Although the terms dietitian and nutritionist are commonly used interchangeably, there are important differences between the two. All Registered Dietitians are considered nutritionists, that is, someone who has studied nutrition; however, not all nutritionists can also call themselves dietitians.
A Registered Dietitian (RD) or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) is a food and nutrition expert who has met the following academic and professional requirements:
- Completed a bachelor’s degree at an accredited college or university in the U.S., or foreign equivalent
- Met the current minimum academic requirements (Didactic Program in Dietetics) as approved by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
- Completed at least 1200 hours of supervised practice program with experience in clinical, community, outpatient and food service settings
- Passed a national examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR)
- Complies with continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration on an ongoing basis
Over half of RDs also hold advanced degrees. Some hold additional certifications in specialized areas of practice, such as pediatric or renal nutrition, nutrition support and diabetes education.
Learn more about the career path as a registered dietitian and search for opportunities in your area.
Research for this post was provided by dietetic intern and RD-to-be, Alex Forsythe.