Nutritional Sciences (NS) is a broad, problem-solving field that draws upon biology, chemistry, and the social sciences. The NS major provides students with a strong foundation in the broad field of nutritional sciences as well as thorough training in chemistry and biology.

Learn more about the NS major

Nutritional Sciences draws upon biology, chemistry and the social sciences to answer such questions as:

  • How do dietary patterns influence the health and well-being of individuals, communities and populations?
  • What are the biological mechanisms through which nutrients affect metabolism?
  • What are recommended dietary patterns for people of different activity levels and medical conditions?
  • How can people be encouraged to adopt and maintain healthy eating patterns?
  • What are the roles of government and business in providing accessible, healthy food supplies and in promoting healthy eating practices?

After completing undergraduate requirements, most students continue their studies in graduate school, dietetic internships or medical school.

If you’re enrolled in the College of Human Ecology, you will draw on your preparation in chemistry, biology and math to prepare for a career in many nutrition-related fields, including medicine and other health careers, research, fitness and sports nutrition, nutrition counseling, clinical nutrition, dietetics, nutritional biochemistry, community nutrition and nutrition education.

If you’re in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, your work in nutrition will be combined with coursework in food systems, agriculture and the life sciences. You likely will supplement the core nutrition curriculum with courses in such areas as food policy, food science, animal and plant sciences, business and economics, and environmental sciences to prepare for a career in a nutrition-related field.

During your first two years of undergraduate studies, you will explore the general field of Nutritional Studies, while completing a core curriculum of foundational courses in chemistry, biology and the social sciences.

You also may have opportunities to do undergraduate research and further your learning through field experience. 

Other opportunities exist for broadening your learning experience and putting classroom learning into practice. You might, for example, participate in the Practicing Medicine program or Off-Campus Opportunity.

The foundational curriculum includes introductory chemistry and biology, organic chemistry, biochemistry, physiology and math, as well as introductory courses in the social sciences. Specific college-level requirements (e.g., social sciences and humanities classes) will depend on whether a student is completing an NS through CHE or CALS. in all cases, it is very important to plan and sequence chemistry and biology course appropriately and as early as possible.

You also will complete five core courses in nutritional sciences:

  • NS 1150: Nutrition, Health and Society
  • NS 2450: Social Science Perspectives on Food and Nutrition
  • NS 3450: Introduction to Physicochemical and Biological Aspects of Foods
  • NS 3310: Nutrient Metabolism
  • NS 3320: Methods in Nutritional Sciences

In addition, you will take at least three advanced level courses in nutritional sciences and courses to meet the general education requirements for your college. You may choose from a broad range of advanced courses including:

  • NS 3030: Nutrition, Health and Vegetarian Diets
  • NS 3060: Nutrition and Global Health
  • NS 3150: Obesity and the Regulation of Body Weight
  • NS 4200: Diet and the Microbiome
  • NS 4300 Proteins, Transcripts, and Metabolism: Big Data in Molecular Nutrition
  • NS 4250: Nutrition Communications and Counseling
  • NS 4410: Nutrition and Disease
  • NS 4450: Toward a Sustainable Global Food System: Food Policy for Developing Countries
  • NS 4480: Economics of Food and Malnutrition
  • NS 4500: Public Health Nutrition
  • NS 4570: Health, Poverty, and Inequality: A Global Perspective
  • Integrate knowledge from the biological and social sciences to address nutrition and health problems facing individuals, societies and governments.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the complex and evolving nature of scientific knowledge in the promotion of health and the etiology and prevention of disease.
  • Demonstrate the ability to access and critically evaluate scientific information from the primary research literature to investigate the influences of nutrition and other environmental factors in human health and disease.
  • Develop positions on nutrition-related health issues.
  • Communicate positions on nutrition-related health issues to colleagues and lay/target audiences.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of ethical principles, considerations and dilemmas relevant to the research and practice of nutrition.

The NS major provides an excellent foundation for several different career paths, including:

  • Medicine and other health careers such as physical therapist, physician's assistant, nurse practitioner, or clinical pharmacy
  • Dietetics including nutrition counseling, clinical nutrition, community nutrition, and management of food and nutrition services in business and the health industry (see also the Didactic Program in Dietetics - DPD)
  • Fitness and Wellness including corporate wellness, sports nutrition, exercise science, and athletic training (also see Applied Exercise Science minor)
  • Nutrition Communications including nutrition education and outreach programs for businesses, governments, and community organizations
  • International Nutrition & Global Health including programs concerned with hunger, health, and food supply issues in non-industrialized countries (also see the Global Health minor)
  • Research including careers that use biochemical, physiological, genomic, clinical, and social science methods to understand how food, diet, and health are related (also see Undergraduate Research and the DNS Honors Program)

Following graduation from Cornell, most NS majors pursue their career interests through programs of advanced study such as graduate school, dietetic internships, and medical school.

Expect your career interests to develop and possibly change while you are at Cornell. The first two years of curriculum allow you to explore the field of nutrition while you complete foundational courses in chemistry, biology, and the social sciences. The first-year course, NS 1150 Nutrition, Health and Society, introduces students to some important health issues and helps students develop their critical thinking and writing skills. In a 1-credit course, NS 1200 Nutrition and Health: Issues, Outlooks and Opportunities (spring term), students can meet experts working in different fields and learn about critical issues and trends in these fields as well as the requisite knowledge and skills to work in these areas. Take advantage of the different speakers and seminars offered throughout the year to learn about various career options, and discuss your career  interests with your faculty advisor and with college counselors specializing in career planning. If you want to explore other majors, minor fields, or pre-professional paths, your advisor will suggest some people to contact.

Transferring into the NS major
In general, successful applicants for transfer into the NS major demonstrate:

  • Successful completion of NS 1150
  • Adequate progress and proficiency in introductory natural sciences courses
  • An appropriate plan to meet NS and College graduation requirements

Students who are interested in transferring into the NS major within their home College (e.g. to NS-CALS from another CALS major, or to NS-CHE from another CHE major) should contact Students who are interested in an Internal Transfer to the NS major from a different College at Cornell should contact the Admissions office of their target College (Human Ecology or CALS).

Adding NS as a second major
Students in CHE may not have two majors. Students in CALS may add NS-CALS as a second major, but may not add the NS major to the Biological Sciences major if their Biological Sciences major concentration is in Human Nutrition. CALS students who are interested in adding the NS major should contact

Requirements for NS majors

  • See also the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Degree Requirements. All of the following sections must be completed to graduate. Courses in areas 1-12 must be taken for a Letter Grade.
  • DNS students may not use courses to fulfill more than one requirement among areas 1-12, even though DUST indicates otherwise for CALS students.
Credit requirements for the NS-CALS major
Total: CALS: CALS, outside the major:
120 credits 55 credits (NS credits plus any from other CALS departments) 9 non-NS CALS credits


  1. Introductory Chemistry (8 credits):
    (a) CHEM 2070 General Chemistry I (4 cr) and CHEM 2080 General Chemistry II (4 cr) 1
    (b) (AP Chemistry score of 5 or IB Chemistry score of 6 or 7) and CHEM 2080 General Chemistry II (4 cr) 2
    (c) (AP Chemistry score of 5 or IB Chemistry score of 6 or 7) and CHEM 2150 Honors General and Inorganic Chemistry (4 cr) 2,3 


    1 Students may use an AP Chemistry score of 5 to place out of CHEM 2070. However, GPHS students must take at least one semester of chemistry at Cornell, i.e., students who use AP credit toward their chemistry requirement must take an additional chemistry course (i.e., CHEM 2080, CHEM 2150, or other, but not CHEM 1560). Students interested in the pre-health track should take two semesters of chemistry at Cornell.

    2 Students who take CHEM 2070 forfeit AP credit. Students who take CHEM 2150 may keep AP credit.

    3 Students should only select option (c) if they are very strong in chemistry and are not considering a pre-health (e.g. pre-med) track.

  2. Introductory Biology (8 credits):
    Choose one of the following labs:

    (a) BIOG 1500 Investigative Lab (2 cr) OR
    (b) BIOSM 1500 Investigative Marine Biology Lab (3 cr)

    AND choose two out of the three lecture options1:

    (a) BIOMG 1350 Cell and Developmental Biology (3 cr)
    (b) BIOG 1440 Comparative Physiology (3 cr) OR2
         BIOG 1445 Comparative Physiology (autotutorial) (4 cr)
    (c) BIOEE 1610 Ecology and the Environment (3 cr) OR2
         BIOEE 1780 Evolution and Diversity (3 cr)

    1Students may use an AP Biology score of 5 to place out of one introductory biology lecture. Pre-health (e.g. pre-med) students should not use AP scores to fulfill biology requirements.

    2Cannot take both courses within one category to fulfill this requirement

  3. Organic Chemistry Lecture (3-8 credits)1
    Choose one of the following:

    (a) CHEM 1570 Elementary Organic Chemistry (3 cr, not for pre-health) OR
    (b) CHEM 3530 Principles of Organic Chemistry (4 cr, not for pre-health) OR
    (c) CHEM 3570-3580 Introductory Organic Chemistry (3 cr each, must take both,   CHEM 3570 alone will not fulfill the requirement) OR
    (d) CHEM 3590-3600 Organic Chemistry (4 cr each, must take both, CHEM 3590 alone will not fulfill the requirement)

    1Students interested in pre-health tracks should take a two-course sequence of organic chemistry lectures (option c or d above).

  4. Organic Chemistry Lab (2-4 credits)

    (a) CHEM 2510 Introduction to Experimental Organic Chemistry (2 cr) OR
    (b) CHEM 3010 Honors Experimental Chemistry (4 cr)

  5. Physiology (3-4 credits)
    Choose one of the following1:
    (a) NS 3410 Human Anatomy and Physiology (4 cr) OR
    (b) BIOAP 3110 Animal Physiology (3 cr)

    1Pre-health students might also consider taking NS 3420 Human Anatomy and Physiology Lab (Spring, 2 cr)

  6. Biochemistry (4-6 credits)
    Choose one of the following:

    (a) NS 3200 Introduction to Human Biochemistry (4 cr) OR
    (b) BIOMG 3300 Principles of Biochemistry (4 cr) OR
    (c) BIOMG 3310 Principles of Biochemistry: Proteins and Metabolism (3 cr) AND BIOMG 3320 Principles of Biochemistry: Molecular Biology (2 cr) OR
    (d) BIOMG 3310 Principles of Biochemistry: Proteins and Metabolism (3 cr) AND BIOMI 2900 General Microbiology (3 cr) OR
    (e) BIOG 3350 Principles of Biochemistry: Proteins, Metabolism, and Molecular Biology (4 cr)

  7. Nutritional Sciences Core Courses (16 credits)

    NS 1150 Nutrition, Health and Society (3 cr)
    NS 2450 Social Science Perspectives on Food and Nutrition (3 cr)  
    NS 3450 Introduction to Physiochemical and Biological Aspects of Food (3 cr)  
    NS 3310 Nutrient Metabolism (4 cr)  
    NS 3320 Methods in Nutritional Sciences (3 cr)

  8. Advanced Electives in Nutrition (9+ credits)
    At least 9 credits of NS course at the 3000 level or above (see below for NS courses at the 3000/4000 level organized by area of interest). Notes:
    • May include NS 3410 ONLY if BIOAP 3110 is used to fulfill the physiology requirement.
    • May include no more that a TOTAL of 3 credits from NS 4000 Directed Readings, NS 4010 Empirical Research, NS 4020 Supervised Fieldwork, and NS 4990 Honors Research.
    • May NOT include NS 3200, NS 3980, NS 4620, or NS 4030 Teaching Apprenticeship.

    Economic Influences on Human Nutrition
       • NS 3060 Nutrition and Global Health (3 cr)
       • NS 4450 / 6455, AEM 4450 / 6455 Toward a Sustainable Global Food System: Food Policy for Developing Countries (3 cr)
       • NS 4480 / 6480 Economics of Food and Malnutrition (3 cr)
       • NS 4570 Health, Poverty, and Inequality: A Global Perspective (3 cr)
    Nutrition and Public Health
       • NS 3600 Epidemiology (3 cr)
       • NS 4500 Public Health Nutrition (3 cr)
       • NS 4600 Explorations in Global Health (3 cr)
    Food Quality and Food Service Management
       • NS 4880 Applied Dietetics in Foodservice Systems (4 cr)
    Human Health and Nutrition
       • NS 3030 Nutrition, Health and Vegetarian Diets (3 cr)
       • NS / PSYCH 3150 Obesity and the Regulation of Body Weight (3 cr)
       • NS 3420 Human Anatomy and Physiology Laboratory (2 cr)
       • NS 4200 Diet and the Microbiome (3 cr)
       • NS 4410 Nutrition and Disease (4 cr)
       • NS 4420 Implementation of Nutrition Care (3 cr; enrollment restricted – priority to Dietetics students)
       • NS 6140 Topics in Maternal and Child Nutrition (3 cr)
    Nutritional Biochemistry
       • NS 4300 Proteins, Transcripts, and Metabolism: Big Data in Molecular Nutrition (3 cr)
       • NS 6310 Micronutrients: Function, Homeostasis and Assessment (2-4 cr)
       • NS 6320 Regulation of Macronutrient Metabolism (4 cr)
    Psychological and Social Influences on Human Nutrition
       • NS 4250 Nutrition Communications and Counseling (3 cr)

  9. Communications (9 credits)
    Complete 9 credits of courses in written and oral expression, at least 6 of which must be written expression. Select courses from First-year Writing Seminars and COMM or ENGL classes as per CALS distribution requirements. Note: Potential courses to fulfill this and any CALS distribution requirement may be found in “DUST.”

  10. Social Sciences and Humanities (12 credits)1
    Complete 12 credits, including four course of at least 3 credits each:
    The four chosen course must include at least 3 different categories from the following list: Cultural Analysis (CA), Human Diversity (D), Foreign Language (FL), Historical Analysis (HA), Knowledge, Cognition, and Moral Reasoning (KCM), Literature and the Arts (LA), and Social and Behavioral Analysis (SBA).

    At least one course must be in Human Diversity (D).

    1NS majors may not use a major-required course (e.g. a major core course, selective, or advanced major elective) to fulfill this requirement.

  11. Calculus/Advanced Math (3-4 credits)
    Choose one of the following:

    (a) MATH 1105 Finite Mathematics for the Life and Social Sciences (3 cr)
    (b) MATH 1106 Calculus for the Life and Social Sciences (3 cr)
    (c) MATH 1110 Calculus I (4 cr)
    (d) MATH 1120 Calculus II (4 cr)
    (e) A score of 4 or higher on the AB or BC Calculus AP Exam1

    1NS-CALS students must take either Calculus/Advanced Math or Statistics at Cornell unless they have earned a score of 4 or higher on the BC Calculus AP Exam and a score of 5 on the Statistics AP Exam.

  12. Statistics (3-4 credits)

    Choose one of the following:

    (a) STSCI 2150 Introductory Statistics for Biology (4 cr) (recommended) OR
    (b) PAM 2100 Introduction to Statistics (4 cr) OR
    (c) AEM 2100 Introductory Statistics (4 cr) OR
    (d) BTRY 3010 Biological Statistics I (4 cr) OR
    (e) ILRST / STSCI 2100 Introductory Statistics (4 cr) OR
    (f) MATH 1710 Statistical Theory and Application in the Real World (4 cr) OR
    (g) PSYCH 2500 Statistics and Research Design (3-4 cr) OR
    (h) SOC 3010 Statistics for Sociological Research (4 cr)
    (i) A score of 5 on the Statistics AP Exam1

    1NS-CALS students must take either Calculus/Advanced Math or Statistics at Cornell unless they have earned a score of 4 or higher on the BC Calculus AP Exam and a score of 5 on the Statistics AP Exam.

  13. Electives (Variable)
    Any courses that are not taken in Areas 1-13 above count as Electives. Students interested in pre-health tracks or graduate study in biological, medical, or exercise sciences should take a two-course series in physics [PHYS 1101 AND 1102 General Physics (auto-tutorial)] OR [PHYS 2207 AND 2208 Fundamentals of Physics].

  14. Physical Education Requirement (2 courses)
    Physical Education must be completed tin order to graduate. However, physical education does not count toward college and university minimum credit requirements for full-time status, nor does it count towards the 120 credits required for graduation. External transfer students are exempt from this requirement.

  15. Swim Test Requirement
    A successful swim test must be completed in order to graduate. External transfer students are exempt from this requirement.

College Polices:

  • 120 Overall Credits
    • Students must complete 120 credits toward graduation.
    • A maximum of 15 credits of AP credit and in absentia credit can count towards the 120 total credits.
    • 15 credits of Study Abroad/Exchange, Cornell-In-Washington, or Capital semester can count towards total electives.
    • A course can only count towards the 120 total credits required once.
    • Students who exceed the above parameters—i.e., by taking more than 15 credits in cases (a), (b), and (c), or taking a course more than once—will have their total required credits increase by the same amount, and all credits will be counted toward their GPA. For example, a student who takes a 3-credit course twice to improve their grade will then be required to complete 123 total credits, and will have both grades factored into their GPA.
  • CALS Credits
    • CALS students must complete a minimum of 55 HE credits. DNS students must complete a minimum of 9 of these 55 credits from non-NS CALS coursework.
  • Pass/Fail Courses [S/U]
    • S/U grading option may NOT be used for any required course [Areas 1-12] unless it is the only grade option offered for those courses.  
    • S/Us MAY be used for the 9 CALS Credits outside the major and for electives in Area 13.
    • The deadline for changing grade options is the 57th calendar day of the semester, the same as the “drop” deadline.
    • Special Study Courses [4000, 4010, 4020, 4030]
      • A maximum of 12 credits of special study course work from CALS or other colleges will count towards the 120 overall credits (e.g. DNS special studies course work includes NS 4000, 4010, 4020, and 4030). Courses will be indicated on the class roster with a Component of either IND or RSC. [Additional credits can be taken but will not be applied.]
      • Students who wish to take NS Special Studies Courses must have taken and passed at least 2 S/U credits of the same course. Students may petition to waive this requirement if their previous experience is equivalent to this “training period’; for more information, contact

NS major requirements checklist:  downloadable form.

This document is meant as a tool for tracking progress toward completing requirements for the HBHS major. It does not account for College-level requirements, such as humanities, social sciences, communication courses, and the required number of CHE or CALS credits. These requirements are described in detail above.