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 dnsstudentservices@cornell.edu. 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 dnsstudentservices@cornell.edu.

Requirements for NS majors

The requirements listed below pertain to all students matriculating in August 2023 and January 2024. Please see the corresponding edition of the Cornell University Courses of Study for previous requirements.

All of the following sections (1-19) are required to be completed to graduate.

Overall Credits (REQUIRED):

  • Total: 120 credits
  • Agriculture and Life Sciences: 55 credits
  • 9 credits from outside the major (anything but NS courses)
  • Please note: Courses in areas 1-15 must be taken for a Letter Grade.
  • Please note: DNS students may not use courses to fulfill more than one requirement among areas 1-15, even though DUST indicates otherwise for CALS students.

1. Introductory Chemistry (8 credits)

(a) CHEM 2070 - General Chemistry I (4 cr) AND CHEM 2080 - General Chemistry II (4 cr) 1
(b) A score of 5 on the Chemistry exam AND CHEM 2080 - General Chemistry II (4 cr) 2
(c) A score of 5 on the Chemistry exam AND CHEM 2150 - Honors General and Inorganic Chemistry (4 cr) 3

Students interested in pre-health tracks should not use AP or IB credit to fulfill part of the introductory chemistry requirement. It is strongly recommended that students with pre-health interest take both CHEM 2070 and CHEM 2080.

Students may use an AP Chemistry score of 5 or an IB Chemistry score of 6 or 7 to place out of CHEM 2070. Pre-health (e.g. pre-med) students should not use AP scores to fulfill chemistry requirements. Students who take CHEM 2070 forfeit AP or IB credit.

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 Biology Laboratory (2 cr) OR
(b) BIOSM 1500 - Investigative Marine Biology Laboratory (3 cr)
AND choose two out of the three lecture options1:
(a) BIOMG 1350 - Introductory Biology: Cell and Developmental Biology (3 cr)
(b) BIOG 1440 - Introductory Biology: Comparative Physiology (3 cr) OR2
BIOG 1445 - Introduction to Comparative Anatomy and Physiology, Individualized Instruction (autotutorial) (4 cr)
(c) BIOEE 1610 - Introductory Biology: Ecology and the Environment (3 cr) OR2
BIOEE 1780 - An Introduction to Evolutionary Biology and Diversity (3 cr)
1 Students 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.
Cannot 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 - Introduction to Organic and Biological Chemistry (3 cr, not for pre-healthOR
(b) CHEM 3530 - [Principles of Organic Chemistry] (4 cr, not for pre-healthO
(c) CHEM 3570-3580 Introductory Organic Chemistry (3 cr each, must take both, CHEM 3570 alone will not fulfill the requirementOR
(d) CHEM 3590-3600 Organic Chemistry (4 cr each, must take both, CHEM 3590 alone will not fulfill the requirement)
1 Students interested in pre-health tracks should take a two-course sequence of organic chemistry lectures (option c or d above), in addition to an organic chemistry lab.

4. Organic Chemistry Lab (2-4 credits)
(a) CHEM 2510 - Introduction to Experimental Organic Chemistry (2 cr) OR
(b) CHEM 3010 - Honors Experimental Chemistry I (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 - Principles of Animal Physiology (3 cr)
1 Pre-health students should also consider taking NS 3420 - Human Anatomy and Physiology Laboratory (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, Individualized Instruction (4 cr) O
(c) BIOMG 3310 - Principles of Biochemistry: Proteins and Metabolism (3 cr) AND BIOMG 3320 - Principles of Biochemistry: Molecular Biology (2 cr) O
(d) BIOMG 3310 - Principles of Biochemistry: Proteins and Metabolism (3 cr) AND BIOMI 2900 - General Microbiology Lectures (3 cr) OR
(e) BIOMG 3350 - Principles of Biochemistry: Proteins, Metabolism, and Molecular Biology 

7. Nutritional Sciences Core Courses (16 credits)
(a) NS 1150 - Nutrition, Health, and Society (3 cr)
(b) NS 2450 - Social Science Perspectives on Food and Nutrition (3 cr)
(c) NS 3450 - Introduction to Physiochemical and Biological Aspects of Foods (3 cr
(d) NS 3310 - Human Nutrition and Nutrient Metabolism (4 cr)
(e) NS 3320 - Methods in Nutritional Sciences (3 cr)

8. Advanced Electives in Nutrition (9 credits)
At least 9 credits of NS courses at the 3000 level or above. Note: May include NS 3410 only if BIOAP 3110 is used to fulfill the physiology requirement. Note: May include no more than a total of 3 credits from NS 4000 - Directed ReadingsNS 4010 - Empirical ResearchNS 4020 - Supervised Fieldwork, and NS 4990 - Honors Problem. May not include NS 3200NS 3980NS 4620, or NS 4030 - Teaching Apprenticeship.

Economic Influences on Human Nutrition
Nutrition and Global Health (3 cr)
NS 4450 / NS 6455, AEM 4450 / NS 6455 Toward a Sustainable Global Food System: Food Policy for Developing Countries (3 cr)
NS 4480 - 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 4300 - Proteins, Transcripts, and Metabolism: Big Data in Molecular Nutrition (3 cr)
NS 4500 - Public Health Nutrition (3 cr)
NS 4600 - Explorations in Global and Public Health (3 cr)

Food Quality and Food Service Management
NS 4880 - Applied Dietetics in Food Service Systems (4 cr)

Human Health and Nutrition
NS 3150 / 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)

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)
Complete 12 credits, including four courses of at least 3 cr each:

  • The four chosen courses 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).

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 - Modeling with Calculus for the Life 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 Exam 1,2
CALS students who earned a 4 or 5 on the AB Calculus AP Exam and complete MATH 1106MATH 1110, or equivalent forfeit their AP credit. CALS students who earned a 4 or 5 on the BC Calculus AP Exam and take MATH 1106MATH 1110MATH 1120MATH 1910, or equivalent forfeit their AP credit.
2 See below under Statistics.

12. Statistics (3-4 credits)
Choose one of the following:
(a) STSCI 2150 - Introductory Statistics for Biology (4 cr) (recommended) OR
(b) PUBPOL 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 2100 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 4 or 5 on the Statistics AP Exam1,2
1 CALS students who earned a 5 on the Statistics AP Exam and complete an introductory statistics course listed above or equivalent forfeit their AP credit.
2 NS-CALS students must take either Calculus/Advanced Math or Statistics at Cornell unless they have earned a score of 3 or higher on the BC Calculus AP Exam. Students in this case may use AP credit for both Calculus/Advanced Math and Statistics.

13. Electives (Variable)
Any courses that are not taken in Areas 1-14 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 PHYS 1102 - General Physics II (autotutorial)] OR [PHYS 2207 AND PHYS 2208 - Fundamentals of Physics II].

14. Physical Education Requirement (2 courses)
Physical Education must be completed in 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.