Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition

Rush University clinical nutrition dietitian consulting a student

The Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition program offers a fully online curriculum that focuses on the assessment and application of current evidence in clinical nutrition. Didactic courses utilize a combination of online synchronous and asynchronous teaching.  In addition, students will meet one-on-one, online, with faculty to complete a master’s research project.

Students may enroll as either full-time or part-time students. This program is ideally suited for part-time study so that you may continue to work full-time. Full-time study usually requires 16 months (4 semesters). Part-time students usually complete the program in three to five years. Whether a full- or part-time student, you must complete the required 30 credits within 5 years of matriculation.

You may be able to transfer credit hours of applicable graduate credit from another accredited university. To transfer credits, you must receive a “B” grade or better and get approval from your supervisory committee.

Please note that obtaining the clinical nutrition MS degree will not make you eligible to take the registration examination for dietitians. Individuals interested in becoming a registered dietitian should contact the program chairperson for more information.  

Clinical Nutrition M.S. Program Quick Facts
Program Type:

Full-Time or Part-Time




16-20 Months

Average Class Size:



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What is a Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition?

A master’s degree in clinical nutrition prepares students for careers in federal or state agencies, public health or wellness settings, private industry, research or academic settings. The clinical nutrition program curriculum combines theoretical knowledge and evidence-based research with practical clinical applications. Students enhance their ability to critically think in order to take on all challenges in the field of clinical nutrition. Additionally, students learn to design, implement and present research thereby enhancing their ability to gather, assess and critically analyze data.

Nutritionist vs. dietitian

Unsure about the difference between a nutritionist vs. dietitian? The term “nutritionist” is often synonymous with the term “dietitian;” however, there are important differences. Nutritionists have varying levels of education; some individuals with no professional training will refer to themselves as “nutritionists,” while other nutritionists may have a PhD. If you are seeking nutrition advice from a nutritionist, it is important to determine the individual’s training in the field of nutrition. Dietitians must complete specific nutrition-related coursework from an institution accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) and supervised practice via an ACEND-accredited dietetic internship. Dietitians must pass a national registration exam from the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) in order to practice as a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN).

Clinical nutrition career options

An individual obtaining an MS in Clinical Nutrition can expect to work in a variety of careers, such as in federal or state agencies, public health or wellness settings, private industry, research or the academic settings. Students with this degree will also have the option of completing a thesis or non-thesis project, which exposes the student to conducting clinical research.

Some additional career options available to clinical nutrition graduates include the following:

  • A community nutritionist is an expert in diet and nutrition who works to improve public nutritional habits instead of working one on one with individual clients. Often, they develop programs and policies for institutions that improve nutrition, which can include developing meal plans based on needs, cost and culture, evaluating the impact of the program or policy and reporting the results.
  • Nutrition educators work as faculty for universities, colleges and even with government agencies to help develop specific programming. Within this role the nutritionist may develop curriculum, courses or programs while assessing student learning outcomes. Faculty teach courses in a variety of areas ranging from the classroom to a metabolic kitchen or supervised experience setting. Additionallyc, faculty often act as an advisor and mentor to students majoring in the nutrition field and as a faculty advisor to food and nutrition student clubs.
  • Research is an essential component of the nutrition field. Nutritionists working in this setting use their scientific expertise to design, coordinate and implement study protocols. These tasks can include recruiting study participants, implementing nutrition intervention programs, coordinating programs and budgets, maintaining data management software programs, supporting data collection, ensuring quality control of data collection, and creating and updating scheduling systems to ensure proper workflow of study procedures.
  • In the industry setting, nutritionists work with corporate or non-profit organizations within the regulations, product development, communications, marketing or sales departments. In this role, nutritionists have the ability to inform product development, identify and evaluate trends and innovations, guide strategies, and highlight opportunities for product integration, determine whether products comply with regulations to meet health claims, and to effectively communicate news and translate science.

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Learn more about the Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition program at an on-campus or online information session.