Dietitians and nutritionists evaluate the health of their clients. And based on their findings, they advise clients on which foods to eat. Both are both experts in food and diet, and both are considered to be healthcare professions. So what are the differences? Dietitians and nutritionists are certainly similar, but not quite interchangeable. Click on the links below to learn more about each role and to determine which profession is right for you.
- What Is A Dietitian?
- What Is A Nutritionist?
- Which Career Is Right For Me?
- What Is The Career Outlook For Dietitians?
- What Other Careers In The Field Of Nutrition And Dietetics Exist?
What Is A Dietician?
Generally speaking, the role of dietitian is more regulated than that of a nutritionist. While anyone can go to school to study health and nutrition, in the US, depending on where a person wants to practice, there are certain licensures and certifications a dietitian has to earn to be able to work. After earning a bachelor’s degree at an accredited university, dietitians typically complete an internship or practice program at a health care facility, food service company, hospital, or other organization. Upon completion, students can sit for their national examination; once they pass, they are free to practice as an R.D, or registered dietitian. Dietitians organize food and nutrition plan and promote healthy eating habits to prevent and treat illness. They find work in food service businesses, or working with patients in hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities. Dietitians also work at colleges and universities, where they may teach nutrition and health classes, do research or focus on public health issues. Other dietitians choose to go into private practice allows practitioners more creative options for helping others and to develop their knowledge base. Private practice isn’t for everyone and is a big career decision, but for those who choose to pursue it, they often find the individualized and focused client therapy to be well worth it.
What Is A Nutritionist?
In the US, the title “nutritionist” is not as regulated as “dietitian,” and tends to have a broader, more general meaning. The title is not generally protected, meaning that it can be used by anyone, unlike “doctor”, for instance, which requires proof of qualifications. Nutritionists typically do not have any professional training, and therefore, should not be involved in the diagnosis and treatment of any diseases. There are nutritionist certification boards, which require applicants to have an advanced degree along with practical experience before taking their certification exam. Nutritionists who pass this test may refer to themselves as certified nutrition specialists, or C.N.S, which is a protected title. Also, many doctors, including medical doctors, osteopaths, physician assistants, chiropractors and naturopathic doctors, practice clinical nutrition after completing extra work in the study of food and nutrition science.
One of the major differences is that a dietitian can help to diagnose eating disorders or help plan meals for the managing of symptoms of health problems. While nutritionists can certainly offer support in these areas, most of their work deals with food behavior. They teach clients about the general nutrition and health properties in food and offer nutrition supervision. It’s important to note that only nutritionists that become registered with Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) may legally declare themselves as registered dietitians. The nutritionist profession is much less protected under the law.
Dietitians and nutritionists typically need a bachelor’s degree in dietetics, foods and nutrition, or a related area to qualify for employment. Dietitians also may study food service management or food science. Keep in mind that many states require dietitians and nutritionists to be licensed. It’s not uncommon for dietitians and nutritionists to have advanced degrees. Some employers may require a master’s degree or relevant work experience. Those who have earned advanced degrees or certification in a specialty area may enjoy better job prospects and higher earnings.
What Is Food Science?
Some nutritionists are also called food scientists. Typically, food scientists work for food manufacturers, retailed businesses, or public health promotion. Some nutritionists work as dietitian assistants or food journalists. Food science is a similar field that offers unique career opportunities. Food scientists study are professionals who focus on researching issues related to food production. Some schools offer food science as an area of specialization. Food science considers the chemical, biological, and physical properties of food in relation to processing, and storage of food products. If you’re interested in the science behind our health and how food quality is managed, you might want to find a program that offers a food science concentration.