Top 6 Best Online Clinical Nutrition PhD Degree Programs (Doctorates)


We rank the best online PhD degree programs in clinical nutrition.

Key Takeaways

  • Nutritional science is a field of growing importance and professional opportunity.

  • There is a high demand for qualified professionals in clinical nutrition, sports nutrition, community nutrition, and more.

  • Students may leverage an online clinical nutrition PhD to jump-start a career in these fields.

Featured Programs

Students interested in becoming a certified nutrition specialist or working in research-based areas of nutrition science such as nutritional biochemistry or food science will typically be required to earn a doctor of clinical nutrition degree. Fortunately, nutrition professionals can choose from a number of excellent online and hybrid degree programs.

Online doctoral programs in clinical nutrition can lead to careers in medical nutrition therapy, integrative and functional nutrition, sports nutrition, and much more. Moreover, doctors of clinical nutrition will qualify to work as registered dietitians and certified clinical nutritionists in a variety of public health settings, community nutrition programs, interdisciplinary health care environments and much more.

If you’re a working professional interested in becoming a certified clinical nutritionist while studying in an online learning environment, you have several doctor of clinical nutrition program options to choose from.

For a look at how these online doctoral programs stack up against traditional on campus programs, look for your Doctoral in Clinical Nursing at one of the 50 Best Graduate Schools in the U.S..

Or check out our complete University Rankings Guide.


Otherwise, read on and learn more about how you can earn an online doctoral in clinical nutrition through a top-ranked online doctorate program.

Two women talking about nutrition

About Doctor of Clinical Nutrition Degree Programs

Online doctoral students have plenty of options, but quality and credibility are important when it comes to finding an online PhD. The best online doctorate programs will have proper accreditation:

  • Institutional Accreditation: Accreditation is vital for online doctoral programs. It signifies that the online PhD programs offered by the graduate school are in compliance with the standards of a Department of Education-approved accrediting body.
  • A school must also be accredited in order to offer federal financial aid to its online doctorate candidates. When looking for an online doctoral program, seek out options with accreditation from a colleges and schools commission in your region. This stamp of approval is critical for ensuring the quality and credibility of your online program.

  • Programmatic Accreditation: In addition to institutional accreditation, consider online doctorate degree programs with programmatic accreditation. Employers and other industry professionals may look for this specialized accreditation to determine the credibility of your degree. Clinical nutrition degrees may be accredited by theAccreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND).
  • Carnegie Classification: The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, or as it is more commonly known, the Carnegie Classification, is a framework for categorizing all accredited, degree-granting institutions in the United States. Originally formulated in 1970 by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and administered through the University of Indiana’s Center for Postsecondary Research since 2014, the Carnegie Classification is “the leading framework for recognizing and describing institutional diversity in U.S. higher education.”
  • Under this classification, top research universities for doctoral degrees and PhD candidates are identified as either R2: Doctoral Universities for “high research activity” or R1: Doctoral Universities for “very high research activity.” Look for these classifications when considering options for your online Phd programs.

Key Point: The best online doctoral programs will have both institutional and programmatic accreditation.

Happy students in class

Admission Requirements for Clinical Nutrition Education

Schools that offer online doctor of clinical nutrition programs have different admission requirements. However, most online doctoral programs will carry the same basic threshold for admission:

  • A completed online application
  • Official undergraduate college transcripts
  • A cumulative GPA of at least 3.0
  • GRE scores, MAT scores, or GMAT scores
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal interviews
  • Personal statement or essay
  • Plan of study

Key Point: In most cases, you’ll be eligible to enter a doctoral degree online after earning a bachelor’s degree. However, some specialized online PhD programs may require you to have earned a master’s degree as well.

Curriculum and Courses

As with other advanced degree and graduate programs, research is the central component of your online doctorate in clinical nutrition program. This is true for fully online doctorate degrees as well as hybrid degrees combining online education with traditional on-campus courses. Regardless of whether you complete a traditional, hybrid or online doctoral program, the typical time to completion is three to six years.

The typical components of your online PhD program may include:

Foundational Courses

Foundational online doctorate courses in most clinical nutrition programs will focus on key areas like life cycle nutrition, disease prevention, functional nutrition, integrative nutrition, gastrointestinal health, and more.

Most nutritional programs will also focus on research methods, experimental design, and how to develop an evidence based practice. You may be able to complete many of these requirements through online classes.

Examinations for PhD Candidacy

Many online doctoral students are required to complete certain examinations to enter into online PhD candidacy. This will typically occur after you’ve completed one to two years of foundational courses.


In most cases, the central component of your online PhD program will be the completion of your dissertation. After gaining status as an online PhD candidate, you will typically work closely with a professorial advisor or mentor to develop an original research question.

This research question will form the basis of your dissertation—an ongoing project designed to address this research question through applied research. While you will work closely with your advisor or mentor, much of your dissertation will be rooted in independent research. This is especially true for students pursuing an online PhD.

Oral Defense

Upon completion of the written portion of your dissertation—which will typically present the findings from your original research project—you will be expected to defend your findings. This “oral defense” will typically be conducted by a commission of professors and experts in your field. PhD candidates in some online degree programs may be able to conduct this defense via teleconferencing.

Teaching Requirements

Some online PhD programs will also include a teaching component, which will require you to work as an adjunct professor or teacher’s assistant in an undergraduate or graduate school. It may be possible for students in the online doctoral degree program to also serve teaching requirements by instructing online students.

Advanced Practice Residency

Some clinical nutrition programs may require the completion of an advanced practice residency or other practicum. Online students may be able to complete this residency through practice settings in their region.

Key Point: The online PhD is a research-focused degree. Your dissertation will be a central part of your online doctoral degree program.

Women explaining nutrition to a man
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Careers for Students Who Earn an Online Doctorate of Clinical Nutrition

The Doctorate of Clinical Nutrition is a terminal degree program. This means that students who complete credible online doctoral programs in their field are generally eligible for top positions and opportunities in their field including public health research, policy consultation, and post-secondary research.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the top 10% of registered dietitian and nutritionists earned more than $93,000 in 2021.

These earnings are reflective of the top professional opportunities that await those with doctorates in clinical nutrition. Working professionals who earn an accredited online doctorate may be eligible to work in the following areas.

  • Public Health Outreach
  • Public Health Education
  • Nutritional Science Research
  • Post-Secondary Education
  • Public Health Policy Consultation
  • Clinical Practice as a Registered Dietitian or Certified Clinical Nutritionist

Key Points: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, students with a doctorate will be among the top earners in the field of Clinical Nutrition.

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What’s the difference between online doctoral programs and online PhD programs?

Technically, a PhD is a type of doctorate degree. This means that all online PhD candidates are doctoral students. By contrast, not all doctoral students are PhD candidates.

The primary distinction is that doctoral students are primarily focused on putting existing theories into practice. Depending on your chosen field, your online doctoral degree may require participation in an educational leadership program, engagement in clinical practice, work as a resident in a nursing program, and much more.

By contrast, online PhD students are focused on creating new knowledge in their area of study. This usually means that online PhD candidates are focused on introducing new theories, creating research projects around these theories, and presenting new findings that demonstrate a mastery of existing knowledge and the insight to introduce new ideas into the field.

Today, more working professionals than ever before are pursuing both online doctoral degrees and online Phd programs.

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The Best Online Clinical Nutrition Doctorates

The online doctoral clinical education programs identified here are ranked based on influence, with weighting for graduation rate and full-time online enrollment.

  1. Other Rankings

    What do we love about Rutgers University?

    Rutgers University was formed in 1766 as Queen’s College. Based in New Brunswick, New Jersey, Rutgers is the second oldest university in the state and the eighth oldest in the nation. In fact, Rutgers is one of only nine colleges to be chartered before the American Revolution.

    For its first two centuries of operation, Rutgers was a private liberal arts school, but became a public research university in the mid-20th Century. Today, the state university of New Jersey serves more than 68,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students across three campuses.

    Among its noteworthy advanced degree programs, the Rutgers School of Health Professions notes that it is home to the very first Advanced Practice Clinical Doctorate (DCN) program created exclusively for Registered Dietitian Nutritionists(RDN). This program is also distinguished by its online delivery of discussions, topical seminar, and videoconferencing with advisors.

    • Rutgers University is great for students who:

      Are seeking an affordable education with a wide variety of degree programs to choose from.

    • Rutgers University might not be the best fit for students who:

      Are looking for a more intimate academic experience. Students describe class sizes as very large.

  2. Health professional speaking to a young woman
  3. #2

    University of Kansas

    Lawrence , KS
    Other Rankings

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    Student body


    Median SAT/ACT


    What do we love about University of Kansas?

    The University of Kansas was founded in 1865, though early steps toward its organization would coincide directly with the march toward Kansas statehood in 1861. Established in Lawrence, Kansas, today the public research university occupies a 1000 acre main campus along with five satellite campuses.

    University of Kansas serves nearly 28,000 students at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels, including a wide range of doctoral candidates. Indeed, KU is classified among R1: Doctoral Universities for its very high research activity.

    The Department of Dietetics and Nutrition offers a specialized and fully online Doctor of Clinical Nutrition (DCN) degree, where candidates gain the advanced knowledge of clinical nutrition necessary for today’s complex, interdisciplinary health care environment.

    • University of Kansas is great for students who:

      Enjoy an active community with tremendous school spirit. The KU Jayhawks athletics teams compete in the Big 12 Conference, and are very popular on campus and in the surrounding region.

    • University of Kansas might not be the best fit for students who:

      Are looking for a smaller campus experience. Students note that the big size of the campus can make it challenging to get from class to class on time.

  4. #3

    University of North Florida

    Jacksonville , FL
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees






    Student body


    Median SAT/ACT


    What is University of North Florida known for?

    University of North Florida’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    Most Influential Alumni

    What do we love about University of North Florida?

    UNF’s Department of Nutrition & Dietetics offers an online Doctorate in Clinical Nutrition (DCN), which is described as an advanced practice doctoral program with a focus on leadership, advanced evidence based practice, and research.

    • University of North Florida is great for students who:

      Are seeking a beautiful campus with many opportunities for involvement. Students say there are tons of activities, clubs and events to choose from.

    • University of North Florida might not be the best fit for students who:

      Require a lot of personal support. Students say that some of the administrative services are less than responsive.

  5. #4

    Saybrook University

    Pasadena , CA

    Student body


    What is Saybrook University known for?

    Saybrook University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    Most Influential Alumni

    What do we love about Saybrook University?

    Saybrook University was founded in 1971 with the sole mission of awarding graduate degrees with a focus in humanistic psychology. Today, the private university in Pasadena, California remains focused on post-graduate programs. Each of the school’s roughly 700-800 students is enrolled in a post-graduate master’s degree, doctoral degree, or professional certification program.

    Saybrook University has expanded to include an array of programs that it describes as “Resarch Doctoral: Humanities/social sciences dominant.” Programs include those in Integrative Wellness Coaching, Clinical Psychology, and Functional Nutrition.

    Saybrook notes that the PhD in Integrative and Functional Nutrition will prepare students for careers providing innovative nutritional care, engaging others in functional nutrition education, and conducting research in the field.

    • Saybrook University is great for students who:

      Are seeking remote learning options. Saybrook is described as a “low residency” institution.

    • Saybrook University might not be the best fit for students who:

      Have financial constraints. Some students describe Saybrook as a relatively costly online/hybrid experience.

  6. Students laughing in a classroom
  7. Student body


    What do we love about the University of Western States?

    The University of Western States is a private university located in Portland, Oregon. UWS places a heavy emphasis on health sciences programs, offering graduate degrees in areas like sports medicine, human nutrition, and clinical mental health counseling.

    The University of Western States is also home to the second oldest chiropractic medicine school in the nation.

    For students interested in clinical nutrition, the University of Western States offers a fully online Doctor of Clinical Nutrition degree with an emphasis on treating conditions and risk factors using dietary and nutritional interventions.

    • The University of Western States is great for students who:

      Enjoy an intimate experience. With a student body of under 1000 students, the University of Western States is truly a close-knit educational community.

    • The University of Western States might not be the best fit for students who:

      Prefer a liberal arts focused graduate degree program.

  8. Student body


    What is Maryland University of Integrative Health known for?

    Maryland University of Integrative Health’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    What do we love about Maryland University of Integrative Health?

    Maryland University of Integrative Health was formed in 1974 as the College of Chinese Acupuncture. Though the Laurel, Maryland institution would evolve into a private graduate school, it would retain its historical focus on alternative medicine. MUIH takes a human-centered and holistic approach to clinical care.

    With regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, Maryland University of Integrative Health offers a unique cross-section of traditional and online degrees at every level of education, including online doctoral degrees in various areas of patient care.

    For instance, Maryland University of Integrative Health offers a fully online Doctor of Clinical Nutrition (DCN) program with a focus on contemporary perspectives in functional nutrition as well as a holistic approach to personalized nutrition.

    • Maryland University of Integrative Health is great for students who:

      Are looking for flexible scheduling. Students note that MUIH offers an array of night and evening courses. Class sizes are also described as intimate.

    • Maryland University of Integrative Health might not be the best fit for students who:

      Are looking for more direct academic support. Many students report that online learning modules require a great deal of independent completion.

Other Options for Aspiring Clinical Nutritionists

Students considering an online doctoral in Clinical Nutrition should also check out the best on-campus options to compare features like cost, curriculum, acceptance rate, and more.

  1. #2

    New York University

    New York , NY
    Other Rankings

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    Median SAT/ACT


  2. Other Rankings

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    Student body


  3. #4

    University of Michigan

    Ann Arbor , MI
    Other Rankings

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    Student body


    Median SAT/ACT


  4. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees






    Student body


    Median SAT/ACT


Find other top schools with a look at our Online Program Rankings.

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