Whole Foods, Whole Medicine: Holistic Nutrition Degree

Holistic nutrition is a branch of alternative medicine and is the study of preventative nutrients--such as organic supplements to herbs to treat everything from superficial injuries to more serious health ailments. Graduates who earn a degree in holistic nutrition will be provided with the tools and knowledge needed to effectively dispense information on the advantages of eating natural unprocessed foods.

Certification is essential for anyone wishing to practice as a holistic nutritionist. Apart from providing an air of credibility it is also a sure fire way to make rapid progress up your chosen career ladder. Career options available to graduates include:

  • Holistic nutrition educator
  • Alternative nutritionist
  • Holistic dietician
  • Personal trainer

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Holistic Nutrition Degree Information

Holistic nutrition degrees are offered at all levels of educational endeavor from associate’s to a doctorate degree. Students interested in holistic health and nutrition can find both online and traditional courses at many colleges and universities. Graduates of these programs have gained the knowledge and skills to provide their clients with an integrative and informed approach to holistic nutrition. These top nutrition schools provide a good foundation in applied nutrition and the basic sciences. Whether at the associate’s or master’s level, students will gain an extensive knowledge of nutrition as currently practiced as well as holistic nutrition, with its basis of using whole foods as medicine.

Online Holistic Nutrition Curriculum

Expect courses in basic math and science, communication, basic and advanced nutritional concepts, anatomy and physiology, pathopysiology, complementary and alternative medicine, medical terminology and clinical nutrition. Whether students pursue a classroom-based or online education, nutrition and its affect on the human body will be the central focus of their studies.


While an associate’s degree would take two years to complete, a Bachelor of Science in Applied Science in Holistic Nutrition will take four years. Usually, an internship or externship will be a part of that program, providing the student with real life experience with clients. With a bachelor’s, people can start building a client base, working with individuals to find an appropriate diet that can benefit and heal their health issues. A bachelor’s degree will give the student the skills and knowledge to effectively communicate with clients, advising them on healing with whole foods.

Graduate Degrees

A master’s degree in holistic nutrition will take two years beyond the undergraduate degree, and a doctorate will take four to six years. Students will continue and enhance their understanding of the effect of nutrition on the human body and healing diseases. Distance learning students will take courses in whole foods nutrition, macro and micro-nutrients, research methods and advanced anatomy and physiology. Students will focus on courses such as nutrition and neurology or nutrition and endocrinology. People with graduate degrees in holistic nutrition often find positions as nutritional researchers and educators as well as providing counseling and consultation to clients.


At the end of each course of study, students can see if they qualify for certification through the Holistic Nutrition Credentialing Board Examination. Students will need to show that they have completed their course of study in holistic nutrition, attained professional membership in the National Association of Nutrition Professionals and have documentation of 500 hours of professional experience. Most students with a bachelor’s degree should be able to meet these criteria.


Students of holistic nutrition will take courses in basic math and sciences, including biology, chemistry, microbiology and anatomy and physiology, communication courses, writing and public speaking, and a host of nutritional courses such as:

  • Applied nutrition
  • Advanced holistic nutrition
  • Phyto-chemical composition of foods
  • Enzymes and Nutrition
  • Functional and Clinical Assessment
  • Nutrition Therapy
  • Pathophysiology
  • Vitamins and Minerals
  • Nutraceuticals
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Geriatric nutrition
  • Sports nutrition
  • Eating disorders and weight management
  • Community nutrition

Career Opportunities

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not distinguish between dietitians and nutritionists, nor does it include any designation of holistic nutritionist, perhaps because this is a more recent career category. Career growth for dietitians and nutritionists is excellent, growing at 20 percent over the next decade, which is faster than average for all occupations. With diabetes and obesity becoming major epidemics in America, there is a growing demand for trained professional nutritionists to help patients and clients with these diseases. With holistic health’s focus on healing diseases with whole foods, expect more Americans to turn to qualified holistic nutritionists for assistance.

Earning Potential

The BLS gives the median salary for dietitians and nutritionists as $53,250 or $25.60 per hour. The lowest 10 percent of nutritionists made $34,300 while the top 10 percent made $76,400. Length of experience and geographic location play a role in earnings with nutritionists who have worked five years and longer making more than beginning nutritionists. Dietitians and nutritionists who work in major metropolitan areas on the east or west coasts make more than people in other locations. Nutritionists who work in a research capacity earned more than those employed in institutional settings such as nursing homes or hospitals.

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Holistic Nutrition FAQ

What types of jobs can I expect with a holistic nutrition degree?

Dietitians and nutritionists can work in a variety of medical settings, usually working as part of an integrated health team. Nursing homes, hospitals, outpatient care centers, schools and day care centers, home health care agencies and even insurance carriers all have positions for nutritionists and dietitians. Most nutritionists, however, start their own businesses providing nutritional advice and services to clients suffering from various diseases. Counseling and consulting are a major part of this work, as is educating people about the impact of nutrition on human health and disease.

How long does it take to earn a holistic nutrition degree?

Academic degrees in holistic nutrition take years: two years for an associate’s, four for a bachelor’s, two years more for master’s and four to six years after the bachelor’s for a doctorate. Some schools offer a one year program in holistic nutrition, providing a certificate of completion after the course of study. Building a career in holistic nutrition usually requires a bachelor’s degree or graduate degrees, plus certification through the Holistic Nutrition Credentialing Board exam.

Where are the highest-paying jobs in holistic nutrition?

Major cities with a vibrant alternative health community offer the best opportunities for holistic health practitioners in general and holistic nutritionists in particular. In this case, there is already a lively interest in and open-mindedness about holistic health practices, especially the focus on healing through whole foods. Holistic nutritionists working in major metropolitan areas earn more than those in rural areas. Holistic nutritionists with years of experience and advanced degrees and earn up to $90,000, especially in private practice, offering counseling and consulting services. People with degrees in holistic nutrition working in research often earn significantly higher salaries than those working in institutional settings such as an outpatient care clinic.

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