University of Minnesota
Discover Public Health at the University of Minnesota -- one of the top schools of public health in the country, a distinction that reflects our firm commitment to academic and research excellence.
Public Health Nutrition MPH


The Public Health Nutrition program was officially founded in 1963 by Ruth Stief. However, the University of Minnesota’s contributions to the field of public health nutrition date back to the 1940s when Ancel Keys began his work to describe the health effects of semi-starvation, develop the K-ration, and identify the Mediterranean Diet.

Public Health Nutrition MPH Program Highlights

Today, our faculty continue to study the links between diet and health and are passionate about training our students to be future leaders in the field. The PHN program is designed to meet the needs of students who want graduate training in health promotion, disease prevention, program development, and nutrition interventions.

In addition to the traditional public health nutrition degree, we offer students the opportunity to gain expertise in an interdisciplinary concentration such as global health, complementary and alternative medicine, public health policy, and health disparities.

For students interested in becoming a Registered Dietitian, we offer a Coordinated Master’s Program. Our program also offers students interested in global health the opportunity to complete a Peace Corps experience as part of their masters program.

Full- and Part-time program

You may pursue your MPH on a full-time or part-time basis, but please note that the majority of the courses are offered only during the day. (Note: The Coordinated Master’s Program must be taken on a full-time basis.)

PhD Opportunities

Some graduates of the Public Health Nutrition MPH program choose to continue their graduate studies by pursuing a PhD or other professional degrees. The University of Minnesota offers two options for PhD programs in nutrition. The Interdisciplinary Nutrition graduate program offers doctoral students the opportunity to focus their studies in public health nutrition. Similarly, students in the Epidemiology PhD program have the opportunity to focus on nutritional epidemiology. Several graduates of the Public Health Nutrition MPH program are currently pursuing doctoral degrees in these programs.


Three sets of competencies are incorporated into the school’s degree programs:

Core Competencies – All MPH and MHA programs require that students meet the Association of Schools of Public Health (ASPH) Core Competencies in five core public health areas, including administration, behavioral science, biostatistics, environmental health, and epidemiology, plus an additional requirement in ethics. These competencies are met through the SPH core courses.

Major Competencies – Each major program has a set of competencies that are mapped to learning and evaluation opportunities. These represent competencies that are unique to the specialty area of study.

Cross-Cutting Competencies – The cross-cutting competencies identified by the ASPH address areas increasingly important for effective public health practice including diversity and culture, professionalism, systems thinking, leadership, communication and informatics, public health biology and program planning.

Field Experience and Culminating Experience Project

Field experiences help students try new skills and to see themselves in a practice setting. They allow for integration of theory and practice in an agency setting; they are a joint venture between the major in Public Health Nutrition and the field agency.

The effectiveness of future practitioners of public health nutrition depends on collaboration between the field faculty and the major in Public Health Nutrition in the development of productive and meaningful field experiences. The broad goals of field experience are to help the Public Health Nutrition graduate students strengthen their philosophy and understanding of public health and to identify themselves as professionals in public health.

These goals are achieved by introducing the student in a health related field agency to:

  • The broad practice and philosophy of public health as it relates to nutrition
  • The application of theory to practice through work experiences
  • The organizational framework for nutrition programs and services at the federal, state, and local levels

Culminating Experience Project

The purpose of the culminating experience project is to enable students to demonstrate:

  • Familiarity with the tools of research and scholarship in the field of public health
  • The ability to plan and carry out a systematic investigation related to a public health issue
  • The ability to effectively present, in written form, the results of their investigation
  • The ability to work independently

The program views well-developed investigation and communication skills as essential if Public Health Nutrition professionals are to be effective in advancing the health and well-being of populations and at-risk groups.

Qualifications for Admissions

The major admits applicants with career goals in public health and applied nutrition, nutrition education, community intervention, and nutritional epidemiology. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Relevant experience in a public health setting is preferred.

The major offers three program options ranging from 16 to 24 months in length, leading to the MPH with one option available to complete supervised practice hours to become eligible to take the Registration Examination for Dietitians.

If candidates:

  • Have a nutrition or dietetics degree and are eligible to take the RD exam (or are already an RD), they may apply for the Standard Program or the Nutritional Epidemiology Program.
  • Have a nutrition or dietetics degree but have not yet done ACEND accredited dietetics internship, they may apply for the Coordinated Master’s Program option, the Standard Program or the Nutritional Epidemiology Program.
  • Do not have a dietetics or nutrition degree but will have completed specific science prerequisites and/or Coordinated Master’s Program prerequisites before starting the MPH, they may apply for the Coordinated Master’s Program, the Standard Program or the Nutritional Epidemiology Program.

Science prerequisites for the STND or NEP include: one general biology course with a lab; two general chemistry courses with a lab; one organic chemistry course; one biochemistry course; one Intro to Nutrition course; and one social science course (sociology, psychology, etc).

Prerequisites for admission to the CMP include: one general biology course with a lab; two general chemistry courses with a lab; one organic chemistry course, one biochemistry course and one social science course (sociology, psychology); one microbiology course with a lab; one human physiology course; one Intro to Nutrition course; one Intro to Food Science course; and one Food Service Operations Management course.

NOTE: Students that have a Verification Statement from an accredited Didactic Program in Dietetics have met all prerequisites for the CMP.

Preferred Performance Levels

  • GPA of 3.0

  • Composite GRE score of 300, with a 3.5 on the AWA (Analytic Writing Assessment)

  • TOEFL score of 600/250/100 (international applicants)

Maternal and Child Nutrition Traineeship

Several maternal and child nutrition traineeships are available for public health nutrition students who are U.S. citizens and wish to specialize in maternal, child or adolescent health. Eligible students must be registered dietitians, with at least one year of work experience, and career goals in public health nutrition and maternal and child health, and should complete the appropriate application. Learn more

Graduate Assistant Positions

Research and teaching assistantship positions become available throughout the year in the School of Public Health, and other departments throughout the University of Minnesota. Many research assistant positions require knowledge of statistical computing, such as SAS or SPSS programs, and we highly recommend students learn one or both of these programs.

Once you are admitted to a degree program at the University of Minnesota you are eligible to apply for any graduate assistant position in any department at the University of Minnesota.

Public Health Nutrition students are active in the public health community through field experiences and employment at local, state, and national public and private organizations. Our students are also involved with faculty and division matters through graduate assistantships. Other examples of student involvement include:

Phillips Neighborhood Clinic

The PNC is an interdisciplinary clinic run by students from the university’s Academic Health Center, providing health care for those with limited financial resources.

A large proportion of the PNC population is affected by nutrition-related conditions such as obesity, hypertension and diabetes. In fall 2006, the clinic began offering nutrition counseling. PNC students volunteer in this capacity and other roles, such as patient advocacy, interpreting, waiting room education, and outreach.

Participating in the PNC is a great opportunity to make a difference in your community, to learn and practice important professional skills, and to network with other health professionals.

Student Organizations

Students are highly encouraged to be involved in the Center for Health Interprofessional Programs (CHIP) student center to build alliances between different members of the Academic Health Center programs. The CHIP organization provides a student lounge in the Academic Health Center as well as opportunities for socializing and community service.

Students are also encouraged to become involved in student government through the School of Public Health Student Senate. The SPH Student Senate is an active group that coordinates many social and community events through the year including Relay for Life teams, food drives, and many other community activities.

The Public Health Nutrition program strongly emphasizes nutritional assessment, program planning, health behavior change and intervention strategies, research and evaluation methods, and policy development. An emphasis on nutritional epidemiology helps prepare public health nutrition professionals to address significant issues in the field with up-to-date epidemiologic methods.

Overall, approximately 60 percent of graduates work in public health agencies (e.g., local and state health departments, and national public health agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), 20 percent in educational institutions or the USDA Cooperative Extension Service, and the remainder in health promotion and education programs in health care organizations and private industry.  Other graduates are public relations and media consultants, internship directors, or in private practice/consulting.

Career Prospects

The PHN program prepares graduates for a wide variety of positions in national, state and local public health agencies; nonprofit health agencies; international nongovernmental organizations; and community service organizations. Individuals who obtain or hold the Registered Dietitian credential are also prepared to obtain positions in healthcare settings such as hospitals and clinics.

Professionals with training in public health nutrition, regardless of their place of employment, are involved in assessing individuals, communities and populations; developing, implementing and evaluating nutrition interventions; and monitoring the health of individuals, communities and populations.

Salary Information

Salaries vary greatly depending on the type of employer/organization. Graduates can expect to negotiate approximately $30,000-$50,000 with an initial position. This information is based on responses to surveys of our graduates, and represents an average experience. The American Dietetic Association also publishes a compensation and benefits survey for the dietetics profession (available for purchase).

See program career spotlights

Contact Info

Program Coordinator
Shelley Cooksey

Program Director
Mark Pereira

Student Spotlight

Meet Sarah Eichberger, who worked for seven years as a dietitian before coming to Minnesota to further her expertise in public health nutrition. Watch the video

  • © 2015 Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved.
  • The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer. Privacy