Registered Dietitian vs. Nutritionist: What's the difference?

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All registered dietitian nutritionists (RDN) are nutritionists, but not all nutritionists are registered dietitians (RDs). Today I will break down 6 relevant key points in an effort to explain this popular question. 

1. Legality

2. Education differences

3. Per state issue with licensing

4. Salary and opportunities

5. Rdn vs Rd.

6. Competition and expectations in future

 

1. Legality

  • Legally, the term Registered Dietitian is protected by the Commission on Dietetic Registration  
  • The term nutritionist isn't legally protected

 

2. Education Differences

  • The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) requires completion of a formal bachelor degree 
    • The program MUST be approved by Dietetics’ Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) and include a practical component performed in a career-related sit

 

    • Additional education requirements include:
      • Economics

      • Physiology

      • Biochemistry

      • Sociology

      • Microbiology

      • Business

      • Chemistry

      • Computer science

      • Food and nutrition sciences

      • Foodservice systems management

3. Per state licence:

Every state has a different requirement for licencing. It's important to understand how dietitians are protected in your state. 

4. Salary and opportunities

  • The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has a calculator to help with salary expectations
  • Salary can vary greatly depending on the type of job and if you work for yourself (private practice or entrepreneur) vs. clinical or community or food service. 

5. Difference between RD and RDN

  • The Academy of Nutrition and Dietietcs has included the word "Nutritionist" into the former Registered Dietitian title. Now registered dietitians use the acronym registered dietitian nutritionist or RDN.
  • The Academy states: "Inclusion of the word "nutritionist" in the credential communicates a broader concept of wellness (including prevention of health conditions beyond medical nutrition therapy) as well as treatment of conditions."

6. Competition and expectations in the future

  • Starting in 2024 the masters degree in our field is a requirement 
  • To become a registered dietitian, and to land a job in the field is highly competitive 
    • According to the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) only 50% of applicants get matched into a dietetic internship 
    • The field is growing and opportunities are expanding with what a registered dietitian nutritionist can do to represent healthful choices in society. I believe that as leaders in the field of health and wellness we must create these opportunities ourselves and not wait for them to be offered.
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