This is the most asked question I get, so here you go!
I was too. I spent years trying to figure out the right program and the right nutrition degree for me. There are so many different options and paths you can go down now, which can make it super confusing so I wanted to tell you my experience and what program I landed on.
It all started with a burning passion to help others. I knew I wanted to help others eat better and I wanted a more updated, holistic but still science approach, but I didn't know where to begin.
When you decide you want to do nutrition, the standard path is to become an RD (registered dietician) and I even started on this path myself. Armed with an undergrad in Communication, I had no science under my belt so I had to go back to the basics. Chemistry 1 & 2, Bio Chem, Organic Chem, Anatomy & Physiology. Imagine taking all of those in a year and a half span! It was aggressive to say the least. As I was in these classes, I was immersed in the pre-RD program and became increasingly aware that what they were teaching in the nutrition classes were very outdated nutrition concepts. They were (are) still teaching future RD's to prescribe low fat diets to their clients. Guh. The science behind this is out and guess what, we were wrong about fat. We need it. Our brain is mostly made of fat and we need good healthy fats for optimal brain health! Not to mention the RD program is heavily big-food industry funded, with Coca-Cola being one of their major sponsors. Don't even get me started on that one...
Frustrated with the standard outdated nutritional education that the RD program was offering I took a year off to research a program that was more suited for what I needed. I needed a program that would provide me with a reputable degree (ie masters from an Accredited school). I didn't want just a certificate, I wanted a degree. I wanted to really know what I was talking about and have a respected degree, not just some online certificate. If you are really interested in helping people, I highly advise against certificates. There will be a point in your career that people will seriously question your credibility if all you have is a certificate from somewhere online. Not to mention, you are really going to want to know your stuff when dealing with people and you get out what you put in. If you do a crash certificate course online, you are not going to be as equipped to help someone coming to you with real health issues. I am sorry if this offends someone, but it's true. Essentially I was looking for a holistic RD equivalent. This turned out to be way more difficult than I could even imagine.
I finally came across the CNS (Certified Nutrition Specialist) and CCN (Certified Clinical Nutritionist) certifications. One advisor I spoke with referred to these certifications as the future RD. No food industry funding and a more updated, modern, holistic approach but also heavy on the science. I had found my match!
From there I researched where I could get my masters in Nutrition that would prepare me for the certification exams.
I landed on 3, which I think are all fantastic. I would recommend if you are looking into these programs to look at the classes they have to offer and go with whichever most appeals to you. All have masters in nutrition programs and I think all of them meet the requirements to take the CNS & CCN exams. (Double check this before you decide to do this yourself)
Upon graduation I will have a masters in nutrition and I plan to take both the CNS & the CCN exams to be certified in both. I don't necessarily think you have to have both, but the way I see it, if I am going for it, I might as well have both.
I hope this helps you save a lot of time in figuring out what path you want to go down! I know I wish I had come across this when I was researching it for myself. Curious about why I think Integrative and Functional Medicine is the way of the future and why I decided to study it myself? You can read about that here.