Sometimes we hear people talk about certain professions interchangeably. Take a registered dietician and a nutritionist, for example. Chances are, you’ve heard them both used in the same sentence. In actuality, until you came across this article, you may have assumed that they literally were one in the same.
While both professions fall under the healthcare umbrella with a focus on food and nutrition, that truth of the matter is that there are some significant differences between a registered dietician and a nutritionist. This article will address three major ones.
While both professions require that you have a college degree, when you are a nutritionist, a degree is oftentimes all that you need, to at least start the interviewing process (although some facilities require that you go through a certification process as well). Traditionally, a registered dietician needs both a degree and post-graduate degree, a completed internship, and must pass a licensing exam. You can find out more information on what is required to become officially licensed by visiting the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics at EatRight.org.
If there was a really simple way to explain the differences between a nutritionist and a registered dietician’s daily duties, it would have to be that a nutritionist tends to be proactive, while a dietician tends to be reactive. In other words, a nutritionist is someone who assists a client in implementing a program that will keep them in healthy condition, especially as it relates to what and how they eat. A dietician, on the other hand, is someone who is usually hired to work alongside an individual who is already obese and needs help losing a certain amount of weight. Customarily, while many nutritionists hold government-related jobs in facilities like the health department, registered dieticians are present in private medical offices, hospitals, schools and even nursing homes. Oftentimes, registered dieticians are hired to do one-on-one counseling as well.
If you’re personally interested in becoming either a nutritionist or a registered dietician and you want to go to school over the internet, there are many online nutrition degree programs that you can earn your degree from. For the most part, both fields require the same kind of foundational education. You will need a degree in dietetics, food and nutrition or some other related field.
However, once you are preparing to enter into the workplace, keep in mind that having a license makes all of the difference in the world as it relates to certain things that a registered dietician can do that a nutritionist cannot. This is because with a specified amount of training, a person studying to become a registered dietician can earn titles like RD, RDt and PDt. With these, they are protected by the law when it comes to the kind (and amount) of counsel that they provide. Although a nutritionist can choose to become accredited in order to earn the title of associate nutritionist or registered nutritionist, these are not positions that have the same kind of governmental backing.
You’re probably wondering that with all of the differences that were discussed, what is the approximate difference as it relates to annual salaries. Well, that’s where things are not so distinctive. Both nutritionists and registered dieticians can make as little as $30,000 or as much as $80,000 (and up). It really depends on where you work. So, once you have your degree (nutritionist) or license (registered dietician), make sure to discuss that when you go on your interviews.
In the meantime, know that whichever route that you choose to go, you are doing something good. This is because you’re working to improve someone’s quality of life by educating them about their diet and that’s a wonderful thing; whether you’re helping on the front (nutritionist) or back (registered dietician) end.