What is graduate study?
Graduate programs provide the opportunity for advanced study in an academic discipline leading to either professional certification or an advanced degree. Graduate study always includes completing advanced-level academic courses and usually includes a significant independent research project (thesis or dissertation). A Master of Science degree (usually awarded after two years of study beyond the bachelor’s) or a Doctoral degree (commonly awarded three or more years after completion of the Master’s) are the most common advanced degrees earned by nutritionists.
There are also other professional programs, completed after you finish your BS degree, which lead to certifications. These may or may not require completion of an advanced degree. Examples of professional certifications include state licensure, diabetes education, sports dietetics, weight management, and nutrition support.
Why should I consider graduate school?
Students commonly attend graduate school in nutrition to gain additional expertise in their field. While there are many entry-level job opportunities for graduates with a bachelor’s degree, upper-level positions commonly require a master’s degree. College teaching and research positions require a doctoral degree.
Many students earn a bachelor’s degree in another field and then switch to nutrition. As you would expect, you will need to take some additional classes but you can earn a master’s degree with a bachelor’s degree in another discipline. The opposite is also true – many students with a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics complete graduate programs in other fields such as exercise science, psychology, education, and business.
What should I do now as an undergraduate?
Graduate programs are intended for top students with high academic potential. Thus, your first step is to earn good grades in your classes as you complete your bachelor’s degree. Programs commonly require a minimum of a 3.0 GPA for admission. Students must have earned a bachelor’s degree prior to admission. Your degree does not need to be in Nutrition and Dietetics, however. In fact, it is common for graduate students in nutrition to have undergraduate degrees in areas other than nutrition. Regardless of the discipline of your bachelor’s degree, nutrition graduate programs commonly require students to have completed at least 3 semesters of chemistry (general, organic, and biochemistry), anatomy, physiology, statistics, and nutrition prior to admission. While not required, having experience in your planned area of study is beneficial. This experience can be gained from paid or volunteer activities.
Many programs also require that you complete a standardized entrance exam that is the equivalent of the SAT or ACT. This test is called the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). The website (http://www.gre.org) provides information on the exam and how to prepare.
Finally, read the admission requirements and watch the application deadlines carefully; they vary from school to school.
Where should I begin my search?
Students should attend graduate programs that specialize in their area of interest. You will need to research the programs first to see if they are right for you. The following links may provide useful information in your search for graduate programs in nutrition and dietetics:
- Master’s and PhD programs in nutrition
- graduate nutrition program directory
- internships with a graduate degree offered
You may also check one of the many general graduate school information websitesavailable.
Once you find a program of interest, review its website carefully for the nature of the curriculum and the research interests of the faculty. You should contact the department and, if at all possible, visit the program prior to your application. Faculty in graduate programs are very careful to select only those students for whom they can provide appropriate training – so be sure you know what you want to study and find a program that fits your needs.
Will I be able to afford graduate school?
You can attend graduate school full or part-time, so the cost to you may not be as high on an annual basis as your Bachelor’s degree. If you are working, find out whether your employer will pay for you to take classes.
Universities also offer a limited number of graduate teaching and research assistantships. These positions pay your tuition and a stipend in exchange for working 20 hours per week during the academic year assisting in teaching classes or on a research project. Loans and financial aid may also be available.
What is available at URI?
The Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences offers both a MS and a PhD program in Nutrition. Our faculty specialize in areas of health promotion, nutrition education, energy balance, and lipid metabolism. In addition, we have a dietetic internship program that is part of our MS degree program that is available to students on a competitive basis. Please see our Department’s website for more information. General information about graduate programs at URI can be found on the URI Graduate School website.