Registered Dietitian Vs. Nutritionist

What’s the Difference?
Every Registered Dietitian is a Nutritionist,
But not every Nutritionist is a Registered Dietitian.
Did you know there is a difference between a Registered Dietitian and a nutritionist?

To become a Registered Dietitian, you must have completed at least a bachelor’s degree accredited by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Registered Dietitians have had intensive coursework including medical nutrition therapy, nutrition counseling, foodservice systems management, business, biochemistry, physiology, and microbiology. After receiving a degree, the aspiring RD must get accepted into a very competitive internship program and complete at least 1,200 supervised practice hours, usually lasting 10 months. After completing the dietetic internship, he or she is then eligible to sit for the exam to become a credentialed Registered Dietitian, or RD. A number of states also have licensing or credentialing requirements for RDs. Many Registered Dietitians go on to obtain advanced degrees and certifications in areas of specialization such as CSO, or Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition, like the dietitians at the Abramson Cancer Center.

Anyone who has completed nutritional education, of any type, may call him or herself a nutritionist.  Nutritionist is not necessarily an accredited title, though a few states do define what a “nutritionist” can do.  For example, personal trainers can call themselves nutritionists if they design diets for their clients and help them eat healthier. Supplement salesmen can call themselves nutritionists or wellness coaches. You can find nutritionists in stores, the community, gyms, and other wellness programs. Nutritionists do not have the same professional and academic training that dietitians have, and therefore should not be involved in the dietary treatment of any diseases.

Registered Dietitians practice evidence-based nutrition therapy. They have skills in translating medical decisions related to food and health into a usable plan for the patient. Registered Dietitians develop nutrition care plans for diabetes, allergies, kidney disease, cancer, and many more conditions. RD’s have specialized training in providing recommendations for tube feeding and IV nutrition.

You may find Registered Dietitians working in a variety of settings including the hospital, nursing homes, universities, the government, and with professional sports teams.

The extensive knowledge and training in nutrition, the required adherence to a code of ethics, and the requirements for continuing education, is what really sets Registered Dietitians apart from nutritionists. Registered Dietitians are without-a-doubt the food and nutrition experts in the field.

Learn more

What is a Registered Dietician from the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics.

Find a dietetic internship

What is a Registered Dietetic Nutritionist?

Dietitian versus nutritionist from the DC Metro Area Dietetic Association

About the Author

My name is Allison Smith and I am a volunteer for the nutrition department at the Abramson Cancer Center. I am a nutrition student at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA. I have had a passion for nutrition since I realized how much a healthy diet could help my sport, figure skating.  Since then, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in nutrition. Registered Dietitians have the power to improve the quality of life and well being of their patients, enhance their strength, and prevent diseases! In my near future, I can see myself becoming a registered dietitian for sports teams and professional athletes, helping them utilize nutrition in their sport just as I was able to. I would also love to be a registered dietitian in a cancer center, helping patients with their nutrition throughout their treatment.

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