Top 5 Best Online Doctor of Clinical Nutrition Degrees

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Updated: March 13, 2024, Reading time: 14 minutes

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Designed for those who are passionate about helping people lead healthy lives, dieticians and nutritionists are integral to the advancement of healthcare outcomes. Federal data disclose that this job position has a median pay of $69,350 per year. This salary can increase significantly through years of experience, license, and advanced education, particularly at the doctorate level.

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This terminal degree in the Nutrition practice field will help prospective students acquire leadership roles in healthcare organizations and in higher education settings. This graduate degree program is highly valued by employers, giving one a competitive advantage and enhancing their professional credentials.

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Each Registered Dietitian Nutritionist must keep up with the advances in the modern-day clinical practice in the field of nutrition! For those who already hold a registered dietitian credential and a master’s degree, a Doctor of Clinical Nutrition degree program can help them widen their knowledge base and hone their existing skills. 

Here are our recommended Doctor of Clinical Nutrition degrees to help you in your selection! Each graduate school and program on this list was considered with these features in mind:

Check out our Methodology and find out more about the selection process we employed in this doctorate ranking.

Grad School Center is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

5 Best Doctoral Degree Programs in Clinical Nutrition

Maryland University of Integrative Health

Maryland University of Integrative Health
Doctor of Clinical Nutrition

A fully online program, the Doctor of Clinical Nutrition degree offered by the Maryland University of Integrative Health has a strong focus on contemporary perspectives in integrative and functional nutrition. There is an emphasis on the holistic approach to personalized nutrition.

Students are trained to become compassionate and skilled practitioners who effectively collaborate with their fellow clinical nutritionists to help individuals create personalized plans that advance their health and well-being.

This program is instrumental in equipping students with advanced clinical nutrition skills and knowledge that will help them assume leadership roles in the emerging field. It is specially designed for nutritionists, registered dietitians, educators, and researchers who want to succeed in private practice and integrative medicine settings.

One of the programs focuses on conducting clinical nutrition client assessments and creating care plans for various health concerns. It will also involve conducting evidence-based clinical research and publishing clinical nutrition manuscripts.

Applicants must have a master’s degree or must be registered dietitian nutritionists with a bachelor’s degree. It requires 48 credit hours of required academic courses and six credit hours for a research project.

The program is offered fully online, with 4 weekends of synchronous classes where students must attend the online class in real time. Students usually earn the degree program in two and a half years.

University of North Florida

University of North Florida
Doctorate in Clinical Nutrition

The University of North Florida offers a Doctorate in Clinical Nutrition with several concentration options. This includes leadership, advanced evidence-based practice, and research.

While a Ph.D. program in Nutrition is generally focused on bench research, this doctorate degree emphasizes the production of evidence-based outcomes in practice settings. Students pursuing this advanced degree will gain a solid foundation that will prove valuable when it comes to leadership roles in various settings, including higher education, clinical, and community.

This online degree program requires students to complete their rigorous coursework, advanced practice residency, and applied scholarships. They are expected to gain expertise and skills in various disciplines.

This includes cultural competency, chronic disease prevention, clinical treatment, critical thinking, public policy, and outcomes research. The evidence-based practice is well integrated into nutrition and dietetics, which are all essential to the completion of an outcome-based research project.

While the coursework is fully online, this program includes a practice residency that can be fulfilled in the students’ own home state. A master’s from a regionally accredited higher learning institution is required for the program admission, along with 5 years’ worth of work experience in the field of nutrition and dietetics, three recommendation letters, and a letter of intent.

Rutgers University

Rutgers University - School of Health Professions
Doctor of Clinical Nutrition

Rutgers University is a public land-grant university that currently has four campuses in the state of New Jersey. It is a leading research university and one of its oldest higher education institutions.

Rutgers University offers a Doctor of Clinical Nutrition degree program for actively practicing professionals who are seeking to advance their careers and become well-integrated professionals in modern healthcare teams or highly competent independent practitioners who serve individuals, communities, or clinical populations.

It is the first Advanced Practice Clinical Doctorate program, both in the country and globally, created exclusively for Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDN).

The Rutgers DCN degree program is mainly delivered online and can be taken on a part-time basis. Coursework is supplemented by face-to-face virtual meetings, and while the program is mostly online, students are expected to perform a certain number of campus visits at around a minimum of three.

Aside from didactic coursework, students in the degree program are required to complete a 350-hour advanced clinical nutrition practice residency, which is tailored to fit their available geographic resources and meet their professional goals. This residency program is approved by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND).  

This 50-credit degree program is exclusively for Registered Dietitian Nutritionists who have a minimum of three years of professional experience as clinical RDNs, and who hold a master’s degree, preferably in nutrition or a health-related field.

The program culminates in a practice-based research project. If taken on a part-time basis of around 9-15 credit hours per year, the DCN degree program can be successfully completed in around four to five years.

Alternatively, RDNs who have a minimum of 1 year of clinical experience but do not have post-graduate credentials can explore Rutgers University’s Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition (MSCN) to Doctor of Clinical Nutrition (DCN) Dual Enrollment Program.

It is a program offered once a year that gives students the opportunity to earn both the MSCN and DCN degrees. This accelerated program can be completed within 5.5 years.

University of Kansas

University of Kansas - School of Health Professions
Doctor of Clinical Nutrition

The University of Kansas, the flagship research university of the State, has a main campus based in the City of Lawrence, Kansas, in addition to several satellite campuses and allied facilities. Through the University of Kansas Medical Center Department of Dietetics and Nutrition, KU offers a Doctor of Clinical Nutrition degree program that is offered fully online.

The University of Kansas DCN program emphasizes preparing students that be effective expert practitioners who fit well in today’s complex and highly interdisciplinary healthcare environment. To achieve this, their curriculum is anchored not only on advanced clinical nutrition practice but also on communication, interprofessional collaboration, management, and leadership, on top of the necessary research skills crucial to effective evidence-based practice.

Applicants for the doctorate are expected to possess a current professional RDN License and to have already completed a Master’s Degree in a relevant field beforehand. The program consists of 48 credit hours in total, with the final Applied Research Project being worth 6 credits.

While the entirety of the degree program is conducted online, students are required a single on-campus visit for orientation at the start of their academic journey.

This doctorate in clinical nutrition degree program has a time limit for completion of 8 years, and as is common among most degree programs, it is necessary to maintain a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or better.

The KU DCN program also has a required 360-hour Advanced Clinical Nutrition Residency, which is to be conducted at the student’s workplace. The student identifies beforehand an area of practice for which they will develop a research-based clinical initiative or program, which they will provide to their respective teams upon its successful completion, along with the program’s evaluation methods.

Lastly, the final Applied Research Project is also student-directed and has the expected final output of a successfully defended, publishable manuscript. For this, it is strongly encouraged that students pursue collaborative interprofessional patient care projects.

Huntington University of Health Sciences

Huntington University of Health Sciences
Doctor of Science in Integrative Healthcare

The Huntington University of Health Sciences is a private higher education institution based in Knoxville, Tennessee, and offers a range of degree programs related to health and nutrition, primarily through a distance education format. Originally founded in 1985 as the American Academy of Nutrition, it is authorized by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.

While it isn’t strictly a Doctor of Clinical Nutrition degree, their flagship program on offer is the Doctor of Science in Integrative Healthcare which has Clinical Nutrition as one of its main concentration areas. Graduates of the D.Sc. program meet the core education requirements for the Certified Clinical Nutritionist examination of the Clinical Nutrition Certification Board (CNCB).

The HUHS Doctor of Science in Integrative Healthcare degree is designed to be taken as a self-paced, 100% online program. It is unique in the country and globally both as a doctor of science degree program and in its approach and focus: that is, to take a wider, more integrative approach to the goal of patient care.

It utilizes the application of functional medicine principles, as well as Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), and other integrative healthcare topics and modalities.

This degree program prepares graduates primarily to be CAM practitioners and conduct CAM-oriented research.

This doctor of science program is exclusively online and does not have any residential requirements. It has two Concentration Areas, namely the Clinical nutrition concentration and a more flexible Personalized Concentration D.Sc.

While the latter has 61 credit hours, the Clinical Nutrition concentration area has a total of 60 credit hours, which contains courses on CAM principles and research, functional nutrition, management, and a number of electives that the student can choose from.

The Personalized Concentration, meanwhile, is designed to make room for students who choose to focus on an area of integrative healthcare that isn’t currently on offer by the HUHS as a formalized program.

The program has a qualifying examination that is taken after completing the core courses and a comprehensive examination that is taken after completing the concentration and chosen electives. The D.Sc. degree program culminates in a capstone project, which takes the form of a research project presented as a dissertation.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Doctor of Clinical Nutrition program?

Often dealing with the nutritional aspects of diseases and clinical disorders, clinical nutrition is essential when it comes to the promotion of healthy eating habits. Most doctors of clinical nutrition degree programs prepare students to advance their clinical knowledge and skills. 

This degree program will allow them to conduct extensive research and pursue leadership positions in the fields of clinical nutrition and higher education.

The program aims to help graduate students master applied medical nutrition science for advanced-level professional practice. The program sharpens their critical thinking skills, communication skills, collaboration skills, management skills, and leadership skills. It often involves outcomes-based research projects or, in some cases, clinical practice residency.

What are the requirements to get admitted into a Clinical Nutrition Doctorate degree?

Most universities and colleges require prospective students to hold a master’s degree in nutrition or dietetics field. However, there are instances where an RDN is considered an alternative.

Other times, one must have a current professional RDN licensure in order to get admitted into the program. Work experience is also often required, along with an official transcript, resume, and a letter of intent and recommendation.

The requirements for admission vary from one school to another, so it is better if one checks with the school they are interested in. International applicants may also have different sets of requirements.

What career paths can I expect from a Doctor of Clinical Nutrition program? 

As clinical nutritionists, graduates can work in various settings, including schools, hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, higher learning institutions, and other governmental health agencies.

Many doctorates in clinical nutrition programs offer concentrations or learning emphasis, which means one can choose an area of expertise that they can specialize in.

Some of the most common examples include the role of a public health nutritionist, certified nutrition specialist, weight loss consultant, sports nutritionist, nutrition program director, holistic consultant, and naturopathic nutritionist, among many others. Most of the time, clinical nutritionists with a doctorate degree assume advanced leadership roles in relevant fields.

What are some of the roles played by Registered Dietitians?

Dietitians are professionals that belong to the sector known as the allied health professions, a large collection of professions and occupations that work together with traditional medicine roles (i.e., doctors and nurses) in diagnosing, preventing, treating, and managing illnesses. Like any profession, Dietitians have their own regulating body, as well as the accompanying set of standards to maintain licensure.

Registered Dietitians—or Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDN), to use the proper term—play a number of roles related to the treatment and prevention of illness, particularly chronic illnesses.

Nutritional changes in the body are one of the determining factors in a person’s susceptibility to disease and illness, as well as their capacity to heal and recover. Likewise, effective treatment of illness, such as in clinical settings, is greatly helped by introducing the right nutritional regimen to patients.

Registered Dietitian Nutritionists’ practice is largely anchored on these principles. They fulfill many roles and functions that attend to these goals and more. Among their many roles as part of a clinical team, they may be charged with coming up with the right diet/feeding and nutrition plans that cater to patients’ individual needs.

They may also be tasked with the overall nutrition plan of a particular institution or hospital, as well as its implementation.

Outside the clinical setting, meanwhile, RDNs may work in academia and research, looking at certain populations and their nutritional needs, for example. They may also work with a number of individuals and institutions as private practitioners, fulfilling a health maintenance and disease prevention role, or in other fields such as sports nutrition or as experts within the food industry. These are just some of the ever-growing fields that turn to the expertise they provide.

What is the average cost of an online Doctor of Clinical Nutrition degree program?

A relatively wide variance exists between universities/institutions, but in general, per-credit-hour rates for DCN programs range between $400-$1000 per credit hour. Some universities also differentiate between in-state and out-of-state residents, and this has a further effect on the overall cost.

Other additional costs, such as the use of facilities and services during residencies, administrative fees, etc., also factor in. Likewise, these universities/institutions have their own financial aid eligibilities as well as scholarship and grant opportunities on offer that can help offset the overall cost of attendance.

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