United States Masters in Food Science and Nutrition Schools

Both food science masters degree and nutrition schools cover various aspects of the food system and may prepare students to confidently enter the field. Food science masters degree schools apply basic chemistry, microbiology, physics and nutrition concepts to food processing and handling. Food science programs may also cover various aspects of product development and marketing as they relate to the food and agriculture industries.

Meanwhile, nutrition masters schools tend to concentrate on the scientific study of human and animal nutrition as it affects the body. Courses may focus on the digestion and absorption of micronutrients. Nutrition programs might also address the relationship between the accessibility of food and health in various communities, or the impact of environmental issues on food quality.

Benefits of Studying Nutrition or Food Science in Graduate School

Earning your masters in food science and nutrition on campus could have a few unique benefits. For one, there’s the convenience of studying in your community (or, for that matter, in a program in an exciting new city). Students may also have access to valuable academic resources. For example, they could perform research in laboratory spaces, gain experience in simulated or even active nutrition clinics, and work side by side with experts in their fields. Not to mention they'll have the opportunity to enjoy class time and interactions with professors and peers.

Then there’s relationships the school might have with hospitals, agencies, and corporations in the area. This could be valuable when it comes to setting up clinical rotations, internships, or even launching a career. Specific resources and services available may vary by school and program. For more information about what it’s like to earn a food science masters on campus, reach out to the program in question.

Food Science Masters Degrees vs. Nutrition Masters Degrees

Food Science and Nutrition have a lot in common, and may even share some curriculum topics or courses. At the masters level, they also both tend to focus on honing skills that support the responsibilities of professionals in the field. However, while related, the two programs are distinct.

Food science masters degrees center on the application of scientific principles to the manufacturing, distribution, sales and marketing, and consumer areas of food. They may address the whole process of food production and distribution. Courses might look at everything from processing raw materials to the sales and marketing of food products to individual consumers. Food science schools however tend not to emphasize the latter half of food’s overall process—that is, the consumption of food and its impact on the consumers who buy it.

Masters degree in nutrition programs are a different story. If food science covers the first half of the life cycle of food—from production to sales—nutrition covers the second half, everything that happens once the food is in the consumer’s hands. These programs are generally more person-oriented, focusing on how food impacts personal and community health, and social and environmental issues surrounding the accessibility of healthy food.

What To Expect In Food Science Masters Programs

Food science masters schools generally focus on the roles and responsibilities inherent in food production, handling and distribution. While many programs may survey this topic holistically, some may ask that students select a specific focus area to study a certain topic in detail. In some cases, this could mean selecting a program concentration. In other cases, this focus would be indicated by the program name. Examples are listed below.

  • Masters in Food Science and Technology
  • Food Safety Masters Degree
  • Food Engineering Masters Degree

In addition to coursework, some programs may require students to compose and/or present a thesis. This would generally resemble a research paper, and demonstrate that the student in question is familiar with thought leadership in the field. Other programs, meanwhile, particularly career-focused ones, might offer a capstone project option. While also typically research heavy, a capstone project might be somewhat more practical in nature, completed in a group, and resemble the type of work one might perform in the field

Common coursework in food science masters schools may include the following.

  • Chemistry
  • Engineering
  • Microbiology
  • Nutrition
  • Technology of food

In order to apply for admission to food science masters programs, students generally need to have earned a bachelors degree in food science or a related field, such as physical or biological science. Many programs also require students to have completed specific coursework. This could include things like chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, biology and calculus. Specific requirements may differ based upon the particular program.

Nutrition Masters Degree Schools

Being comparatively person-oriented, earning a masters in nutrition generally means studying in detail the nutritional needs of different types of people, and the impact foods have on overall health. As such, nutrition masters programs may incorporate elements of public health nutrition, clinical work with patients, and laboratory research on micronutrients.

Typical nutrition masters program coursework might include the following.

  • Biology
  • Physiology
  • Human nutrition
  • Anatomy
  • Biochemistry
  • Chemistry
  • Food management
  • Systems physiology

Many nutrition graduate programs also require internships. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics nutritionists are usually required to complete several hundred hours of supervised training.i Some programs may include internship hours in their coursework. Others might require the student to complete the training hours independently. Contact schools for details

Given these requirements, nutrition masters degrees are typically earned in 2-3 years, depending on the individual requirements of a given program and the pace at which the individual student elects to complete them.

Additional Nutrition Credentials

The Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists explains certification requirements vary by state, but generally, a masters degree is required for state certification or licensure. If you've completed a graduate program in nutrition you are eligible to take the Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) exam, which is overseen by the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists (CBNS). Those who pass gain the occupational title of Certified Nutrition Specialist.

Additional professional certifications related to nutrition include the Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) credential. In food science, while professional certification is generally not required, those offered tend to be specific to a narrower discipline, like food technology, animal science, soil science, etc. The prerequisites, standards and maintenance of each credential may vary on a case by case basis.

Food Science & Nutrition Graduate Program Accreditation

In addition to national and regional university accreditation, some programs may also be recognized by accrediting bodies for their academic programs. This may speak to the quality of the program, as well as other factors like financial stability and faculty. Accreditation for nutrition graduate programs is generally performed by the American Dietetic Association or ADA. Food science masters degree schools may be accredited by a variety of professional organizations, depending on the specific branch of food science in question. For more information about the accreditation status of your selected school, reach out to them with questions.

Nutrition & Food Science Career Paths

Those earning a masters in food science and technology may pursue a variety of career paths. Industries populated by graduates of this program include health science, nursing, gerontology, agriculture, food service and marketing. Those studying nutrition may pursue opportunities as clinical nutritionists, nutrition counselors, directors of food and nutrition, nutrition and family health coordinators and more. Nutritionists might work in places like hospitals and other care facilities, public and community health agencies, and research institutes. In both food science and nutrition, some entry level employment may be available with a bachelors degree.

Example food science and nutrition careers and salary data is listed bleow.

  • Dietitians and Nutritionists: $58,920 (2016 median annual salary)i
  • Health Educators: $44,390 (2016 median annual salary)ii
  • Agricultural and Food Scientists: $60,920 (2016 median annual salary)iii
  • Food Scientists and Technologists: $63,950 (2016 median annual salary)iv

Search for Nutrition and Food Science Masters Degree Schools Today

Find your potential food science masters programs or nutrition schools today with GradSchools.com! Review the programs on this page. Then, to learn more about a particular school, click on the program name. There you can read program details and contact the school directly through the simple on page form.


[i] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dietitians-and-nutritionists.htm | [ii] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/health-educators.htm | [iii] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/agricultural-and-food-scientists.htm | [iv] bls.gov/oes/current/oes191012.htm

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