There are many differences between dietitians and nutritionists. Dietitians are required to register with the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) in order to legally use the title “Dietitian” or “Registered Dietitian”. In order to qualify for the registration process, a dietitian must first have:
- Completed a minimum of a bachelor’s degree from an approved and accredited dietetic program.
- Completed an accredited supervised practice program. This step alone can often take 6-12+ months.
- Passed a national examination administered by the CDR.
To keep the title “Dietitian” or “Registered Dietitian”, the individual must then complete continuing professional education requirements to maintain registration.
In addition, depending on the state that the dietitian lives in, they may be required to register through their state board of medicine.
Nutritionists, on the other hand, do not have to meet these strenuous requirements. In fact, nutritionists are usually free from any government regulation. There are some organizations that offer certification training for nutritionists; however, the levels of training can vary greatly. Some states do require nutritionists to register with the state board of medicine but many states allow them to work without any training, work experience, or educational background. In short, anyone in those states can offer nutrition advice.
It is important to make sure that the person you are receiving nutrition advice and Medical Nutrition Therapy from is qualified, and a great way to do that is to make sure you are working with a Registered Dietitian.