Q: What's the difference between a Registered Dietitian and a Certified Nutritionist?

Many people wonder whether there's a difference between a 'Registered Dietitian' and a 'Nutritionist'. They are NOT the same credentials.

The main difference is in the scope, length, type of education, and training requirements. Nutritionists aren't regulated, while there are heavy state and national regulations that monitor Registered Dietitians. Some Registered Dietitians also have the term 'Nutritionist' after their title (i.e. RDN), which is equivalent to the RD credential. 

Requirements for Registered Dietitians:

  • minimum 4 year college degree from an accredited university that includes rigorous, specific coursework in nutrition, food service, food service administration, biology, chemistry, microbiology, and other sciences.

  • Master's degree in nutrition or nutrition-related field (as of 1/2024)

  • Minimum 1200 hours of supervised practice experience in all areas of nutrition-related work, including medical nutrition therapy, nutrition counseling, community nutrition education, and food service administration. (This is known as the the 'dietetic internship').

  • Passing a comprehensive examination (it's HARD!).

  • Ongoing continuing education units throughout career.

  • RDs MUST adhere to a professional code of ethics.

  • Credentialed by Commission on dietetic Registration.

  • Our scope of practice and areas of expertise are broad. We can practice in clinical, community, corporate, food service, research, culinary, and private practice settings, among many others.

In other words, it takes TIME, DEDICATION, AND LOTS OF KNOWLEDGE to become a Registered Dietitian.

Requirements for Nutritionists

  • ~6 months of classes

  • High school diploma/GED only required

  • Coursework includes concepts of energy balance, macronutrients, and behavior change modifications (this is also included in the basic coursework for Registered Dietitians).

  • Credentials aren't regulated by state or national law.