Credits and costs
Online Master of Professional Studies in Nutritional Sciences
The role of nutrition and the decisions we make about the foods we eat have a critical impact on our quality of life and risk of chronic disease. As concern grows regarding the high incidence of obesity and other diseases caused by poor nutrition in various populations, there is an urgent demand for professionals who are proficient in the use of evidence-based strategies to improve health and optimize quality of life.
This master's degree in nutritional sciences is designed to help prepare you for evidence-based advanced practice. Our online program features a curriculum that emphasizes critical thinking and interactive technology to engage you in the learning process. The course work, focused on the development of leadership skills, can set you apart from your peers.
Earn Your Penn State Nutrition Master's Degree
The unique focus of Penn State's online Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Nutritional Sciences program gives you the opportunity to learn from expert faculty who are leaders in the field. The Department of Nutritional Sciences at Penn State has, in addition to its highly respected, accredited undergraduate program, a dietetic internship and graduate program ranked in the top-tier, compared to peer institutions.
This online professional master's degree is designed for a range of professionals looking to advance their skills and enhance their careers in the nutrition field. Specifically, our students include:
- Current registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) who are looking to earn a master’s degree in nutritional sciences
- Students who hold an undergraduate degree in nutrition, health, or science and are looking for a master’s degree pathway to earn their Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) credential
- Health professionals looking for a career change who may or may not have a background in nutritional sciences
As a complement to the challenging but rewarding nutrition curriculum, the online courses provide you with the flexibility and convenience to study around your own schedule without sacrificing quality. You can skip the commute and prepare for more rewarding career opportunities without leaving the comfort of your home.
One Degree. Two Pathways.
When you apply to the MPS in Nutritional Sciences, you can choose to complete the master’s degree with or without an optional Experiential Track. The Experiential Track is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) as a Future Education Model Graduate Program (FG). The Experiential Track offers both in-residence and distance location options for the supervised experiential learning components for three semesters of the program.
Completion of this optional Experiential Track may lead to the Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) credential.
Your Online Courses in the Nutritional Sciences Master's Degree
Our curriculum has been developed to create a skill set that you can apply directly to your experiences and issues in the workplace. The courses in our online nutrition program are based on a student-centered, highly interactive learning model. We use diverse, innovative teaching and learning methods that consider various learning styles and can help you tailor your education to your career needs. Many of our teaching methods, such as simulation and gaming, make learning exciting and meaningful in real-life work settings.
Throughout the program, you will focus on evaluating the latest research, translating it to best practices in diverse practice settings, and becoming a leader in collaboration with other health care professionals and in the field of nutrition.
The program also includes a meaningful capstone project in which you will identify an issue or problem in your work setting and produce and implement an evidence-based solution. This culminating experience will build on a leadership-focused skill set that can advance your practice.
Opportunity to Earn a Bachelor's Degree and Master's Degree
This master's degree is also part of an Integrated Undergraduate/Graduate (IUG) program that provides undergraduate nutritional sciences students the opportunity to earn both a bachelor's degree and master's degree in approximately five years. Academically strong students who are pursuing their B.S. in Nutritional Sciences at University Park would typically apply to the online graduate program during the semester in which they will complete 60 credits. Current undergraduate students interested in the IUG pathway can contact the program office for more details.
The Master of Professional Studies in Nutritional Sciences is a 30- to 39-credit online program offering a strong foundation in evidence-based advanced practice, with a focus on leadership in various nutrition practice settings including clinical, research, community, and management.
Most students will complete the degree program in two years (based on taking two courses per semester).
The MPS in Nutritional Sciences offers an Experiential Track, which is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) and may lead to the Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) credential. This track requires completion of a minimum of 39 credits, which includes the 30 master's degree credits, plus a minimum of 9 additional credits for the optional Experiential Track.
The Experiential Track of the MPS in Nutritional Sciences is a full-time 24-month program that runs from summer semester year one through spring semester year two and includes three consecutive semesters of supervised experiential learning during year one (fall, spring, and summer). The Experiential Track supervised experiential learning semesters can be completed in-residence or at a distance.
- In-residence: Requires students to live within a drivable distance to one of the two geographic locations for supervised experiential learning — University Park, PA, and surrounding areas OR Harrisburg/Hershey, PA, and surrounding areas. All field placements are arranged by the program, and applicants may indicate preference of location upon application.
- Distance: Students can live anywhere in the United States; students must locate their own supervised experiential learning sites as part of the distance location.
Required Courses (27 credits)
Culminating Capstone Experience (3-5 credits)
Experiential Track Courses (9 credits)
If you're ready to see when your courses will be offered, visit our public LionPATH course search (opens in new window) to start planning ahead.
Costs and Financial Aid
Graduate tuition is calculated based on the number of credits for which you register. Tuition is due shortly after each semester begins and rates are assessed every semester of enrollment.
|How many credits do you plan to take per semester?||Cost|
|11 or fewer||$1,017 per credit|
|12 or more||$12,203 per semester|
|How many credits do you plan to take per semester?||Cost|
|11 or fewer||$1,027 per credit|
|12 or more||$12,325 per semester|
Financial Aid and Military Benefits
Some students may qualify for financial aid. Take the time to research financial aid, scholarships, and payment options as you prepare to apply. Military service members, veterans, and their spouses or dependents should explore these potential military education benefits and financial aid opportunities, as well.
Experiential Track Estimated Costs
These additional annual expenses are estimated and subject to change.
- Housing: $7,000–$9,000 — Supervised experiential learning sites are located in State College, PA, and surrounding areas or Hershey, PA, and surrounding areas. Housing arrangements are the responsibility of the student. (This expense does not apply to students choosing the distance location option of the Experiential Track.)
- Travel: Some sites may require a travel time of 1 to 1.5 hours from the student’s living location. A car is required to travel to the supervised experiential learning sites (this expense is variable for students in the distance location option of the Experiential Track, depending upon where the student secures supervised experiential learning sites).
- Professional Liability Insurance: $50
- Textbooks and Supplies: $500 annually
- Lab and Chef Coats (as recommended by site): Up to $25 each.
- The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Membership Dues: $50 annually
- Background Checks (costs will vary depending on site requirements): $75 or more (one-time fees)
How to Apply
Deadlines and Important Dates
For the MPS in Nutritional Sciences, applicants are admitted each semester (fall, spring and summer). Your degree application, including receipt of all transcripts, must be received by the following deadlines to be considered complete.
- Summer Deadline: Apply by April 15 to start May 13
- Fall Deadline: Apply by July 15 to start August 26
- Spring Deadline: Apply by November 15, 2024, to start January 13, 2025
For the Experiential Track of the MPS in Nutritional Sciences, applicants are admitted once a year and this track begins in the summer semester only. Your degree application, including receipt of all transcripts and references, must be received by the following deadline to be considered complete.
- February 15 for summer semester admission
If you have questions about the admissions process, contact our admissions counselors.
For Integrated Undergraduate/Graduate (IUG) Program Candidates: Academically superior undergraduate nutritional science students who want to be considered for the IUG program will need to apply and be accepted to both the Graduate School and IUG program. Please view the Penn State Graduate Bulletin listing to better understand the special admissions requirements associated with the program.
For admission to the Graduate School, an applicant must hold either (1) a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution or (2) a tertiary (postsecondary) degree that is deemed comparable to a four-year bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution. This degree must be from an officially recognized degree-granting institution in the country in which it operates.
Specifically, as an applicant to Penn State's online MPS in Nutritional Sciences program, you must have a bachelor's degree in nutrition, animal sciences, food science, dietetics, or a related biological/biomedical or health sciences discipline. In addition, our prerequisite undergraduate courses for admission include a 3-credit course in each of the following: organic chemistry, biochemistry, physiology, an introductory nutrition course (equivalent to Penn State's NUTR 251), and one advanced nutrition course (higher level than introductory nutrition). A lab component is not required. Students must obtain a grade of B or better (3.0 on a 4.0 scale) in each of these courses to be considered for admission. We encourage you to contact the program for more information about the prerequisites.
If you are interested in applying to the Experiential Track of the MPS in Nutritional Sciences, please note that there are separate application deadlines and requirements. Also note: to be eligible for the Experiential Track program, your undergraduate graduation conferral date must be before the start of the program which is the first day of classes. If you have questions or need clarification, please contact the program prior to applying.
The experiential track is not an option for international students in need of an I-20 or DS-2019 to be issued by Penn State in order to attend. If you are currently in the United States on a visa that permits study, it may be possible for you to participate in the experiential track. Visit Penn State's International Students page or contact [email protected] if you have questions about your current visa status.
What You Need
Applications are submitted electronically and include a nonrefundable application fee. You will need to upload the following items as part of your application:
Official transcripts from each institution attended, regardless of the number of credits or semesters completed. Transcripts not in English must be accompanied by a certified translation. Penn State alumni do not need to request transcripts for credits earned at Penn State, but must list Penn State as part of their academic history. If you are admitted, you will be asked to send an additional official transcript. You will receive instructions at that time.
GPA and Test Scores — postsecondary (undergraduate), junior/senior (last two years) GPA is required. Applicants should have a minimum grade-point average of 3.00.
GRE scores are not required for admission to the Master of Professional Studies in Nutritional Sciences program.
If you have any questions about the GRE test, please contact the program.
English Proficiency — The language of instruction at Penn State is English. With some exceptions, international applicants must take and submit scores for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Minimum test scores and exceptions are found in the English Proficiency section on the Graduate School's "Requirements for Graduate Admission" page. Visit the TOEFL website for testing information. Penn State's institutional code is 2660.
References (3) — you will need to initiate the process through the online application by entering names, email addresses, and mailing addresses of three references. Upon submission of your application, an email will be sent to each reference requesting they complete a brief online recommendation regarding your commitment for success in an online program. Please inform all recommenders they must submit the form in order for your application to be complete.
Questions — You will need to answer questions on the application that indicate whether you are applying to the MPS in Nutritional Sciences with or without the optional Experiential Track. If you are interested in the Experiential Track, you will need to indicate if you are applying for the in-residence location or the distance location. If you are applying for the in-residence location, you may indicate your preference for a geographic location for the in-residence supervised experiential learning semesters.
Résumé — Upload your résumé (no more than two pages) to the online application.
Personal Statement — Upload your personal statement to the online application. In your personal statement, state why you have the abilities, experiences, skills, and knowledge to succeed in our program. Your personal statement should also demonstrate why you are a good "fit" for our program and why our program is a good "fit" for you. Please limit your statement to 1,200 words or fewer and use 12-point font, single-spaced format.
Please address the following questions in your personal statement:
- What are my professional goals in the field I have chosen? Elaborate on your future career plans and your motivation for pursuing your master's degree.
- What are my strengths and areas/skills that I want to improve upon?
- Why am I a good fit for this program?
Going beyond the details in your résumé, please share your unique story with us in your essay. Use the assignment to demonstrate strengths and skills that you are developing through your work/volunteer experiences. If you need writing assistance, many resources are available online to help you compose an effective personal statement.
Work/Volunteer Experience (for Experiential Track applicants only) — Documentation of 500 hours of work or volunteer experience completed within two years of application. (Of the 500 hours, 300 hours must be in a nutrition- or dietetics-related field.) You will be required to complete the Experiential Track of MPS Program (ExpMPS) - Supplemental Hours Form to document your experiences. This form will need to be uploaded with your Graduate School application.
Supervised Experiential Learning Plan of Study Form (Experiential Track - Distance Location only)
The Supervised Experiential Learning (SEL) Plan of Study Form is only required if you are applying to the Distance Location of the Experiential Track. You will use this form to document information about the supervised experiential learning sites that you’ve secured prior to application. The form includes facility information, preceptor contact and credential information, documentation of signed affiliation agreement, start and end dates for the SEL, and total hours to be completed at each SEL site. Please contact the program for guidance on the process of securing your own SEL sites and on completion of this required form. This form will need to be approved by the program prior to application and then uploaded with your Graduate School application.
DPD Verification Statement (for Experiential Track applicants only) — For students with a bachelor’s degree from an ACEND–accredited Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD), you will be required to upload your DPD Verification Statement with your Graduate School application.
Start Your Application
- Choose Enrollment Type: "Degree Admission"
- Choose "WORLD CAMPUS" as the campus
Checking Your Status
You can check the status of your application by using the same login information established for the online application form.
Advance Your Career
Advance Your Career
You can use the knowledge gained from this program and the support of Penn State career resources to pursue careers in a variety of fields, depending on your goals.
The Experiential Track is an optional competency-based curriculum that integrates advanced-level online graduate course work with supervised experiential learning areas.
The Experiential Track of the Master of Professional Studies in Nutritional Sciences is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND).
For general questions about Penn State World Campus or how to apply, contact:
World Campus Admissions Counselors
For specific inquiries about the Nutritional Sciences program, contact:
Shawnee M. Kelly, MS, RDN, LDN, FAND
Assistant Teaching Professor
Coordinator, Master of Professional Studies (MPS) In Nutritional Sciences
Department of Nutritional Sciences
DegreePh.D., Nutritional Biology, University of California, Davis
DegreeB.S., Forensic Science - Toxicology, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Dr. Alison Borkowska has more than 10 years of teaching experience. In the undergraduate program, she has taught NUTR 251, NUTR 100, NUTR 445, NUTR 446, and NUTR 490W. In the MPS program, she has developed and taught a number of courses, including NUTR 805, NUTR 540, and NUTR 390. Her pedagogy includes the use of inquiry-based instruction with a focus on the development of critical thinking skills that support intellectual development of the learner.
DegreeM.S., Clinical Nutrition, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science
DegreeB.S., Nutrition, Penn State
Julie Charnosky, M.S., RDN, LDN, FAND, has more than 20 years of experience in clinical nutrition, food systems management, and nutrition entrepreneurship. Julie has experience teaching as an adjunct instructor in undergraduate and graduate courses. She joined the Penn State faculty in 2022. Julie is the experiential learning coordinator for the MPS program.
Shawnee M. Kelly
DegreeM.S., Food and Nutrition, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
DegreeB.S., Dietetics, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Shawnee M. Kelly, RDN, LDN, FAND, has experience primarily in the clinical setting. She joined the Penn State faculty in 2009 and has more than 10 years of university teaching experience. Since joining the MPS program as coordinator and assistant teaching professor, she has developed and taught several courses, including NUTR 810, NUTR 820, and NUTR 860.
DegreePh.D., Nutrition, Penn State
DegreePh.D., Education, Policy and Evaluation, Arizona State University
DegreeM.S., Human Nutrition, Syracuse University
DegreeB.S., Nutrition Science, Penn State
Dr. Gina Pazzaglia has taught for more than 25 years at the undergraduate and graduate level and is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with experience in clinical nutrition in both acute and long-term care settings and community nutrition. Her teaching and research interests include effective pedagogy for online, hybrid, face-to-face, and flipped classroom formats; competence and diversity skills in nutrition and dietetics and health care; nutrition education for the public and other health professions; and nutrition education and health in the Latino population.