Is a Dietitian or a Nutritionist Different?

Some of you may be asking what constitutes actual nutritional expertise. Dietitian and nutritionist are terms you may have heard, but don’t know what they mean.

Dietitians and nutritionists are distinguished in this article by the work they conduct and the training they must do. It focuses mostly on definitions and rules in the United States, and only a little bit on international ones.

What a dietician does on a daily basis

People who work as dietitians in the United States and many other countries are food and nutrition experts who are certified by the board. Because of their education, they know a lot about nutrition and dietetics, which is the science of food and nutrition and how these things affect people.

For this reason, dietitians spend a lot of time in school to learn how to provide evidence-based nutritional therapy and counseling that is tailored to each person’s needs.

It is possible for them to work in a wide range of places, from hospitals to outpatient clinics to research institutions to the local community.

Requirements for education and certifications

In order to become a Registered Dietitian (RD) or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), a person must meet the requirements set by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) in the United States or the Dietitians Association of Australia. These groups set the standards for what people need to do.

In some countries, people can also get the title “registered nutritionist,” which is the same as “registered dietitian.” To get this title, they need to be certified by a governing body.

These are professional groups in each country that keep an eye on the field of dietetics.

To be clear, the certifications of Registered Dietitian and Registered Dietitian Nurse are interchangeable. RDN, on the other hand, is a very new designation. There are many credentials that dietitians can use. They can choose which one they want to use.

For dietitians to get these credentials, they must first get a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college.

This usually necessitates a bachelor’s degree in a science, including biology, microbiology, organic and inorganic chemistry, biochemistry, anatomy and physiology, as well as additional specific nutrition study in these subjects.

RD students in the United States will have to get a master’s degree by January 1, 2024 in order to take the RD board exam.

All dietetics students in the United States must also apply for and be placed in a competitive internship program that has been approved by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND).

The same internships might be required in other countries.

When a student does an internship, they usually get to do 900–1,200 unpaid practice hours across the four domains of practice. They also get to work on more in-depth projects and case studies outside of those hours.

Before the student can finish the internship, he or she usually has to pass a test that looks like the board exam. They can take a board exam if they meet all of these requirements.

Dietetics students can become registered dietitians after passing their country’s board test.


National board certification is needed to become a dietitian.

Rhode Island, Alabama, and Nebraska are just three of the 13 states that require dietitians to be licensed before they can work. Other states don’t regulate this job or don’t require this job to be licensed or certified by the state or by the government.

The process of getting a license sometimes includes extra steps, like passing a jurisprudence test. This is to make sure that dietitians follow a set of rules to keep people safe.

The dietitian also needs to keep up with the changes in their field by taking continuing education credits. This helps them stay up to date with the ever-changing field of work.

Dietitians are classified into several categories

Dietitians practice in four key areas: clinical, food service management, community outreach, and research. Clinical practice is divided into two categories: acute care and chronic care.

As a clinical nutritionist, you’ll be working with patients in the hospital. Unlike inpatient dietitians, who operate in a hospital or clinic setting, outpatient dietitians work with persons who are not admitted to inpatient treatment and who are generally in better health.

Dietitians help the medical team treat a lot of both short-term and long-term illnesses with their help. Dietitians work both in hospitals and out of hospitals.

Dietitians at long-term care institutions may also be responsible for monitoring the diet of residents who have major medical issues that necessitate long-term care.

It’s important for them to follow certain rules and give a person’s medical history and current condition, including lab work and weight history. This allows them to look at immediate needs and put life-threatening conditions at the top of the list.

Individuals with specific nutritional needs, such as those who have just undergone surgery or cancer treatment or who have been diagnosed with a chronic illness like diabetes or renal disease, can receive nutrition counseling from inpatient and outpatient dietitians.

Nutritional counseling is more extensive in the outpatient context, when they work toward a nutrition-related goal.

People who work as dietitians can also work in places like research hospitals and universities, or in the food service industry.

They can fight for public policies and help people in their community, like school districts or public health groups like Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

Dietitians who work in food service management make sure that a lot of people get enough nutrition and that food safety rules are met at a big company, like a school district or a military base.

Communal dietitians can help design and run programs for groups of people instead of just one person, like community cooking projects or diabetes prevention programs. They can also speak up for public policies that are good for nutrition, food, and health.

Research dietitians are usually found in research hospitals, groups, or universities. A primary researcher leads a group of people who work together on a project about nutrition.

They work on nutrition-related projects. As soon as dietitians get their credentials and start working in the field, they can choose to specialize in a certain area, like pediatrics or sports dietetics.

When dietitians want to help people with nutrition issues, they can also run their own businesses to do that.

They may also teach at an academic or research institution or write about nutrition. Others may be health and nutrition specialists in the media or public speakers.

Dietitians deal with a variety of ailments

Dietitians can help people with both short-term and long-term health problems manage their nutrition therapy. They treat a lot of different things depending on where they work.

There are nutritionists who can help people who have cancer or are getting treatment for it. They can also help people who are at risk for diabetes by working with them to keep it at bay.

When people go to the hospital, they treat a wide range of people, from people who are clinically undernourished to those who need nutrients through feeding tubes.

If you’re having weight-loss surgery or have kidney problems, a dietitian may help you. These individuals may need special care to meet their bodies’ needs, and a dietitian can help you do this.

Dietitians who specialize in treating people with eating disorders usually have more training or education than other dietitians. They collaborate with a team of psychotherapists and medical professionals to assist people in recovering from these conditions.

Having anorexia nervosa, for example, is when you don’t eat at all for a long time. You also eat a lot and then throw it away (bulimia).

Those who work in sports nutrition specialize in making sure athletes get the right nutrition to help them do better in games. It is possible for these dietitians to work at gyms or physical therapy clinics, as well as with a sports team or dance company.


If you are a dietitian, you can apply your knowledge to a wide range of settings from hospitals to research institutions to professional sports teams. For acute and long-term illnesses, nutrition therapy may be used to treat or prevent them.

What a nutritionist is tasked with

They may call themselves “nutritionists” instead of “dietitians,” even though they have a lot of the same skills as dietitians.

For those in the United States who hold a wide range of nutrition credentials and training, the term “nutritionist” might be applied to them.

At least 12 states have rules about what it takes for someone to call themselves “nutritionists.” Also, accredited certifications give you titles like “Certified Nutrition Specialist” (CNS).

Participants in these certification programs are authorized to conduct medical nutrition therapy as well as other parts of nutrition treatment in the vast majority of states.

In several places, such as Alaska, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, registered dietitians and certified nutrition specialists (CNSs) are granted the same state license, which is commonly referred to as a Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist (LDN).

The term “nutritionist” isn’t regulated in states that don’t. Anyone who has an interest in diet or nutrition can call themselves a nutritionist in those states. These people might use their interest in nutrition to run a food blog or work with clients.

It could also be bad to follow the advice of uncredentialed nutritionists because they usually don’t have the skills or training to help people with medical nutrition therapy or get them to eat a certain way.

People who are nutritionists might want to find out if your state has rules about who can use this title.

Requirements for education and certifications

People who work as nutritionists in the United States don’t need to have any degrees or credentials. You just need to be interested in the subject.

To get a license in states that require it, you might need to have the CNS or RD credentials.

Certified nutrition specialists (CNSs) are healthcare workers with advanced degrees who have completed additional training and supervised practice hours and passed an exam administered by the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists.

Chronic Nutritional Syndrome (CNS)

Clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) are allowed to practice medicine in the majority of the states in the United States. There are rules in more than a dozen states about the title “Licensed Nutritionist” or the more general “nutritionist.”

Licensed nutritionists such as CNSs and RDs can assist in the treatment of a wide range of medical conditions.

If you have an illness or condition, nutrition therapy can help you manage or treat it. RDs and CNSs both prescribe nutrition therapy. CNSs may also be in charge of programs that teach people about healthy eating in their communities.

If you don’t have credentials or licenses in nutrition, you can still try to improve your diet in ways that aren’t part of traditional medicine, though. Some of these methods may have strong scientific support, but not all of them.

Providing nutrition advise without sufficient training and education can be detrimental, especially when counseling persons with health concerns.

People who think they might want to see a nutritionist might want to find out whether they are a Certified Nutritionist (CNS) or if they are certified by the state.


Nutritionists are a large category of health care professionals in the United States. Many states have rules about this word. In addition, nutritionists can get a more advanced CNS certification.

What’s most important is that

Credentialed, board-certified experts in nutrition, dietitians, and CNSs possess substantial formal education and training in their respective fields.

Dietitians and nutritionists, like CNSs, may also have to meet more requirements to get a license to practice. This is true based on where they live.

Many places can benefit from the skills of dietitians and CNSs, such as hospitals and universities. They can also help people who work in food service management. Individuals having a specialization in working with children, athletes, cancer patients, or those with eating disorders, for example, are called “specialists.”

The term “nutritionist” is regulated by some states in the United States, but not all of them. Since nutritionists can be called nutritionists in many states, this means that anyone can be one.

No matter how difficult it may be to separate these designations, those who have the titles of RD or CNS have earned specialized training in the nutritional sciences.