The Difference Between Dieticians and Nutritionists

When it comes to nutrition, there are two main professionals that can help you reach your health goals: dieticians and nutritionists. While both dieticians and nutritionists are nutrition experts who have studied how diet and dietary supplements can affect your health, there are some distinctive differences between the two that lead to two different career paths. Dieticians tend to have more education and credentials than nutritionists, as they are certified to treat clinical conditions, while nutritionists are not always certified. Becoming a dietician starts with a bachelor's degree in science or more specialized nutrition courses.

On the other hand, because there is no universal requirement for nutritionists to be licensed or certified, unlike dieticians, nutritionists typically cannot legally diagnose or treat health problems. In terms of specialties, dieticians and nutritionists both have a fuller range of options to choose from, such as sports nutrition, human performance and pediatrics. Dieticians are trained to diagnose eating disorders and design diets to treat specific medical conditions, while nutritionists are concerned with general nutritional goals and behaviors. Sometimes universities hire dieticians, where they can teach, research, or address public health issues related to diet and nutrition.

You can also receive an official letter showing that you need nutrition services from a medical point of view and use a flexible spending account (FSA), a savings account for medical expenses (HSA), or a medical reimbursement agreement (HRA) to see a dietician. That's where getting personalized nutrition advice from providers such as nutritionists or dieticians can help. There are approximately 70,900 professionals employed as dieticians and nutritionists in the United States.