What is the difference between nutritionists and dietitians?

What is the difference between nutritionists and dietitians?

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Although dietitians and nutritionists each assist individuals to discover the most effective diets and meals to fulfill their well-being wants, they’ve completely different {qualifications}.

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In the United States, dietitians are licensed to deal with medical situations, whereas nutritionists should not be the time licensed.

This article outlines the variations between nutritionists and dietitians, together with their coaching, what they do, and insurance coverage protection.

What is the distinction?

All dietitians can deal with medical situations, however, not all nutritionists have certification.

In the U.S., dietitians should obtain certification from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics so as to follow. Dietitians can deal with particular well-being situations, akin to consuming problems, by offering meals suggestions.

Some organizations additionally certify nutritionists, such because the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists (BCNS). However, nutritionist coaching can fluctuate. Some states don’t require certification, so it’s doable for anybody in these states to supply diet recommendations.

Nutritionists can also have completely different areas of focus for dietitians. For instance, nutritionists can pursue superior {qualifications} in particular well-being areas, akin to sports activities diet, digestive problems, and autoimmune situations. The BCNS additionally provides Certified Ketogenic Nutrition Specialist {qualifications} for individuals who need to perceive the keto weight loss plan in additional elements.

However, some nutritionists present an extra basic recommendation on healthful consumption, weight reduction, and decreasing tiredness.



The following sections will cowl the completely different {qualifications} a dietitian or nutritionist might have.

Registered dietitian nutritionists

Registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) present medical diet remedies (MNT) to individuals with sure well-being situations.

This may very well be in a hospital setting or in a non-public follow. Sometimes, RDNs additionally present dietary schooling and experience to colleges, nursing properties, food-related companies, or public well-being places of work.

To turn out to be an RDN, an individual should obtain certification from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. To earn this certification, they should:

  • have a bachelor’s diploma or larger qualification at a regionally accredited college or faculty within the U.S.
  • have the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics accredit or approve their coursework
  • full 1,200 hours of supervised follow by means of an ACEND-accredited follow program
  • move a nationwide examination that the Commission on Dietetic Registration administer
  • full persevering with skilled academic necessities to take care of registration

Certified medical nutritionist

An authorized medical nutritionist (CCN) is certified to evaluate individual’s dietary wants primarily based on their lifestyle and well-being objectives. The Clinical Nutrition Certification Board provides this certification.

A CCN can present personalized suggestions for weight loss plans, train, dietary supplements, and stress reduction. To turn out to be a CCN, an individual will need to have one of many following diet levels so as to start coaching:

  • Bachelor of Science (B.S.)
  • Masters (M.S.)
  • Doctor of Philosophy
  • Doctor of Science (Sc.D.)

Alternatively, they may have a sophisticated skilled diploma in one other licensed healthcare discipline.

The quantity of coaching an individual must turn out to be an authorized CCN will depend on their preexisting {qualifications}. For instance, somebody with a B.S. diploma should spend a minimum of 3-course hours on a variety of matters — akin to human physiology, biochemistry, and microbiology — earlier than they turn out to be licensed.

Someone with an extra superior diploma, akin to an Sc.D. or nursing diploma, might not want to finish as a lot of coaching. However, all CCNs should move an examination and want to take care of their certification with ongoing coaching every 2 years.

Certified diet specialist

The licensed diet specialist (CNS) credential is a qualification {that a} nutritionist can earn within the U.S. The BCNS certifies all CNSs.

People who apply for CNS coaching will need to have an M.S. or doctoral diploma in diet or one other associated discipline. In addition to those levels, all trainee CNSs should:

  • full coursework from a regionally accredited establishment
  • full 1,000 hours of documented, supervised follow
  • move an examination
  • recertify with persevering with schooling credit each 5 years

The minimal variety of hours a CNS should spend studying the life sciences is larger than that of CCNs. They can also research matters akin to pharmacology, drug interactions, and dietary problems.

For extra science-backed sources on diet, go to our devoted hub.


Insurance suppliers usually cowl visits to RDNs for particular well-being situations.

In 2020, the U.S. authorities acknowledged that MNT will help deal with a variety of continual situations that disproportionately have an effect on Medicare beneficiaries. Two-thirds of Medicare beneficiaries have a couple of continual well-being situations.

The Medical Nutrition Therapy Act of 2020 gives Medicare Part B protection of MNT to individuals who have:


  • weight problems
  • prediabetes
  • most cancers
  • celiac illness
  • HIV or AIDS
  • hypertension
  • dyslipidemia
  • malnutrition
  • consuming problems
  • every other illness or situation that causes unintentional weight reduction

In addition to docs, the laws additionally permit nurses and psychologists to refer individuals for MNT.


Other diet companies

Other diet companies embody diet coaches, well-being coaches, and health instructors in gyms. The stage of coaching required amongst professionals with these job titles can fluctuate.

In order to make use of titles akin to RDN or CCN, an individual will need to have the correct certification. It is vital to totally test a practitioner’s {qualifications} and expertise earlier than working with them, as their experience might fluctuate.


RDNs present diet steerage to individuals with particular situations. A health care provider, nurse, or psychologist can refer somebody to a dietitian by means of Medicare if they’ve sure continual well-being situations.

Nutritionists’ {qualifications} and expertise may be extra variable, so individuals ought to test {that a} practitioner has enough coaching for his or her wants earlier than signing up for his or her companies.

Although CSNs and CCNs are two of essentially the most thorough nutritionist certifications, different nutritionist certifications can be found. Additionally, some practitioners can name themselves “nutritionists” without receiving formal coaching or certification.



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