for a variety of careers. People who complete this major often go on to become dietitians or nutritionists, although careers in public health, education, or food science are also possible. A bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics is the entry-level degree for a career in nutrition. Students often major in nutrition and dietetics on a pre-med track, and then decide afterwards whether to continue to earn a earn a master’s or doctorate to advance in nutrition and dietetics or go on to medical school.
The word dietetics comes from the Greek word diata meaning ‘way of life’. Being a dietitian is literally helping others change their way of life.
What is a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics?
A bachelor’s in nutrition and dietetics is the introductory degree for someone who wants to become a dietitian or nutritionist. It provides the scientific foundation for understanding food and its impact on the human body. Someone seeking this degree should have a strong interest in biology and chemistry.
Many bachelor’s in nutrition and dietetics programs offer multiple tracks or concentrations. Students can choose to specialize in general nutrition, public health or community nutrition, dietetics, pre-medicine, or other areas depending on their interests. More information on coursework is covered later in this article.
» Read: Useful tests to direct your choice of a college major and career
What can you do with a bachelor’s in nutrition and dietetics?
There are many possible career paths for someone with a bachelor’s in nutrition and dietetics. Two of the most popular careers are nutritionist or dietitian. People with a bachelor’s in nutrition and dietetics work in a variety of settings, including schools, childcare centers, nursing homes, residential care facilities, hospitals, outpatient treatment facilities, food companies, and public health agencies.
Earnings with a bachelor’s in nutrition and dietetics
Below you can view short and long-term salary data for this field.
Average bachelor’s degree
Bachelor’s in nutrition and dietetics
The above table provides a snapshot of earnings 3 years after graduation. We compare the earnings of all bachelor degree recipients to those who graduated from this specific program.
The relatively lower salary for a bachelor’s in nutrition and dietetics may be due to the fact that many people with this degree complete internships or other post-graduate experiences in order to become licensed. Indeed, salaries improve several years after a degree is conferred once most people have completed their training and licensure requirements.
» Read: Calculating ROI – or the earning potential of a degree
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an 11% growth in employment of nutritionists and dietitians between 2020 and 2030. This makes it a high-demand field. Nutritionists and dietitians also report high job satisfaction, particularly due to the flexibility they often find in their careers.
The following table looks at earnings comparisons over a working lifetime. It appears that from the age of 45, earning potential decreases, which could indicate people leaving the profession and changing careers or even returning to school to study further.
What is the cost of a bachelor’s in nutrition and dietetics?
Below, we provide data on the comparative earnings, costs, and payback rates of different bachelor’s in nutrition and dietetics programs. For information on the metrics we base our calculations on, visit our methodology page.
See above how cost and earnings vary depending on the type of institution. Payback refers to how many years it takes students to cover the median costs while earning the median salary. Payback is calculated by subtracting the median earnings of a high school graduate from the median earnings related to this degree.
Financial aid and scholarships
The first step to applying for student financial aid is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) which determines your eligibility. Learn as much as you can about the different types of aid that are available so that you are fully aware of your options.
Another recommendation is to make an appointment with the student financial aid office at your chosen school. Typically, there are scholarships, grants, or other forms of need-based and merit-based aid available. These vary according to program and school.
» Read: Student loan repayment options
If you take on debt for your education, there are options for loan forgiveness. The most prominent of these is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which forgives your loans after you make 10 years worth of qualifying payments. To be eligible, you need to work in the public service sector, which can include a VA hospital, public school, or non-profit organization.
You can also use a scholarship database like the one below to find scholarships relevant to you and your circumstances.
Nutrition and dietetics scholarships
There are 57 scholarships totaling $129,591 in value available specifically for nutrition and dietetics students.Explore more scholarships
How to pick a bachelor’s in nutrition and dietetics program
The majority of bachelor’s degree programs in nutrition and dietetics are bachelor of science (B.S.) degrees. While some colleges may offer a bachelor of arts (B.A.), this is much less common. A B.S. degree includes general education classes as well as courses in chemistry, biology, and nutritional science. Below are some important points to consider when choosing a program.
The admissions requirements include a high school diploma or equivalent (GED). The admissions department assesses your high school grades, especially for science coursework. Some programs may also consider extracurricular activities, leadership skills, and other experiences when making admission decisions.
How long is the bachelor’s in nutrition and dietetics program?
Full-time students can expect to complete this program in 4 years.
Students who aspire to become dietitians should pay close attention to a program’s accreditation status. This is because to become a registered dietitian, you need to complete a degree program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics. Checking that your program is currently accredited and in good standing helps ensure your eligibility to become a registered dietitian.
Can you study nutrition and dietetics online?
The majority of bachelor’s degree programs in nutrition and dietetics require in-person learning. Compared to the average bachelor’s degree, far fewer programs offer fully online degrees in nutrition and dietetics. This is likely related to the fact that some foundational coursework, such as biology or chemistry laboratory classes, do not translate easily to an online format.
» Read: Online vs. on-campus courses
Bachelor’s in nutrition and dietetics
The above table shows the percentage of programs available either completely in person or fully online. Figures that do not add up to 100% indicate the existence of hybrid programs.
What can I expect from a bachelor’s in nutrition and dietetics program?
In general, a bachelor’s in nutrition and dietetics teaches you about food, dietary choices, and the impact of nutrition on health. Some programs are specifically designed to train students to become registered dietitians. Others may focus more broadly on public policy, public health, or macro-focused topics related to nutrition. Regardless of the type of program you choose, courses in biology, physiology, and biochemistry are typically incorporated.
Are there internship requirements for a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics?
It depends. Some bachelor’s in nutrition and dietetics include a practicum or internship to get real-world experience working in the field. An internship is required to become a registered dietitian, but this does not have to be part of your regular coursework. Other career paths may not require any practicum or internship before graduation.
» Read: 5 ways to get the most out of your college years
Are there special credentials sought by graduates of bachelor’s in nutrition and dietetics programs?
The most common credential people with a bachelor’s in nutrition and dietetics seek is to become a Registered Dietitian (RD), sometimes called a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). Others seek to become a Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS), which is a specialty that focuses on integrative and community health.
Coursework for a bachelor’s in nutrition and dietetics covers chemistry, biology, and related disciplines. While the specific courses may differ by program, following are some foundational courses common to many bachelor’s programs:
- general chemistry
- general biology
- food science and nutrition
- science of food preparation
- nutritional physiology
- organic chemistry
- human physiology
- social and behavioral sciences
- nutrition assessment and therapy
- nutritional aspects of disease
- community nutrition
What careers can I have with a bachelor’s in nutrition and dietetics?
A bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics prepares students for a variety of career options. Many are interested in working with patients and clients to improve their health by making dietary changes. A career as a registered dietitian or nutritionist can be a good fit if nutrition and health are your passion. Below we cover and compare 2 careers that this degree typically leads to.
Difference between dietitian and nutritionist
Students often wonder what the difference is between a career as a dietitian versus a nutritionist. The table below compares these 2 job titles and their related career requirements.
Work with people with medical problems e.g., diabetes, eating disorders, cancer. Clients are often referred by healthcare specialists.
Typically work in hospitals and healthcare facilities, including care homes. Able to work in private practice and on a consultant basis.
Have an undergraduate degree at minimum.
Are required to complete 1,200 internships hours and pass the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) exam.
Need the Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) credential to legally call themselves a dietitian.
Provide general dietary advice on healthy eating and weight loss, improving sleep, and increasing energy.
Can work in schools, fitness centers, community health, and private practice.
May have an education in the field of nutritional science but do not have to.
Have the option to become a Certified Clinical Nutritionist (CNN). Graduate degree holders can also apply to become Certified Nutrition Specialists (CNS).
Some states require the CNN credential, but many do not.
For individuals interested in pursuing graduate training in nutrition, the M.S. in nutrition and dietetics is the most common option. A master’s degree is increasingly seen as a necessary credential for people interested in becoming a registered dietitian. Indeed, the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics is planning to implement the requirement for a graduate degree to register for the examination for registered dietitians from January 2024.
Following a master’s degree, it is also possible to obtain a Ph.D. in nutrition. This degree is most suitable for someone who wants to perform academic research in nutritional science or those who wish to teach at the college level.
Should you get a bachelor’s in nutrition and dietetics?
A bachelor’s in nutrition and dietetics is a great choice for someone passionate about food and healthy behaviors. Many people enter the field because they want to help people change their lives by making more nutritious dietary choices. The reward of watching people make progress toward their health goals is a big motivator for many students who choose this major.
Certain skills help people succeed in a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics. Students interested in this degree should have exceptional active listening skills, strong critical thinking abilities, outstanding communication skills, and good judgment. Social perceptiveness is also a major strength. Dietary choices are very personal and may be an area of vulnerability for many people. Learning to navigate conversations about diet while respecting religious, racial/ethnic, cultural, and personal values is an important skill for someone seeking a bachelor’s in nutrition and dietetics.
FAQs about bachelor’s degrees in nutrition and dietetics
What are the most important factors when choosing a program?
The most important factors to consider when choosing a program include its accreditation status, size, cost, and financial aid. For those interested in becoming a registered dietitian, success of placement into a dietetics internship is also important.
Is there a list of courses that are required?
No, there is no core list of required courses. Rather, it is important to consider the entire curriculum. A strong curriculum will include coursework in biology, chemistry, biochemistry, food science, psychology, and public health.
Do I need a master’s degree in nutrition and dietetics?
It depends on your career goal. The bachelor’s degree is the entry degree for some careers, such as working as a nutritionist. Beginning on January 1, 2024, a graduate degree will be required to sit for the exam to become a registered dietitian.
Is a bachelor’s in nutrition and dietetics a good degree if you want to go to medical school?
Yes. A degree in nutrition and dietetics can certainly prepare you to apply to medical school. Most programs include some of the required coursework for medical students, but double check to ensure you are eligible for medical school applications.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
This is the leading professional organization for dietitians.
Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR)
The CDR evaluates programs for compliance with education standards. This is a good place to look for programs that meet your needs.
Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior
This is a professional organization devoted to nutrition education, with a focus on clinical interventions