Guide to Online Nutrition Certificates and Short Courses

What is nutrition? The science of nutrition examines human diets and how the nutrients we consume in our food can positively or negatively affect growth, cognition and overall health. If you’re interested in working with people to improve their diets and help them live healthier lifestyles, a career in nutrition may be a good fit for you. There are numerous online nutrition courses available that may provide you with helpful knowledge to become a nutritionist.

Can You Study Nutrition Online?

Yes. As is the case in many other fields, studying online may make it easier for some to study nutrition online. In fact, taking a few online nutrition courses may be a good way to explore the field and decide whether a full degree program is an option you’d like to pursue in the future. Online short courses in nutrition may be available; some have regular live (but remote) class schedules, while others are self-paced. Many online nutrition courses provide a certificate to students upon completion, and some introductory short course programs are even available for free.

These courses may strengthen your knowledge in the field and help pinpoint the area of concentration that appeals most to you. Try starting with a broad overview course. As you learn more, you may discover certain aspects of nutrition that are most interesting to you, which can help shape your plan moving forward. 

Common Topics in Nutrition Online Courses

Online nutrition courses cover a wide range of topics. Here are some common examples of course topics you may cover as you explore the field of nutrition:

  • Lifestyle medicine
  • How to make a healthy eating plan
  • How to improve cooking habits
  • Food as medicine
  • Using nutrition to prevent, manage or reverse chronic disease
  • Macronutrients and micronutrients
  • Nutrition and cancer
  • The science of brewing beer
  • Nutrition communication for health professionals
  • Nutrition and sustainability
  • Making a nutrition-based weight loss plan

Online Nutrition Science Certificates and Courses

The field of nutrition science explores the connections between diet and health. The discipline incorporates chemistry and biology to explain the processes the human body uses to break down and absorb nutrients from food. Nutrition science practitioners help their patients understand the importance of making good dietary choices and how each meal may impact physical, mental and emotional health.

If you’re interested in entering this field, online nutrition science courses may provide an option for you to start and figure out your next steps. You may find that a short, self-paced online certificate course delivers all the knowledge related to nutrition that you were hoping for, but on the other hand, you might discover that you’d like to further your education in the field. 

If you’re serious about delving into nutrition science but aren’t ready to start a full healthcare degree program, consider a more substantial preparatory certificate course. A 6–18 credit online certificate program is a common option available from many American universities.

Is a Nutrition Certificate Worth It?

If you wish to help others in your career, counseling clients toward better health may be a rewarding and fulfilling role. Additionally, nutrition is an area of study that’s applicable to your own life, as you learn about healthy food choices and how to improve one’s health. As you study, you may feel empowered to build better habits and improve your own well-being.

As you research if studying nutrition is worth it, consider job growth expectations. Employment of dietitians and nutritionists is projected to grow 8% from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than the average for all occupations, according to the BLS. The annual median salary for professional dietitians and nutritionists in 2019 was greater than $61,000 per year. 

Nutrition Certificate vs. Registered Dietitian (RD)

Some people who pursue a nutrition certificate may not be interested in a nutrition career; they may just want to learn about nutrition for their own enjoyment. For those interested in nutrition careers, however, obtaining a nutrition consultant certificate may help provide you with the skills necessary to pursue jobs ranging from weight management to corporate nutrition. 

Registered dietitians (RDs) perform similar duties as nutritionists, but additional career paths are available to these nutrition experts. RDs might work in hospitals, nonprofit organizations, long-term care homes, community health clinics and other medical facilities. The level of state and federal regulation for RD professions is much higher than that of nutritionists. To become a registered dietitian, it’s important to at least have a bachelor’s degree in a field such as nutrition science. A master’s degree is not required to be a registered dietitian, but it may open doors to careers in leadership,  management or research. In addition to a Bachelor’s and/or master’s degree, RDs must pass the CDR exam. There are multiple pathways to sit for the exam, which can be found on the CDR website. Licensing and continuing education requirements for registered dietitians vary by state.

Nutrition Certificate vs. Master of Public Health With a Concentration in Nutrition

Obtaining a nutrition certificate or a Master of Public Health with a nutrition concentration are both possible options for a career in nutrition, specific requirements vary by state. However, for those who want to dive right into a career in nutrition counseling, obtaining a nutrition certificate may be a more direct path. Some certificate programs do not require applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree, and they’re often abbreviated, concentrated programs of study that may be completed in a year or less. 

Obtaining a Master of Public Health with a concentration in nutrition requires applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree and then complete at least two years of additional study to obtain their MPH. Many MPH program concentrations also require students to complete a clinical experience before they can graduate. Career options for MPH graduates include clinical research, public policy development, community health agency consulting and much more.

3 Benefits of an Online Nutrition Certificate or Short Course Program

An online nutrition certificate or short course is a possible option for many people. Whether you’re considering starting a new career in nutrition counseling or just want to learn more about the food you put into your body, these programs may provide you with the information you need. 

1. Flexibility

Taking a short course in nutrition could mean a commitment of just a few weeks. Certificate programs may take a few months. Online nutrition certificate programs offer students the flexibility to complete and submit coursework on their own time, making it possible to obtain the knowledge needed for certification while working full time and caring for your family. Certificate and short course options are often self-paced, meaning the length of study is largely dependent upon your motivation and schedule. 

2. Affordability

A bachelor’s degree in nutrition takes four years and is sometimes a significant investment to complete. Getting a master’s degree requires at least one to two more years of study, than a certificate and may require more financial commitments to complete.  A certificate may cost less compared to degree programs. A nutrition certificate program still offers a wealth of helpful information about nutrition in a condensed period of study.

3. Opportunities

Depending on where you live and where you want to work as a nutritionist, you may find that a nutrition certificate is sufficient to get you started in the field. Nutrition counselors may be self employed, work in outpatient care centers, hospitals or residential care facilities. If working in these types of facilities appeals to you, check the requirements for your state and consider starting your career with a nutrition counseling certification program.

Online Nutrition Programs to Consider

Taking an online nutrition course or degree program is a convenient way to broaden your skill set and prepare for a new and exciting career in nutrition. Here is just a handful of online nutrition courses to consider.

Last Updated October 2020