School of Human Ecology

Community Health and Nutrition Graduate Program

Community Health and Nutrition Students

The School of Human Ecology offers an online Master of Science in Community Health and Nutrition. This degree in intended for two audiences: graduate students who desire to complete the supervised experiential learning required to take the registration exam for dietitians, and practicing community health professionals who would like to learn more about rural community health and nutrition.

This program is appropriate for those who are already credentialed registered dietitian/nutritionists, educators, nurses, and others interested in nutrition related health information. Students who are seeking to become registered dietitian/nutritionists would enroll in an additional 12 hours of practicum courses.

Both the degree and the experiential learning can be completed over a 22 month time period.

This program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND), making it appropriate for those students who wish to become registered dietitian/nutritionists. If students meet the admission criteria specific to the Future Education Model program listed below, are admitted to the program, and complete the coursework, they are then eligible to sit for the registration exam for dietitians/nutritionists that is offered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration.

Questions? Contact us now

 Or contact Dr. Samantha Hutson, Program Director at or 931-372-3865.


Graduate Program Handbook

A supplement to the Student Handbook and the Graduate Studies Handbook, the Community Health and Nutrition Future Education Model Graduate Program Handbook for 2023-24 is available as a downloadable PDF below. Information for prospective students, including admission requirements and TN Tech’s policy for equitable treatment and non-discrimination, can be found in the program handbook.

Community Health and Nutrition Graduate Program Handbook

  • Accreditation Status

    Tennessee Tech University’s Community Health and Nutrition graduate program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

    120 South Riverside Plaza, Suite 2190
    Chicago, IL 60606-6995, (312) 899-0040 ext. 5400.

  • Mission, Goals, and Objectives

    Mission: The Community Health and Nutrition Graduate Program seeks to prepare competent nutrition professionals through an integrated and student-focused curriculum to practice as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with advanced skills in rural community health.

    Goals and Objectives:

    Goal 1: Graduates will be able to deliver high quality nutrition care in a variety of settings as entry-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDN).


    1. At least 80% of students complete program requirements within 3.3 years (150% of program length). 
      (RE 2.1.c.1.a) 
    2. Of graduates who seek employment, at least 80% are employed in nutrition and dietetics or related fields within 12 months of graduation.
    3. At least 80% of program graduates take the CDR credentialing exam for dietitian nutritionists within 12 months of program completion.
    4. The program’s one-year pass rate (graduates who pass the registration exam within one year of first attempt) on the CDR credentialing exam for dietitian nutritionists is at least 80%.

    Goal 2: Program graduates will be prepared for careers in nutrition and dietetics and will be equipped to uniquely address the health and nutrition needs of rural communities.


    1. At least 80% of program graduates who respond to exit surveys will rate the quality of the Community Health and Nutrition Graduate Program as Good to Excellent. 
    2. At least 80% of employers who respond to employer satisfaction surveys will rate the preparation of graduates as Good to Excellent. 
    3. At least 80% of recent graduates will indicate that they feel more than adequately or very well prepared to address the health and nutrition needs of rural communities.   

  • Pathway to Becoming a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

    Effective January 1, 2024, the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) will require a minimum of a master’s degree to be eligible to take the credentialing exam to become a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN). In order to be approved for registration examination eligibility with a bachelor’s degree, an individual must meet all eligibility requirements and be submitted into CDR's Registration Eligibility Processing System (REPS) before 12:00 midnight Central Time, December 31, 2023. For more information about this requirement visit CDR's website: In addition, CDR requires that individuals complete coursework and supervised practice in program(s) accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). Graduates who successfully complete the ACEND-accredited FEM program at Tennessee Tech are eligible to take the CDR credentialing exam to become an RDN.

    In most states, graduates also must obtain licensure or certification to practice. For more information about state licensure requirements click here.

    For more information about educational pathways to become a RDN click here.

Program Outcome Data

Program outcome data is available on request. Please send a written request to Dr. Samantha Hutson, Program Director, at or School of Human Ecology, 715 Quadrangle Drive, Campus Box 5035, Cookeville, TN 38505.

Becoming a Registered Dietitian

Steps to becoming a Registered Dietitian:

  1. Complete a Bachelor's degree and receive a verification statement from an ACEND-accredited program (Didactic Program in DieteticsCoordinated ProgramFuture Graduate ProgramForeign or International Dietitian Education Program) Note, effective January 1, 2024, a graduate degree will be required to be eligible to take the Commission on Dietetic Registration. (Dietetic registration exam.)
  2. Complete an ACEND-accredited supervised practice dietetic internship program or Individual Supervised Practice Pathway is an option. Supervised practice/experiential learning is combined with the Coordinated ProgramFuture Graduate Program, and International Dietitian Education Program.
  3. Pass the Commission on Dietetic Registration's dietetic registration exam.
  4. Gain licensure in your state of practice, if applicable.
  5. Maintain continuing education.

The TN Tech Community Health and Nutrition FEM Graduate Program and is an experiential learning program that allows students to complete the requirements for Step 2 in the process of becoming a Registered Dietitian.

From the Commission on Dietetic Registration:
Forty-seven states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia currently have statutory provisions regulating the dietetics profession or associated titles such as dietitian and nutritionist. In Tennessee, registered dietitian/nutritionists are required to apply for an receive licensure from the State of Tennessee’s Board of Dietitian/Nutritionist Examiners. Requirements for licensure in each state can be found here.

  • Tuition and Other Fees

    Per the College of Graduate Studies at Tennessee Tech (July, 2023):

    Estimated tuition for Fall/Spring semesters for a 9 credit course load:
    $5,376 for in-state   
    $6,636 for out-of-state 
    $11,910 for international out-of state

    *Nine hours is considered full time.

    For more information on current tuition and fees for the graduate program visit the Bursar's website.

    Other anticipated fees:

    • Background Check with TrueScreen: $25.00 
    • Student Liability Insurance: included as part of registration fees during the semester this course is taken: approximately $12.00-$15.00
    • Proof of Health Insurance: varies based on monthly premium
    • Current immunizations and proof of TB test: varies 
    • Drug Test: may be required at some facilities: varies 
      • Students will be placed at a variety of health care facilities within Tennessee and possibly surrounding states, depending on the student’s location. Each health care facility has its own requirements for student volunteers. Some facilities require drug testing prior to beginning the experiential learning, and students should be prepared to submit to this drug testing and pay the testing costs. 
    • Account with Typhon: $100.00; one-time fee.
    • Textbooks: varies; approximately $200.00 per semester.
    • Travel costs: varies depending on the location of the experiential learning site. Sites will typically be located within one hour of Cookeville, TN. Some sites may be located farther from Cookeville (Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga, etc.). The Program Director and Experiential Learning Coordinator will work with each student to place them at the location most convenient for them that will provide them with the experience they need to achieve the competencies.
    • Lab coat: approximately $25.00
    • Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics membership fee: $58.00. It is highly recommended that each student be a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Many assignments will utilize aspects of the AND website that are only accessible with a current membership.
    • Attendance at Tennessee Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Annual meeting (conference registration, one night hotel, travel): approximately $250, one-time
    • Laptop, if not already owned: approximately $400
    • Approximate cost of rent and utilities in Cookeville, TN: $800 per month
    • Physical Exam for medical clearance: varies, based on personal insurance
    • Fuel expense each semester: approximately $500
    • CPR/First Aid Certification: approximately $45
    • Total Clinical Placement System required for certain locations: $50.00 for initial placement, $25.00 for each additional placement. Cost is subject to change.

    Note: Extra costs may be incurred due to additional immunizations, drug testing, or background check requirements that are enforced by the supervised experiential learning site to which you are placed. The program is obligated to follow the stipulations set forth in the clinical affiliation agreements between the university and the experiential learning site.

    TN Tech Financial Aid

  • Application and Admission Requirements

    Application and Admission Requirements

    Per TN Tech’s College of Graduate Studies, admission to the College of Graduate Studies is open to anyone holding a Bachelor's or Master's degree from an accredited college or university. A foreign degree must be equivalent to a U.S. Bachelor’s degree and must be accredited by its regional or national accreditation agency or Ministry of Higher Education. Applicants should have completed undergraduate or graduate work of sufficient quality and scope to enable them to successfully pursue graduate study. Tennessee Tech University offers equal educational opportunity to all persons, without regard to race, religion, sex, age, creed, color, national origin, or disability.

    Students are admitted to Tennessee Tech University through a cooperative effort of the Graduate College and the departments, colleges, and schools of the University. When the Graduate College receives the student's application material, an official file is established. The department then reviews the application file and makes a recommendation to the Graduate College. The Graduate College notifies applicants as soon as a decision has been reached. 

    Applicants must submit the following for admission consideration: 
    1. The online application for graduate admission and non-refundable application fee;
    2. Official transcripts of undergraduate and graduate credit from all institutions attended;
    3. Undergraduate degrees accepted include: nutrition, dietetics, public health, kinesiology, health sciences, nursing, psychology, human development and family studies, family and consumer sciences, and biobehavioral health. Other undergraduate degrees not specifically listed here will be reviewed based on transcript content;
    4. Prerequisite undergraduate coursework must include an introductory nutrition course (equivalent to Tennessee Tech's HEC 2020 Nutrition for Health Sciences); one advanced nutrition course (higher level than introductory nutrition); must have a "B" or better in these two nutrition courses; and 8 credits of chemistry or biology at the 3000/4000 level with a grade of "C" or better;
    5. Undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale;
    6. References (2) — when you submit your application, provide contact information for two references. An email will then be sent to these references to complete an online recommendation form. Your application is not completed until these recommendation forms are submitted by your references;
    7. Questions — you will need to indicate on your graduate application if you are applying online to the MS Degree in Community Health and Nutrition or both the Degree and the optional Experiential Learning Track — the Experiential Learning Track has additional admission requirements; 
    8. Resume — upload your resume (no more than 2 pages); 
    9. Student Health Form;
    10. Personal Statement — upload a separate document which includes the following: state why you have the abilities, experiences, skills, and knowledge to succeed in our degree program. Your statement should demonstrate why you are interested in this graduate degree program and how it will help you meet career goals. Please limit your statement to 1,200 words or fewer and use 12-point font, single-spaced format. Specifically address the following questions in your personal statement:
      1. What are your professional goals? Elaborate on future career plans and the motivation for pursuing a MS in Community Health and Nutrition;
      2. In what ways will the MS in Community Health and Nutrition build upon your current skill set?
      3. Why are you a good fit for this degree program?
      4. Elaborate on your unique story which motivates you to seek this graduate degree.
    Applicants are selected on a competitive basis and, therefore, admission is not granted to all applicants who meet only the minimum requirements.

    In addition to the requirements for admission to the MS in Community Health and Nutrition degree as stated above, applicants who want to also be admitted to the Experiential Learning Track must provide:
    1. Evidence of Work/Volunteer Experience — documentation of 300 hours of work or volunteer experience completed within four years of application is preferred. Of the 300 hours, at least 200 hours must be in a nutrition- or dietetics-related field. You will be required to complete the Experiential Track Supplemental Form to document your experiences. This form will be uploaded with your Graduate application and is available here: Online Forms 
    2. Prerequisite coursework — for applicants who do not have a Verification Statement from an ACEND-accredited Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD), the following prerequisite coursework must have been completed within five years from an accredited institution:
      1. Introductory Nutrition course equivalent to Tennessee Tech's HEC 2020 Nutrition for Health Sciences
      2. Advanced Nutrition course (higher level than Introductory Nutrition)
      3. Organic Chemistry
      4. Microbiology or Biochemistry
      5. Experiential Foods, Food Preparation, Quantity Food Production, or Foodservice Management
      6. Additionally, students must have a grade of B or better in each of the nutrition courses and a grade of C or better in the science courses.
    3. DPD Verification Statement — for students with a Bachelor's degree from an ACEND-accredited Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD), you will be required to upload your DPD Verification statement, or an Intent to Complete form or letter from the DPD director stated courses to be completed, with your Graduate application.
    4. Personal Statement: in addition to the questions listed above for the Personal Statement, applicants for the Experiential Learning Track should include why they are pursuing the Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist (RDN) credential.
    5. Candidates for admission to the Experiential Learning Track will be required to participate in a virtual (face-to-face) interview via a video conferencing platform.
    Individual program requirements are described in the Tennessee Tech University Graduate Catalog and on department websites. Requirements are subject to change. The Graduate College no longer accepts hard-copy (paper) applications.

    Application deadline for the FEM graduate program: December 15

    Application deadlines for the degree only cohort aligns with deadlines set by the TN Tech College of Graduate Studies. Application deadlines for degree-only seeking students varies based on the semester you wish to enroll. Application deadlines can be found here: TN Tech College of Graduate Studies: How to Apply. Those interested in the supervised experiential learning necessary to become a registered dietitian/nutritionist must apply by the December 15 deadline for a Fall start date.  If the cohort of 10 does not fill, applications can be submitted until April 15.


    The current rate for the nonrefundable graduate application fee is $35.00 for domestic applicants and $40.00 for international applicants. Applications received without the application fee will not be processed.

    All credentials become the property of the University and will not be forwarded or returned. If the applicant does not enroll, credentials will be maintained in active files for 1 year, after which they will be destroyed. After that time, candidates must reapply for admission and submit a new set of credentials if they wish to be admitted to the Graduate College. Students who do not enroll for a Fall or Spring semester must apply for readmission.

    For more information, please visit the Graduate Studies page.

  • Academic Calendar and Program of Study

    The academic year at Tennessee Tech University is divided into three consecutive terms: Fall Term, Spring Term, and Summer Term, each of which is 15 weeks long. All official academic events for the academic year and published in the academic calendar. The TN Tech academic calendar can be found here:

    The TN Tech Community Health and Nutrition Future Graduate program schedule follows the university calendar with classes offered in fall, spring and summer sessions. Holidays are determined by the university. Students will participate in experiential learning practicums in the Spring 1, Summer 1, and Fall 2 semesters. During these semesters, the students’ experiential learning practice hours will be similar to that of the preceptor the student is assigned to at the time. During clinical and ambulatory rotations, students can expect to work normal business hours, approximately 40 hours per week. Rotations in foodservice management may require the student to work early morning and late evening shifts on various days. 

    In addition, experiential learning takes place in each didactic course, each semester, and may require the student to be available to go to an experiential learning site.

    Program of Study:

    Fall 1 Courses – 9 credits

    Experiential Learning Credits – 0 credits

    HEC 5010 Principles of Nutrition Research

    (3 credits)

    No experiential learning courses this semester.

    HEC 5025 Cultural Issues Influencing Health (3 credits)


    HEC 5015 Perspectives in Rural Community Health (3 credits)


    Spring 1 Courses – 9 credits

    Experiential Learning Credits – 3 credits

    HEC 6201 Community Nutrition Programs and Services (3 credits)

    HEC 6250 Experiential Learning Practicum: Foodservice and Extended Care (3 credits)

    HEC 6225 Advanced Applications of Counseling Techniques (3 credits)


    Summer 1 Courses – 0 credits

    Experiential Learning Credits – 6 credits


    HEC 6251 Experiential Learning Practicum: Community Nutrition (3 credits)


    HEC 6252 Experiential Learning Practicum: Clinical Nutrition (3 credits)

    Fall 2 Courses – 6 credits

    Experiential Learning Credits – 3 credits

    HEC 6405 Nutrition Across the Life Cycle (3 credits)

    HEC 6253 Experiential Learning Practicum: Elective Experience (3 credits)

    HEC 6410 Nutrition and Aging (3 credits)


    Spring 2 Courses – 9 credits

    Experiential Learning Credits – 0 credits

    HEC 6430 Community Health and Nutrition Capstone (3 credits)

    No experiential learning courses this semester.

    HEC 6440 Leadership, Advocacy, and Nutrition Policy (3 credits)


    PRST 6540 Health Informatics (3 credits)


    Total Credits: 30/360 hours*

    Total Credits: 12 credits/648 hours

    Total SEL Hours: 1,068 - 1,080

    *Students also earn 15 hours of alternative experiential learning hours in each practicum course. The didactic and supervised practice courses must be taken in a planned sequence. In addition, each course is offered only once during the academic year, therefore, any departure from completing a course in its planned sequence will result in a one-year delay in completing the course, the remaining program requirements, and the year of graduation.

Graduation and Program Completion Requirements

To earn the Master's degree is Community Health and Nutrition and Verification Statement (if pursuing), the student must:

  • Complete all didactic graduate courses and supervised experiential learning rotations and maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher.
  • Complete experiential learning assignments and site visit placements with a score of “5 Competent” or above on faculty and preceptor assessments.
  • Perform in a professional and ethical manner. 

Graduation information is available in the College of Graduate Studies Student Handbook. Additional details relating to graduation can be obtained here

Financial Aid: The Community Health and Nutrition Graduate Program has one graduate assistantship position available. If you are interested in applying, please reach out to Dr. Hutson at Students may also apply to other graduate assistantship positions on campus.

Scholarships: The TN Tech scholarship application is due each year on December 15. 


  • Requirements and Distance Education

    The Community Health and Nutrition FEM will use online technologies and learning management systems to deliver didactic course content. However, the experiential learning portions of this degree requires onsite availability throughout the entire program. Therefore, a distance learning option is not offered for the 12 credits of experiential learning. 

    Supervised experiential learning is incorporated throughout the program through the use of classroom-based simulation and collaborative projects with local hospital, long term care, and public health agencies. Throughout the program, students will be placed at supervised experiential learning rotations in clinical nutrition, foodservice management, and public health. After being appropriately vetted by the Community Health and Nutrition FG Program Director and Experiential Learning Coordinator, supervised experiential learning sites may be in various locations, with most current facilities being in the Upper Cumberland area of Tennessee.

    During the practicum courses, students may have the opportunity to travel to supervised experiential learning sites outside of a 100 mile radius of Cookeville. Students will be responsible for the cost of either daily travel to and from these sites or overnight lodging.

    Use of various technology, including iLearn, Zoom, Youtube, and other software will be utilized. Students will be expected to be competent in the use of the internet for access to resources and databases such as the Nutrition Care Manual and the Evidence Analysis Library. A home computer, whether laptop or desktop, will be essential, along with Microsoft software. Tennessee Tech offers students a free download of Microsoft software.

    Additional information regarding university support for distance education can be found on the library webpage.

  • Requirements for Locating Experiential Learning Sites

    Students will not be required to locate their own experiential learning sites. Sites will be located and vetted by the Program Director and Experiential Learning Coordinator.

  • Credit Toward Prior Learning Experiences

    Only students who are in the degree-only track may request to transfer graduate course credits from an accredited institution to Tennessee Tech. Students must request that the institution send official transcripts directly to TN Tech. Official transcripts must include all grades.

    All experiential learning practicum hours must be completed within the Community Health and Nutrition graduate program. The program does not accept experiential learning hours from other institutions, any work experience, or volunteer hours towards the required experiential learning hours for the program. Because experiential learning hours are earned in each didactic course, no transfer credit is accepted in the Community Health and Nutrition FEM graduate program.

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