Nutritionist vs Dietitian – What’s the difference?

Posted by on Nov 3, 2013


Image credit: Ethan Lofton

One of the most common questions I get asked is:

Is there a difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist?”

It’s such a great question!


And the short answer is: yes.


Here is the scoop.


The term nutritionist is a general term for someone who works with nutrition. Anyone who wants to can use the term. There is no specific meaning or education required to be a nutritionist.


A dietitian is someone who has done the following-

  • Received a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from an accredited institution
  • Completed a 1200-hour supervised practice program which includes clinical rotations in a hospital setting
  • Completed ongoing continuing educational requirements to maintain registration


In Other Words…

“Nutritionist” is a broad, umbrella term that could mean many different things where a “dietitian” refers to person with a specific set of qualifications.

Or stated another way…

“Every registered dietitians is a nutritionist,

but not all nutritionists are registered dietitians.”



Adding to the Confusion…

One challenge for dietitians is the emphasis on the word diet. Many people to think dietitians mainly prescribe diets (which isn’t true!).


Through out history, the word diet simply referred to the foods generally eaten by an individual or a group.


Today, however, in the US and other industrialized nations the word diet nearly always refers to un-fun restrictive eating practices used to lose weight.


So the association with the word diet has flipped from what is eaten, to what isn’t! (I talk about the power of words in this blog post.)



Recent Changes for Dietitians

Luckily, earlier this year, Registered Dietitians (or RDs) have a new title that is (legally) available-  Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN).  So you will likely start to see RDN as well as RD used by dietitians.



Is there a difference between a dietitian and a Registered Dietitian?

No. Dietitians are registered with the Commission of Dietetic Registration (CDR) and generally the terms are used interchangeably.


 If you have any questions please leave a comment in the box below!


Pamela Malo, MHS, RDN


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *