The 6 Differences Between a Nutritionist & Dietician

Nutrition and diet are two key elements of leading a healthy lifestyle. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to food and nutrition, and that’s why qualified professionals can be so helpful in understanding what works best for you. But what exactly is the difference between a nutritionist and a dietician? Let’s examine the six primary differences between these similar yet distinct roles. 

1. Education Requirements

Their educational background is the most significant difference between nutritionists and dieticians. Nutritionists typically have degrees in nutrition science or health-related fields such as public health, while dieticians usually have degrees in food science or dietetics. Both must complete specialized training to become certified, but the focus of their studies is slightly different. 

2. Scope of Practice

Both professions work with clients to develop individualized dietary plans that promote good health and well-being, but there are some subtle differences in how they do this. Dieticians often provide more medical advice than nutritionists, as they are better equipped to design meal plans for clients with medical conditions such as diabetes or kidney disease. Nutritionists typically provide more dietary advice for general health and wellness, such as weight loss or improving overall energy levels. 

3. Areas of Focus

While both nutritionists and dieticians focus on helping clients achieve their nutritional goals, they may do this through different means. For example, nutritionists focus more on holistic approaches, such as understanding how certain foods interact or how specific nutrients affect overall health. Dietitians often narrowly recommend particular foods or food combinations based on scientific research and evidence-based practice guidelines established by professional organizations like the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). 

4. Licensure & Certification

Although both professions require certification for practice, the requirements for becoming certified vary from state to state. In some states, only licensed dietitians can use the title “dietician,” while others allow nutritionists and dietitians to use it interchangeably; however, all states require licensure before either profession can begin practicing professionally within their jurisdiction.

In addition to this process, both professions must complete an exam administered by either the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) or the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). Nutritionists may also become certified through other organizations, such as the American Society for Nutrition (ASN), which requires additional coursework beyond traditional degree programs to qualify for certification exams administered by ASN rather than through ACSM or CDR, respectively. 

5. Salary & Job Outlook

The salary range for qualified professionals in either field varies depending on experience level and geographic location; however, according to, to PayScale data from 2019, median salaries for registered dietitians were higher than those reported for non-registered nutritionists across all US cities studied ($45k vs. $36k respectively).

Additionally, the job outlook for registered dietitians is significantly higher than that reported by non-registered nutritionists according to data from U S Bureau of Labor Statistics: over 10% growth projected between 2018 – 2028 vs. less than 7% growth projected during the same time, respectively. It should also be noted that salaries tend to be higher in high-demand areas due to increased competition among employers seeking qualified professionals who meet their needs.  

6. Professional Organizations & Resources

As mentioned, several professional organizations are explicitly dedicated to supporting practitioners within each field. Examples include the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics (AND ), American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM ), Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR ), American Society for Nutrition (ASN ), etc. All these groups offer resources aimed at helping practitioners stay up-to-date with current industry trends, changes in regulations, etc. Additionally, many sites provide free webinars, seminars, and webcasts workshops designed to give practitioners access to quality information quickly and easily without needing to attend physical seminars and conferences. This learning format is especially beneficial for those who live in remote locations and want to avoid incurring travel expenses associated with attending physical meetings. 

Getting Started In These Fields

Before beginning practice for those interested in pursuing either of these professions, several steps must be taken. First and foremost, individuals must pursue a degree program related to nutrition dietetics through an accredited institution. After completing a degree program, many states require additional credentialing via licensure or certification processes specific to their jurisdiction. Additionally, practitioners must keep up-to-date with industry standards and best practices by joining professional organizations and attending relevant webinars, workshops, etc. Finally, practitioners must find mentors who can help guide their careers as they pursue their goals of becoming successful professionals within their respective fields.


Whether you decide to work with a registered dietitian or non-registered nutritionist depends on your individual needs when it comes to achieving your nutritional goals; however, understanding what sets them apart can help you make an informed decision regarding which type of practitioner will best suit your needs moving forward regardless whether looking lose weight improve overall energy levels manage a chronic condition, etc. Ultimately if you need help determining which type of practitioner is the right fit for you to feel comfortable discussing your situation, then it is best to consult a local healthcare provider to discuss options further and ensure you get expert advice tailored to your unique situation today! ​

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