You may have heard both terms. “Nutritionist” is one you probably hear more often. When people ask me what my major is, and I tell them it’s Nutrition, the response is, “Oh, so you want to be a nutritionist?”
A nutritionist might even have a degree in nutrition or a related field. Maybe that person didn’t take the RD exam. Maybe it’s a personal trainer who thought it would be wise to offer nutrition counseling. A nutritionist could also be that person who lost 40 pounds on the keto diet and won’t shut up about it.
All Dietitians are Nutritionists, but not all Nutritionists are Dietitians.
Are you confused yet? Here’s a simple way to break it down. If you want to become a nutritionist, you have to do the following:
- Tell people you’re a nutritionist.
If you want to become a Registered Dietitian, you will have to do the following:
- Earn a bachelors degree through an accredited program. The nutrition curriculum includes coursework in Anatomy and Physiology, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Microbiology, Biochemistry, Calculus, Statistics, Communications, Business/Technical Writing, your 300 and 400 level Nutrition coursework, and all your general education requirements.
- Complete a 1200 hour internship.
- Sit for the RD exam.
- As of 2024, a masters degree is required to sit for the RD exam. Many students today, as of 2018 are already being proactive and going on to graduate school.
- After earning a license, the license must be maintained by earning Continuing Education Units periodically.
In the age of social media, misinformation can spread quickly and easily. It is up to you to understand what constitutes credible sources of information. Colorado State University has an excellent article on how to spot nutrition misinformation. I’m not saying all nutritionists disseminate misinformation, but the most reliable source of information about nutrition is from a Registered Dietitian (RD) or Licensed Dietitian (LD). You may also see RDN or LDN as the credential, where N stands for nutritionist. When you consul with a RDN or LDN, you can be assured that you are receiving the most accurate and up-to-date information on food and nutrition. I can’t make the same guarantees about someone with the job title of nutritionist without any credentials.