Introducing the UNLV Nutrition Sciences Master’s Degree

Ever considered getting a master’s in nutrition? Maybe it’s a clear “yes” (because you just love school and nutrition that much!), or maybe a “no way!”, or perhaps a “maybe someday”. For quite a while, though, UNLV did not offer a nutrition master’s degree and nutrition students were limited to pursuing a graduate degree elsewhere or otherwise settling on another area of study for graduate work. But thanks to the work of UNLV nutrition faculty, the Nutrition Sciences Master’s Program will be happening right here at UNLV, this fall. Dr. Laura Kruskall, Director of UNLV Nutrition Sciences and the UNLV Dietetic Internship, has devoted tremendous time and effort to establish this long-awaited program and proudly shares what the program will offer to prospective graduate students. With the master’s degree option, both future and current registered dietitians may enhance their skills and even pave the way for salary increases. Here’s what you should know about the Master of Science in Nutrition Sciences degree at UNLV.

It took a while (and lots of work) to establish.

A master’s in nutrition seems pretty essential to offer university nutrition and health students. Unfortunately, it took some time to convince administrators to see it that way. The process, according to Dr. Kruskall, was a long and tedious battle involving not only overcoming technicalities like paperwork but also persuasion. The first step was submitting a proposal to the Dean of Allied Health Sciences, explaining the importance of a nutrition Master’s program for UNLV students. Once the proposal was officially received, the faculty and administration voted to confirm the master’s program proposal– a nearly unanimous “yes”, according to Dr. Kruskall.

It will offer both research and clinical practice tracks.

Maybe you want to do research, or become a registered dietitian, or maybe even both– whichever the case, this program will work for you. The Nutrition Sciences Master’s Program will offer two distinct study tracks: an independent thesis track, geared toward preparing students to compose their master’s theses and conduct nutrition and health-related research; and a clinical case study track, in which students have the opportunity to learn about and practice nutrition interventions and prevention techniques in the community. The latter track, says Dr. Kruskall, is a unique opportunity for current and prospective dietitians to develop new clinical skills and refine existing skills. One of the overarching goals she intends for the program is a fresh emphasis on chronic disease prevention in the community, and by working with local hospitals and health centers students can practice this emphasis through the clinical case study track. On the other hand, nutrition students who may or may not aim for an internship, and current dietitians who wish to contribute more to the field, may apply for the research track. Dr. Kruskall believes that both tracks are excellent ways to “shape the expertise of the registered dietitian”.

It will offer a flexible curriculum tailored to the student’s interests.

This will be no rigidly structured program. Aside from the study track distinctions, the master’s degree curriculum will offer 9 elective credit courses teaching specialties in nutrition such as genomics, sports nutrition, and more, and core classes teaching a variety of nutrition disciplines such as clinical nutrition. Within the research track, there is even an entire course dedicated to writing research grants! Outside of these specific classes, however, a student may also complete courses from related studies, such as kinesiology and public health, provided they are approved by a program committee. “Within this program, there is room to allow you, the student, to develop expertise in in your area of interest”, Dr. Kruskall assures.

In 2024, all dietetics students will require a Master’s to sit for the RDN exam — meaning this will affect all students entering college this Fall.

That’s right: any student starting college this year who wants to become a registered dietitian will require a 4 year DPND bachelor’s degree, an internship experience, and a 2-year nutrition master’s degree to sit for the exam and become licensed. Very few registered dietitians in the state of Nevada hold master’s degrees, and only a fraction across the entire country hold doctoral degrees, Dr. Kruskall mentions, which limits both nutrition research and potential faculty for nutrition programs at colleges and universities. It is hoped that this new requirement will grow a new generation of advanced nutrition degree holders across the country.

Maybe you can be one of them, too! Are you planning to get a master’s in nutrition, and does the program at UNLV sound appealing to you?

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