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Difference Between Dietitian and Nutritionist

Both dietitians and nutritionists focus on nutrition, but they have different qualifications and scopes of practice.

A dietitian is a healthcare professional who has completed a bachelor’s degree in dietetics or a related field, followed by an accredited internship and passing a national examination. They are  trained to provide nutrition advise and dietary counseling for many health issues. They work in clinical settings such as hospitals, and private clinics. Dietitian work closely with other healthcare worker to create personalized nutrition programs for patients with various medical issues.

A nutritionist on the other hand, can have different levels of education and training in nutrition, vary between from a bachelor’s degree to specialized certifications. Some nutritionists can have expertise in specific areas of nutrition. However, their qualifications and scope of practice can differ extensively. Nutritionists sometimes work in public health, community settings, or wellness centers. They provide general nutrition education, meal planning, and lifestyle coaching.

Therefore, in summary a dietitian has a four-year degree in dietetics and is an expert in nutrition and diet. A nutritionist is someone who may or may not have an education and certification, but who does give advice about healthy eating.

What is a Dietitian?


A dietitian is a person who has a four-year degree in dietetics and nutrition; dietitians are registered and can provide information on diet.


If you want to become a dietitian you need to study at college and earn at least a bachelor’s degree, although some people also complete a master’s degree. Dietitians, at a minimum, must complete a four-year degree. This is normally a Bachelor of Sciences degree in Nutrition. The focus of the degree may be in clinical nutrition or food services, or a similar field. It is advisable that you make sure that the college you study at, and the degree are accredited. You then will be expected to complete a certain number of hours in a dietetics internship after graduating.

Industry of employment:

There are many places where you can work if you are a dietitian. Places like hospitals and nursing homes are good employers of dietitians. Dietitians can help advise people who are diabetic or receiving treatment for cancer. As a dietitian, you can also work in cafeterias or clinics, or even have your own practice.

What is a Nutritionist?


A nutritionist is a person who gives information on healthy eating; they are not always certified but this depends on the country.


Nutritionists are not always people with university degrees or education. However, this varies greatly from country to country. Some countries do require education or some type of certification before you can call yourself a nutritionist. In the United States, it is best to be credentialed and become a Certified Clinical Nutritionist (CCN). 

Industry of employment:

Certified nutritionists may work in hospitals and care facilities. Some nutritionists may choose employment in restaurants or even laboratories.

Difference between Dietitian and Nutritionist?


A dietitian is a person with a four-year degree in nutrition or dietetics, who provides help with diet. A nutritionist is someone who can give advice regarding eating for health, including weight loss.

Formal education

You do need to get an education if you want to become a dietitian; this is usually a four-year degree. You do not always need an education to become a nutritionist, but this requirement varies by country.

Continuing education

Dietitians are required to continue education at least every 5 years. There is no requirement for nutritionists to complete continuing education.

Helps people with weight loss.

A dietitian can help with weight loss and so can a nutritionist.

Helps people with medical conditions.

Dietitians do often help design diets for people who have medical conditions. Nutritionists do not usually work with ill people to design meals for specific medical problems.


The disadvantage of becoming a dietitian takes many years of study, and even an internship of several hours to be properly qualified. The disadvantage of becoming a nutritionist is you don’t have as much training as a dietitian or experience working with ill people.

Table comparing Dietitian  and Nutritionist

Summary of Dietitian  Vs. Nutritionist

  • Dietitians and nutritionists can help with diet, including giving advice on healthy eating.
  • Dietitians always have a formal education, a college degree, and the industry is well-regulated.
  • Nutritionists don’t always have an education and may not be regulated by any governing body.


Is it better to see a nutritionist or a dietitian?

A dietitian is normally more qualified if you have a health condition that needs a special diet. For weight loss and eating for energy, a nutritionist can be helpful.

What’s the difference between a nutritionist and a dietitian in Canada?

In Canada you cannot call yourself a dietitian  unless you have all the qualifications and credentials. This is not the case with nutritionists in Canada. Nutritionists are not regulated in Canada.

Will a nutritionist or dietitian  help me lose weight?

Either a dietitian  or nutritionist can help you lose weight by giving you guidance.

Can nutritionists give meal plans?

Nutritionists can provide meal plans to help you eat healthily.

How do I know if I need a dietitian ?

Your doctor may recommend it. If you have a medical condition that is affected by your diet, or affects your eating, then a dietitian  is a good person to consult.

What are the cons of being a dietitian?

More extensive education and training is needed. You also have to constantly update your education. You may work with very ill people making it challenging.

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References :

[0]Image credit: https://www.canva.com/photos/MADFtNmFe8E-dietitian-and-nutritionist-doctor-or-dietitian-and-dietitian-professional-unhealthy/

[1]Image credit: https://www.canva.com/photos/MADsWvtY5JQ-nutritionist-with-female-client-at-the-office/

[2]Cooper, Jon. “Do I need a Dietitian or Nutritionist?” WebMD, 2023, https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/nutritionist-dietitian-choose

[3]Kunde, Roma. ‘What to Know About Dietitian s vs. Nutritionists”. WebMD, 2023, https://www.webmd.com/diet/what-to-know-dietitians-vs-nutritionists

[4]Ligthart-Melis, G. C., et al. "Dietitian -delivered intensive nutritional support is associated with a decrease in severe postoperative complications after surgery in patients with esophageal cancer." Diseases of the Esophagus 26.6 (2013): 587-593.

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