Pursuing a career in nutrition and dietetics means devoting your professional life to helping people improve and optimize their health through food. Those who are interested in this career path who do not have a relevant undergraduate degree should consider earning a master’s degree in nutrition. A master’s in nutrition and dietetics can lay the groundwork for the Registered Dietician Nutritionist (RDN) credential and open a wide variety of career opportunities.  

Is a Master’s Degree in Nutrition Right for You? 

A master’s degree in any field is an investment in the future. Only you can decide if a master’s degree in nutrition is right for you, but there are a few key questions to ask yourself if you are considering this route:  

  • Do you have a genuine interest in nutrition, health, and wellness? 
  • Are you eager to learn about the science behind food, its effects on the body, and its role in overall health? 
  • Are you aiming for a career as a registered dietitian, nutritionist, researcher, educator, or other related field? 
  • Are you ready for the academic rigor and time commitment that a master’s program demands? 

Considering your self-evaluated skills can also be helpful when determining next steps for your education. For instance:  

  • Are you strong in scientific analysis and critical thinking? 
  • Can you explain complex concepts in a way that is easy to understand? 
  • Are you interested in working directly with individuals to improve their health through nutrition? 
  • Are you enthusiastic about conducting research in nutrition-related fields? 

Reflect on these aspects, explore the field through volunteering or internships, and talk to professionals or mentors in the nutrition field to gain insight before making a decision.  

Passion for Nutrition 

Perhaps the most important question to ask yourself is are you motivated and passionate about making a difference in people’s lives through nutrition? Earning a master’s degree takes time and resources, and it’s likely to come with some challenges. For someone pursuing a degree who has a passion for the subject matter, it will be much easier to overcome those challenges, whether they are difficult exams, long nights of studying, or difficulty balancing school with other commitments.  

Career Opportunities 

Earning a master’s degree in nutrition and dietetics can act as a critical stepping stone to many different careers that revolve around helping people eat to support a healthy life. While many graduates go on to become registered dieticians, plenty of other options are available to explore.  

Registered Dietitian (RD) 

Registered Dietitians (RDs) are experts in food and nutrition. An RD can work in a wide range of settings, providing personalized guidance and expertise in nutrition to individuals, groups, and communities. RDs offer nutritional assessments, counseling, and education and provide customized treatment plans for those who need assistance with nutrition-related disorders.  

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for dieticians and nutritionists is expected to grow by 7% between 2022 and 2032, which is faster than the average for all professions. As of 2022, the median salary for dieticians and nutritionists was $66,450 per year, while the mean income in New York state was $79,910. 

Notably, the BLS tracks data for all dietitians and nutritionists together and does not distinguish between those with the RD credential.  

Nutrition Researcher 

A nutrition researcher is a professional who specializes in investigating various aspects of nutrition through scientific study and research. Their primary focus is on understanding how food, nutrients, and dietary patterns impact human health, disease prevention, and overall well-being. 

As researchers, one core aspect of this career is creating studies to learn more about how diet and nutrition impact health in the human body. Nutrition researchers may develop research methodologies and study designs to investigate specific nutrition-related questions or hypotheses and also gather data through experiments, surveys, clinical trials, and observational studies. 

Nutrition researchers are also likely to publish their findings in peer-reviewed journals and present their work at conferences, seminars, and academic meetings to share knowledge and engage with the scientific community. 

Nutrition researchers may specialize in diverse areas, such as: 

  • Nutrient metabolism and bioavailability 
  • Dietary interventions for health conditions (e.g., diabetes, heart disease) 
  • Nutritional epidemiology (studying dietary patterns and disease risk) 
  • Functional foods and nutraceuticals 
  • Public health nutrition interventions 

Nutrition researchers play a critical role in advancing scientific knowledge about nutrition and its impact on health, often contributing to the development of evidence-based recommendations for healthy eating and disease prevention. 

Sports Nutritionist 

How athletes eat can have a huge impact on their performance, especially at elite levels. As teams and individuals search for any edge in competition, they may turn to the services of a sports nutritionist.  

A sports nutritionist specializes in optimizing the diets and nutritional intake of athletes and individuals engaged in strenuous physical activity. They focus on enhancing athletic performance, promoting recovery, and supporting overall health through tailored nutrition plans. 

Public Health Nutritionist 

Public health nutritionists work at the intersection of nutrition science and public health, focusing on improving the health and well-being of communities and populations through nutrition-related interventions and policies. 

Public health nutritionists may work at the community or the governmental level. At the community level, a public health nutritionist can evaluate the nutritional status and dietary habits of communities or populations and identify nutritional deficiencies, food insecurities, and health disparities within communities. Further, public health nutritionists develop and implement educational programs and campaigns to promote healthy eating habits, often targeting specific demographics or at-risk groups. 

At the governmental or policy level, a public health nutritionist will advocate for and contribute to the development of nutrition-related policies and guidelines as well as collaborate with policymakers, healthcare providers, community organizations, and advocacy groups to implement effective policies and programs. Public health nutritionists analyze data related to nutrition and health outcomes to assess the effectiveness of interventions and programs and conduct research studies to identify trends, patterns, and best practices in public health nutrition. 

During emergencies or crises (natural disasters, pandemics), public health nutritionists may be involved in planning and implementing emergency food and nutrition assistance programs. 

Food Product Developer 

A food product developer, also known as a food technologist or product development scientist, is responsible for creating new food products or improving existing ones. They combine culinary skills, scientific knowledge, and market awareness to bring innovative food items to consumers. With a background in nutrition, a food product developer would bring essential knowledge to this position, ensuring that new food products are not only attractive to consumers but are also providing nutritional value.  

Educational Prerequisites 

Educational prerequisites for a Master of Nutrition program in New York or elsewhere can vary. At Sage Russell, a nutrition master’s degree benefits those who do not have an undergraduate degree in nutrition but who are interested in obtaining the RD credential. Applicants to the Sage program must provide:  

  • Official transcripts from all post-secondary institutions attended 
  • Two letters of recommendation 
  • One- to two-page career goals essay 
  • Resume 
  • RSC graduate school application 

GRE scores are not required for the Sage master’s degree in nutrition and dietetics program.  

Program Accreditation 

Russell Sage College is chartered by the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York and is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The Sage Dietetic Internship program is accredited through Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND), making those that complete it eligible to sit for the RD credentialing exam.  

Time and Financial Commitment 

Completing a master’s degree typically takes two years. The Sage master’s degree in nutrition and dietetics is designed to be completed in just 18 months for full-time students. Applicants who decide to pursue the degree on a part-time basis while continuing to work should expect to spend more time to complete the required 45 credit hours.  

As of 2023, the cost of the master’s program at Sage is $640 per credit, which amounts to $28,000 total for the degree. Students enrolled in at least six credits per semester are eligible for $3,010 Graduate Assistantships each semester. 

Licensing and Certification 

Registered dieticians earn their RD credential from the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) through one of three pathways:  

  • Earning a bachelor’s degree and completing an ACEND Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD) in addition to a Dietetic Internship (DI). 
  • Earning a bachelor’s degree and completing an accredited Coordinated Program. 
  • Earning a master’s degree from an accredited program “that integrates coursework and at least 1,000 hours of experiential learning.” 

Upon completion of one of these requirements, prospective RDs can sit for the RD exam. The Russell Sage College master’s degree in nutrition and dietetics prepares students to apply for a subsequent accredited Dietetic Internship prior to sitting for the RD exam.  

It is also important to note that Registered Dietitian and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) are terms that can be used interchangeably. 

If you are ready to take the next step in your career with a master’s degree in nutrition and dietetics, contact Sage today to start your application.