4 Major Differences Between a Dietitian and a Nutritionist


Nutritionists and Dietitians are both professionals that focus on the diet and food industry. Their job is centered on making sure everyone eats healthy and nutritious food. Although these two professions share some closely related goals and objectives, they have their differences. These two professions differ in credentials, career path, area of practice, and education. Suppose you are thinking of pursuing a career in any of these professions, but you are unsure which one to go for. You are in luck! This post will list and break down the difference between these two careers. Also, we will share some essential details on each; These details will cover the salary range, the educational requirements, employment opportunities, prospects, etc. 

The Difference in Education and Credentials

A Dietitian is professional medical personnel that is formally trained, certified, registered, and licensed to practice the profession. On the other hand, nutritionists may or may not have formal training, license and registration depending on the location of the practice. However, the title “registered nutritionist” has been introduced to help distinguish trained and qualified nutritionists from those not qualified and registered.

A registered nutritionist must have a degree in nutrition; it could be a master’s degree in Public health with specialization in nutrition, a master’s degree in nutrition, or even a bachelor’s degree in nutrition. A trained and educated nutritionist could either become a Certified/ Clinical Nutritionist (CN) or a Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) depending on the degree level, years of training, hours of supervised practice, and other requirements.

On the other hand, a dietitian must have a bachelor’s degree approved by a governing body, usually; the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). A registered dietitian must also obtain verification from Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD), meet other requirements, and pass the CDR exam. A dietitian can either be a Registered dietitian (RN) or a Registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN); an RDN can also be called a nutritionist.

The Difference In Scope Of Practice

Dietitians educate people about food, nutrition, and health. They’re trained and licensed to treat health conditions through medical nutrition therapy. They can treat people experiencing hypertension, diabetes, substance abuse, anorexia, obesity, and any other medical condition managed with a specially curated diet plan. Dietitians conduct diet and nutritional assessments, identify unhealthy meals and suggest healthy meals that can alleviate the symptoms and improve the general wellbeing of an individual. 

Nutritionists can also enlighten people about food, health, and nutrition, but they can’t treat people experiencing medical problems. They focus on helping individuals and families improve their food behavior and eating habits. In some states in the U.S, a registered nutritionist (CNS) has legal rights and government approval to treat medical conditions. Hence, a licensed nutritionist can treat obesity, eating disorders, diabetes, and other conditions that a registered dietitian can treat.

Dietitians have insurance to offer medical nutrition therapy throughout the United States, but nutritionists are only insured to render medical treatment via medical nutrition therapy in some states. Some states distinguish between a registered nutritionist, and some states don’t.

The Difference In Employment Opportunities

Dietitians often work in the medical sector, while nutritionists work in the commercial and medical sectors. A dietitian can work in hospitals, care facilities, schools, pharmacies, nursing homes, and more. At the same time, Nutritionists can also work in care facilities, nutritional supplement companies, fitness centers, hospitals, government health departments, food processing companies, schools, and other healthcare sectors. A registered nutritionist can offer nutrition counseling to athletes, families, and the general public.

Studies have shown that the salary opportunity for both professions will continue to increase because many people are beginning to pay more attention to healthy eating habits and lifestyles. In 2020, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that over 73,000 employment opportunities were available for nutritionists and dietitians, with a speculated 11% increment in job opportunities in the field by 2030.

The Difference In Salary Outlook

The salary earnings of these two professions can be a little confusing due to their similarities in practice. However, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) analysis for the average salary of nutritionists and dietitians was $63,090 per annum. The difference in the salary of both professions depends on the level of education, position, location of practice, and years of experience. 

By now, you should be able to make a sound decision on which course to go for. 


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