So What is the Difference Between a Nutritionist and Dietitian?

When it comes to the world of wellness and diet, many people reach out for assistance from a professional to find an appropriate approach. Making sure that you work with the right type of professional will ensure meeting your health goals. A common question is, what is the difference between a certified nutritionist and a registered dietitian?

First, there are different education requirements for a Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) and a Registered Dietician (RD).


Must hold a master's degree or doctoral degree in the nutrition field from an accredited institution that requires course work in nutrition, biochemistry, physiology, and anatomy, and clinical or life sciences. Education often includes motivational interviewing and a healing presence. CNS programs focus on nutrition-related biochemical clinical application (TCI, 2019). A nutritionist also receives training in supplements and herbs and their use for out-patient care.


Must hold a baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution with an Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). RD's education includes more organic and inorganic chemistry education, and also training in the social sciences and economics (TCI, 2019). RDs often only focus on supplement use in an in-patient context when an inability to eat or absorb nutrients is evident (TCI, 2019).

The coursework for CNS and RD is largely similar, the main difference is the type of degree required to continue with certification.

Second, each has a different requirement for internships. Internships are supervised by an approved person, group, or institution and ensure that the intern is gaining professional experience and meeting the requirements for qualification.


CNS candidates must earn 1000 supervised hours by an individual approved through the BCNS.

RD :

Must complete a dietetic internship, often done in an institutional-type setting (aka hospital, a nursing home, rehabilitation center).

Third, each must pass a comprehensive exam provided by the certifying bodies for each licensure.

Certified nutritionist and Registered Dieticians often work in different settings, as their training prepares them for different types of care. RD's generally work in hospital-type settings with in-patient care, they may also work in schools, do research, or work in community programs. Certified nutritionists may work in private practice, in an out-patient setting, in the supplement industry, research, and education.

While both nutritionists and dieticians work with food, diet, and people; choosing the best one for your needs depends on your situation.

At Soulstice Nutrition we work with individuals wanting to better their health and well-being. Concerns that we can help you with include digestion dysfunction and repair, improving mood and energy, anxiety and insomnia, concerns with hypertension, inflammation, and disease prevention. We offer services online through telehealth and in-person at our office in Abingdon, VA.


Roux, A. (2019). The Clinicians Incubator: Nutrition career paths [PPT].

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