Where to Get the Best Online Nutritionist Certification

These well-respected online nutritionist programs will accommodate your schedule and professional goals.

Cooking class
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If you're considering pursuing an online nutritionist or dietitian certification or degree and have a busy schedule, limited budget, or prefer a self-paced program, there's good news: Dozens of well-respected and accredited programs are now available online. That said, not every program will fit your needs or goals.

While some of the programs offer certifications designed for continuing education, others offer traditional bachelor's or master's degrees. For example, the programs outlined below are either affiliated with an accredited college or university or are vetted by other professional organizations such as the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching. It's also important to understand the key differences between being certified as a nutritionist, health coach, certified nutrition specialist (C.N.S.), or registered dietitian nutritionist (R.D.N.) and which is best for your professional goals.

To help you navigate the many online nutrition certifications and degree options available, listed below are the best programs currently available according to various criteria, such as what degrees and certifications are offered, how long the certification takes to complete, cost of tuition and fees, and more. Let this serve as a guide to help simplify your decision-making and narrow down the programs that may be the best fit for you and your career goals.

Best Online Nutritionist Certifications of 2022

01 of 07

Best Overall: University of New England

University of New England
University of New England

Key Specs

  • Price: $770 per credit (27 - 48 credit programs) + additional course material fees
  • Certifications: Masters of Science in Applied Nutrition plus coursework that meets C.N.S. requirements and eligibility for R.D.N. exam
  • Course Type: Online instruction via UNE Learning Management System

Why We Chose It

The University of New England offers several post-graduate options for accredited nutrition education whether it's your first career, a career change, or a career advancement.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Accredited program
  • Flexible course schedule for working professionals
  • Multi-track program options
  • Financial aid available

Cons

  • Long-time commitment
  • Costly

Overview

The University of New England (UNE) is a private institution, originally founded in 1831, that offers several accredited online program tracks in nutrition studies. UNE is Maine's largest private university and includes five different colleges, including the College of Professional Studies, which is entirely virtual. Beyond being recognized regionally, UNE is listed as one of the Best National Colleges and one of the Best Online Programs for Grad Education in the 2022 US News & World Repor. It was also listed as one of the Best Colleges in the 2023 Princeton Review.

A Master of Science in Applied Nutrition is available for those just seeking a master's degree and who do not intend to become an R.D.N. either. This is a 36-credit program designed for working professionals and career-changers. Students can specialize in any of the following tracks: Non-Diet Approaches to Health Promotion, Nutrition and Disease Prevention, or Sustainable Nutrition. Students can also create a customized track based on their area of interest. This degree fulfills all the academic requirements to become a C.N.S. as well.

There is also a specific track for existing R.D.N.s who wish to earn their master's degree through completion of a 27-credit R.D.N. to Master of Science in Applied Nutrition pathway. This allows R.D.N.s to achieve up to 405 hours of continuing education credits and earn a master's degree in as little as 16 months. For those starting off a career in nutrition and pursuing an R.D.N.,, there is an M.S. in applied nutrition with a dietetics focus to prepare graduates to sit for the R.D.N. credential exam. This program is designed to be completed in two years full-time and is a total of 48 credit hours. UNE Online is one of the only institutions nationwide to offer this combined program that also includes Supervised Experiential Learning (SEL) where the student is located. Coursework is 100 percent online, and then the SEL portion can be completed where it is convenient for you without the need to relocate.

All UNE programs are semester-based (16-week semesters with two eight-week terms) and follow specific enrollment periods and academic calendars, but applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Specific prerequisite coursework is required for these programs so you will need to review that closely before applying.

02 of 07

Best for Plant-Based: eCornell

eCornell
eCornell

Key Specs

  • Price: $1260 for the entire program ($455 per course)
  • Certifications: Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from eCornell and T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies
  • Course Type: Video lectures, text transcripts, readings, and presentations

Why We Chose It

eCornell's Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate is a six-week virtual program that focuses on the health benefits of a plant-based diet for overall wellness as well as disease prevention and management.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Affiliated with Ivy League University
  • No prerequisites
  • Self-paced
  • Accredited organization

Cons

  • Not a degree or license

Overview

eCornell's Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate is an online program developed by renowned nutritional biochemist T. Colin Campbell in collaboration with his eponymous Center for Nutrition Studies. It is one of the only online plant-based certificates that is primarily nutrition-focused instead of being more culinary-focused.

The course is broken into three main parts: Nutrition and Society, Nutrition and Chronic Disease, and Plant-Based in Practice. Nutrition and Society focuses on health in your community, how to navigate public messages about health and nutrition, and how industry and government impact public policy and individual food choices. Nutrition and Chronic Disease reviews the research findings from the China Project as well as scientific evidence supporting a whole food, plant-based diet and its role in disease prevention. Lastly, the Plant-Based in Practice section reviews the practical application of a plant-based diet and how it is integrated into your lifestyle on a daily basis.

Individuals can select from a list of start dates and then take lessons at their own pace, as long as they are taken in sequence and completed within the expected time frame. Each of the three course sections lasts two weeks, so a total of six weeks is required to complete the entire course; students can expect to spend six to eight hours per week on instruction.

Although courses are not live, students have the opportunity to interact with course instructors through online, written discussions. Keep in mind that while this course is affiliated with the university, it is not part of the admissions process — so students are not eligible for financial aid. However, private scholarships may be available.

03 of 07

Best for Health Coach Training: Emory University

Emory University
Emory University

Key Specs

  • Price: $4995
  • Certifications: Online Health and Wellness Coaching Certificate Program
  • Course Type: Live instructor-led courses via Zoom, self-paced recorded lessons, and interactive coaching sessions

Why We Chose It

Emory's 20-week online Health and Wellness Coaching Certificate Program uses evidence-based education to prepare graduates to become National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coaches.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Evidence-based methodology
  • Hybrid of live, interactive classes and self-paced
  • Graduates eligible to become board-certified health & wellness coaches

Cons

  • Somewhat rigid structure in terms of the actual course schedule
  • May be a challenging time commitment for those with full-time jobs

Overview

Emory's Online Health and Wellness Coaching Certificate Program is a 20-week (78 hours), semester-based course that includes a combination of live instruction, self-paced curriculum, and weekly coaching practice sessions along with a five-session mentored coaching practicum. The certificate program prepares graduates to be eligible to apply for the Health and Wellness Coach Certifying Examination to become a National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC). Proof of a bachelor's degree is required in order to be accepted into the program, and you have to complete an application and submit a small fee ($25).

This is a great program for evidence-based education centered on behavioral change, coaching psychology, and understanding health and lifestyle conditions, and it's a smaller investment and time commitment than pursuing a master's or R.D. license. It's a good fit for those wanting additional education to support an existing career or those specifically focused on a health & wellness coaching business. However, this program will not prepare you for the R.D.N. or C.N.S. exam. Additionally, it may not give you the credentials you need, as a standalone certification, to work in certain facilities such as a health care facility, food service, or academia. This program also requires 100 percent attendance for all classes and practice coaching sessions so keep this in mind if you have a busy schedule. According to the program description, students should expect to spend about eight hours per week on coursework.

04 of 07

Best for Sports Nutrition: National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)

NASM
NASM

Key Specs

  • Price: $899
  • Certifications: Certified Nutrition Coach (NASM-CNC), Certified Sports Nutrition Coach (NASM-CSNC)
  • Course Type: readings, videos

Why We Chose It

NASM is our pick for sports nutrition because of its specific focus on educating fitness professionals so they can better meet the needs of their clients.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Evidence-based information
  • Minimal time commitment and flexible schedule (entirely self-paced)
  • No prerequisites

Cons

  • Not as robust as some other certifications
  • No live interaction with instructors

Overview

The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) offers two online certification programs to become a nutrition coach: The Certified Nutrition Coach (CNC) course focuses on providing a foundation for general nutrition information and the Certified Sports Nutrition Coach (CSNC) course focuses on personalized nutritional recommendations to optimize athletic performance and recovery. The NASM programs use videos and handouts to help prepare individuals for a final exam to receive their certificate.

These NASM certifications can provide supplemental education for fitness trainers. The CSNC could even be helpful as supplementary education for a certified health coach or R.D. However, those who receive NASM's certifications are not qualified to replace a R.D. since they do not require the extensive education in nutrition science, microbiology and biochemistry, medical nutrition therapy, and food service management that R.D.N.s must take to be eligible for the R.D.N. credential. Unlike R.D.N. training, NASM certifications do not require accredited practicum training or board certification. But if you're interested in sports nutrition specifically, this could be a good option and can be accomplished in as little as four weeks.

05 of 07

Best for Variety: Arizona State University

Arizona State University
Arizona State University

Key Specs

  • Price: Between $561 - $1343 per credit hour
  • Certifications: bachelor's degrees, master's degrees, and certificates
  • Course Type: videos and recorded lectures via learning management system

Why We Chose It

Arizona State offers an impressive number of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees and certifications related to health and wellness, nutrition science, as well as food and sustainability.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Extensive options for health care programs and degrees
  • Accredited university
  • Courses for undergraduates and postgraduates
  • Financial aid available

Cons

  • Costly

Overview

Arizona State University offers over 40 different health care programs and degrees, including over 10 bachelor's and master's degree programs all online. These courses take place in a learning management system called Canvas which provides a platform for students to access coursework from nearly any location on nearly any device. Online classes are held over two seven-and-a-half-week sessions during the spring and fall semesters, as well as six-week sessions during the summer. That said, students can still complete the coursework on their own time during this time frame.

Online degree tracks related to nutrition include a bachelor's in Food and Nutrition Entrepreneurship, a bachelor's in Health Sciences–Healthy Lifestyles and Fitness Science, a master's in Medical Nutrition, and a master's in Nutritional Science – Dietetics, among others. The Master of Science in Nutritional Science is the only degree that fulfills the requirements to be eligible for the R.D.N. exam. Pre-requisites for this program include a Bachelor's degree with a cumulative 3.0 GPA. The bachelor's in Health Education & Health Promotions prepares graduates to sit for the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES®) exam and the bachelor's in Healthy Lifestyles and Fitness Science prepares graduates to sit for the NBC-HWC exam. When estimating your total tuition, keep in mind that undergraduate degrees require 120 credit hours, while master's degrees require 30 credit hours.

06 of 07

Best for Integrative and Functional Nutrition: Saybrook University

Saybrooke University
Saybrooke University

Key Specs

  • Price: $1270 per credit ($1349 per credit for Ph.D.)
  • Certifications: Certificate, master's, <<lowercase or Ph.D.
  • Course Type: Virtual Residential Conference, online video conferences, phone calls, and recorded videos

Why We Chose It

Saybrook University was one of the first institutions in the U.S. to adopt a hybrid online learning model and offers several programs in Integrative and Functional Nutrition as part of its College of Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Evidence-based education
  • Accredited online college
  • Strong program history
  • Multiple program options

Cons

  • Costly
  • Prerequisites required

Overview

Saybrook University is an accredited online college that offers a variety of degrees and certificate programs with a holistic mission to "pursue a socially just, sustainable world" and to enable students to become leaders who will carry this mission on in their fields of work and communities. Students who pursue integrative nutrition at Saybrook University can choose from master's track, Ph.D. track, or certificate programs. The College of Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences focuses on a holistic, evidence-based approach to health and health care and offers several options for education including degrees and certificates in mind-body medicine, integrative and functional nutrition, and integrative wellness coaching. These courses can be taken as complementary education to an existing career, to further expand on expertise as a health care provider, or can prepare students for a new career in integrative nutrition.

The Master's of Science in Integrative and Functional Nutrition program prepares students for the (CNS) exam as well as the Certified Clinical Nutritionist credential (CCN), but it does not make graduates eligible for the R.D. or R.D.N. credential. The Masters of Arts in Integrative Wellness Coaching focuses on the core competencies and skills that integrate evidence-based approaches for health-related outcomes. By completing the coursework in this degree, students also complete the Saybrook University Certificate in Integrative Wellness Coaching which is approved by the International Consortium for Health and Wellness Coaching (ICHWC) and the National Board of Health and Wellness Coaching (NBHWC). Note that the M.A. in Integrative Wellness Coaching does require a residential, on-site component in addition to online classes.

The master's and Ph.D. programs require a greater commitment of time and financial resources, but the certificate programs offer an alternative if you want a comprehensive education, but aren't seeking a formal degree. There are two certificate programs related to nutrition: an Integrative and Functional Nutrition certificate and the Certificate in Integrative Wellness Coaching. The certificate program in Integrative and Functional Nutrition is 16 credits and includes five academic courses, one optional residential conference, one graduate colloquium, and one capstone essay. Meanwhile, the certificate program in Integrative Wellness Coaching is only nine credits and can be completed over 32 weeks, if not taken as a part of the M.A.

Make sure you carefully review the prerequisites for all of these programs; the degree requirements will include some specific coursework but this can be completed concurrently as part of the program, whereas the certificate programs will just require completion of a bachelor's degree with a GPA of 3.0 or better. An interview is part of the admissions process as well.

07 of 07

Best for Budget: Precision Nutrition

Precision Nutrition
Precision Nutrition

Key Specs

  • Price: $119/mo. for 12 months (regular price); $99/mo. or one-time payment of $999 (presale)
  • Certifications: CEUs offered through ACE, ACSM, AFAA, CIMSPA, CDR, CPTN, CrossFit®, EREPS, ISSA, NASM, NBHWC, and PTA Global
  • Course Type: videos, readings

Why We Chose It

Precision Nutrition offers two levels of health coaching certification along with continuing education modules, coaching software, and personalized coaching. Its pricing structure is very competitive, making this our pick for best for any budget.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Long-standing company history
  • Evidence-based
  • Can complete certification in less than six months
  • Self-paced once the program starts

Cons

  • Not formally accredited
  • Only takes a select number of students at once

Overview

Precision Nutrition is a private platform that provides nutrition coaching certifications and continuing education courses for advanced learning. There are two levels of certification: Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification and PN Master Health Coaching Certification, along with a Sleep, Stress Management, and Recovery Certification. All content is self-paced but enrollment is only at certain times of the year (September and March for the Level 1 Certification, October and April for the Master Health Coaching Certification, November and May for the Sleep, Stress Management, and Recovery Certification; students can sign up in advance as part of presale promotions and then receive materials once the enrollment officially opens.

Continuing education courses are laid out as a part of the "PN Academy," its advanced education membership for nutrition professionals. The PN Academy also gives members access to other community members and advanced certifications. Once certified, nutrition coaches can use the Precision Nutrition coaching software to support their business. College and continuing education credits are available for those eligible, and although the program is not accredited, it is endorsed by NASM, ACSM, ACE, and other leading sports medicine organizations. And the PN Master Health Coaching Certifications is an approved Health and Wellness Coach Training Education Program by the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching (NBHWC) A huge bonus is that the platform does not promote fad diets and is committed to being grounded in science. If you think Precision Nutrition may be right for you but are hesitant to commit, you can always take advantage of the 45-day money-back guarantee.

Final Verdict

The University of New England (UNE) is our pick for best overall because of its different options for nutrition certifications and flexible course schedule. UNE is fully accredited and offers several learning tracks in the field of nutrition for existing R.D.N.s or other professionals seeking a master's degree, as well as those who want to receive the necessary training to begin their career as an R.D.N. It also prepares students to sit for the CNS exam for those who opt out of the R.D.N track but still want to obtain a nutrition certification beyond a master's degree. Each course is very timely and up-to-date with current research and materials on Non-Diet Approaches to Health Promotion and Sustainable Nutrition, which sets UNE apart from other programs.

Arizona State University's programs came in at a close second because of its variety of both undergraduate and postgraduate nutrition programs available online. However, suppose you are not interested in pursuing a college degree or R.D.N. certification but still want a good overview of nutrition science as well as health coaching. In that case, you may want to consider Precision Nutrition or the program at Emory University. Some of the other certificate programs in this list offer more specialized training to hone your expertise in a specific area, such as NASM's certification in sports nutrition.

Compare the Best Online Nutritionist Certifications

Company Price Certifications Program Type Prerequisites Required
The University of New England (UNE)
Best Overall
$770 per credit Master's of Science in Applied Nutrition plus coursework that meets CNS requirements and eligibility for R.D.N. exam Online instruction on university's LMS platform Yes
eCornell
Best for Plant-Based
$1260 Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate Video lectures, text transcripts, readings, and presentations No
Emory University
Best for Health Coaching
$4995 Health and Wellness Coaching Certificate Live instructor-led courses via Zoom, self-paced recorded lessons, and interactive coaching sessions Yes
National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
Best for Sports Nutrition
$899 Certified Nutrition Coach (NASM-CNC), Certified Sports Nutrition Coach (NASM-CSNC) Readings, videos No
Arizona State University
Best for Variety
$561 - $1343 per credit hour Bachelor's degrees, master's degrees, and certificates Videos, recorded lectures via LMS platform Yes
Saybrook University
Best for Integrative and Functional Nutrition
Starts at $1270 per credit Certificate, master's, or Ph.D. Virtual Residential Conference, online video conferences, phone calls, and recorded videos Yes
Precision Nutrition
Best for Budget
$999 Certificate Videos, textbook readings No

Guide to Choosing the Best Online Nutrition Certification

What Is a Nutrition Certification?

A nutrition certification indicates someone has taken some kind of course related to health and wellbeing but having a "nutrition certification" does not necessarily equate to being an expert in nutrition since this is not a legally regulated credential. To determine whether or not someone's certification is credible, it is important to understand where the certification is from (i.e., a well-established, evidence-based, or accredited organization) and what kind of curriculum, training, and evaluation the course has before certifications are given out to students. Some will be significantly more or less robust than others. Other certification programs, not on this list, put more emphasis on marketing oneself and less on actual topic expertise.

What Type of Career Am I Looking to Achieve?

Before pursuing a specific degree or certification in nutrition, it is a good idea to think about what line of work and place of work you are looking for afterward. For example, if you want to work in a clinical or academic setting. In that case, it is absolutely necessary to become board certified and pursue an R.D.N. license and a master's degree. However, if you are primarily interested in seeing private clients and are not seeking employment by a health care establishment as a dietitian, becoming a C.N.S. is another possible path.

If you're interested in seeing private clients who do not have complex medical problems and don't have the desire or means to invest as much time and money into a lengthy academic program, becoming a certified nutrition coach may make more sense. Health coach certifications that focus on behavior change theory can also be valuable for counselors as a way to be more effective with their clients. Other programs such as the plant-based certificate from eCornell are great for personal education or as an added certificate to further define your niche.

What Should I Look for in a Nutrition Certification Program?

There are several important factors to consider when deciding on which nutrition certification program to take. One main factor is what kind of degree or certificate you will earn upon completion of the program; another is whether or not the program is accredited and/or well-established. The programs on this list are primarily accredited and/or well-vetted by credible professionals in the field. Another key factor to note is what the program's curriculum will cover. For example, is it primarily focused on a specific eating pattern, disease management, aging, general health and wellness, behavior change, food and sustainability, or does it cover a bit of everything?

Look at any prerequisites that are necessary before enrolling, as well as the time commitment needed to complete the course(s). For example, if this is a second career and you are working full time, you will need to factor in how much time the program will take each week and during what hours of the day (if not self-paced) as well as how long it will take to graduate, and see if it fits in with your work schedule. You may also want to know if there are any live classes or if all online classes are pre-recorded videos and self-paced readings. And, of course, pricing is an essential consideration since some of these programs are a significant investment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is There a Difference Between a Nutritionist Degree and a Nutritionist Certification?

Degrees tend to take significantly more time than certifications, and degrees will often be from an accredited institution whereas any private company can issue a certification. Because certifications are less expensive, they may be more attainable depending on your career goals but should be well researched to understand if the certificate will be sufficient education. The positive aspect of certification can be that although it takes less time, it is typically much more specific in its focus meaning this can be a great asset to increase your knowledge about a certain topic to help define your professional niche, such as an R.D. who wants to get a certificate in plant-based nutrition or sports nutrition.

What Certifications Should a Nutritionist Have?

The R.D.N. certification is generally the go-to certification for those who want to make nutrition a full-time career as it is the most widely recognized and "gold standard" in terms of its credibility. For example, a nutritionist in any type of healthcare facility such as a hospital, nursing home, long-term healthcare, rehab center, or clinic, will generally need an R.D.N. certification. This is also true for a nutritionist wanting to work in food service management, government-based community nutrition, head up a wellness program at a college or university or corporate setting, work in a supermarket as a retail dietitian, or be a go-to resource for media publications. And as of 2024, all R.D.N.s will need to have a master's degree in order to be eligible for the registration exam. In some of these settings, a CNS degree may also be sufficient and well-respected in the clinical field but is not as widely recognized as the R.D.N. licensure.

Those working in private practice will also greatly benefit from the R.D.N. certification but may also benefit from becoming a National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coach. The exact certification you should have primarily depends on the clientele you are targeting and your approach to counseling. If you are interested in specializing in behavior theory and a more holistic methodology, becoming a health coach may be a priority. However, if you will be helping individuals with chronic disease or nutrition-related, medical illness, you need to pursue your R.D.N. or CNS in order to have a strong foundation in medical nutrition therapy. And there are additional certifications once you become an R.D.N. to become even more specialized, such as becoming a Certified Diabetes Educator or becoming board certified in pediatric nutrition, gerontological nutrition, oncology nutrition, and more (check out the Commission on Dietetic Registration's website to learn more).

How Long Does It Take to Complete a Nutritionist Certification?

Completing a course for a nutritionist certification can take as little as fourweeks and as long as several years, depending on the program. Generally, the programs that give graduates "certifications" will be much shorter than programs that result in a degree from an accredited college or university.

How Much Do Nutrition Certifications Cost?

This can also range considerably depending on the program and resulting certification or degree. Based on regular pricing, the least expensive on this list is $899 for the NASM health coach certification whereas the certificate program in Integrative and Functional Nutrition from Saybrook University costs over $20,000, and master's degrees can cost over $40,000 depending on the school. Similar to their duration, programs that result in "certifications" will be less expensive than bachelor's or master's degrees from accredited schools. It is a good idea to always look for financial aid or scholarships, especially for any programs affiliated with a college or university in order to manage these extra costs. And as with any investment into your career education, it is also important to research what your return will be. Research what degree requirements there are for jobs that interest you and what the salary ranges are for those positions to help you determine which investment makes the most sense.

Methodology

Dozens of online academic programs and certifications were considered while compiling this list. Factors that were considered included whether or not the organization was accredited, what type of certification the programs offer, the instructors' credentials, reviews from graduates and other professional organizations, coursework content, pricing, duration of programs, enrollment policies, and the flexibility of online learning. Priority was given to accredited programs, programs that have had a proven track record, and programs that are evidence-based and grounded in nutrition science versus fad diets.

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