MS in medical nutrition vs. MS in nutritional science

May 10, 2022 · 7 min read · By ASU Online
Learn about the similarities and differences between the online medical nutrition and nutritional science graduate degrees and the careers they can lead to.

Healthy eating and wellness go hand-in-hand. According to analysts from the International Food Information Council Foundation, one-third of U.S. residents follow specific nutrition plans with the intention of losing weight, increasing energy levels and preventing disease. Many also consult nutritionists when developing and managing their diets. In fact, approximately 70% of American adults attest to seeking insight from these health care specialists, according to the group.

The widespread embrace of health-conscious eating has catalyzed growth in the medical and nutritional science fields. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that these careers are on track to grow around 11% between 2020 and 2030, which is quicker than the average rate for all occupations, a graduate degree can separate you from those competing for the same roles.


MS in medical nutrition vs. MS in nutritional science: The similarities

Both an online Master of Science (MS) in medical nutrition and a MS in nutritional science cover similar topics, equipping you with skills needed to develop and implement preventative health care strategies centered on health-conscious eating. In the U.S., where diabetes and heart disease claim hundreds of thousands of lives per year, studying medical nutrition and disease is essential. Both degrees address actionable dietary strategies that can improve health outcomes and help students engage with data-backed research methodologies to apply in the real world.


What are the differences between medical nutrition and nutritional science degree programs?

Despite their similarities, MS in medical nutrition and MS in nutritional science programs have several key differences.

An online MS in medical nutrition degree is ideal for pre-professional students looking to gain further clinical knowledge, as well as students looking to attend medical school, physician assistant programs, dental school or physical therapy school. Medical nutrition students primarily focus on the link between medical nutrition and disease prevention and treatment, giving them the opportunity to gain experience that translates to the real world.

An online MS in nutritional science is ideal for students with a registered dietitian nutritionist credential or didactic program in dietetics verification statement. This degree focuses on the science at the nutrition field’s foundation, covering niche topics, such as pediatric nutrition and nutrigenomics, and providing registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) with insight into specific topics.


What types of medical nutrition jobs are there?

Both medical nutrition and nutritional science programs prepare students for a wide range of careers. For students with an online MS in medical nutrition degree and additional education and licensing, career opportunities can include:

  • Physician assistant: A profession in high demand, this profession is expected to grow 31% between 2020 and 2030. Professionals in this role work with patients to implement treatment plans that include preventative health strategies and require nutritional expertise.
  • Dentist: With dental health and nutrition directly relating to one another, nutritional awareness is an essential competency for health care professionals interested in pursuing dentistry.
  • Osteopathic specialist: Osteopathic medicine emphasizes holistic health management through health promotion and disease prevention. Nutrition plays an important role in this expanding field, which analysts for the American Osteopathic Association say 25% of medical school graduates have embraced.
  • Veterinarian: With core nutritional concepts applying to nearly all mammals, nutrition and dietary guidance plays a big role for professionals in this field. Veterinarians must develop nutritional strategies that create positive health outcomes for all animals.
Two nutrition scientists work together near a drawing of a human digestive system.

Nutrition science jobs you could prepare for

An online MS in nutritional science can prepare students to progress in similarly impactful careers, such as:

  • Registered dietitian nutritionist: The online MS in nutritional science degree can help individuals who are already registered as dietitian nutritionists stay competitive within the evolving workforce and advance in their careers.
  • Wellness or nutrition director: Through management of operations, training, marketing and more, wellness or nutrition directors work to ensure that facilities ranging from fitness centers to major corporations deliver wellness programs and services that are safe and healthy.
  • Nutrition and dietetics instructor: The MS in nutritional science degree also helps students prepare for roles outside of clinical settings, including those as a nutrition and dietetics instructor. These professions equip prospective dietitians with the necessary expertise to encourage health-conscious eating.

Degrees in both can help you develop the competencies needed to advance professionally and encourage healthy behaviors. Those intent on pursuing the above careers should know that additional education is often necessary in addition to an online MS in medical nutrition or nutritional science.


Earn your online medical nutrition or nutritional science degree at Arizona State University

ASU Online offers both a Master of Science in medical nutrition and Master of Science in nutritional science with a concentration in dietetics. Both these programs can help you develop the knowledge and skills needed for success in the nutrition field. Get started with your career in nutrition and choose from a variety of in-demand roles that not only offer professional growth, but also purpose.

How long does it take to earn an online master’s degree?

Are you considering pursuing a graduate degree online? We've answered some of the most frequently asked questions about how long it takes to earn a master's degree online at Arizona State University.


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