Dietitian vs Nutritionist: What’s the Difference?

Dietitian vs Nutritionist

Understanding how to eat healthy can be as complicated as rocket science. Every day, conflicting studies emerge exclaiming what we can and can’t eat. One day red wine and coffee are in, the next, they’re out. Figuring out what works for you could be a job in and of itself–and it is.

Nutritionists and Dietitians are professionals that can help guide you through the eating process. As people who study the merits of food and nutrition, booking an appointment with either professional can be a life changing process that gets your health back on track.

But, these two professions are not interchangeable. Below, Ace-up outlines the difference, benefits, and goals that a visit to each of these health professionals will yield.


One of the largest differences between Dietitians and Nutritionists comes down to accreditation. Dietitians require university qualifications, which consist of a four-year Bachelor Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics, or a three-year BA in a Science field followed by a Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics.

Also, they are required to take part in practical training after formal education. Dietitians can also have specific qualifications or specialties in addition to hands-on training and a degree.

A Nutritionist is a non-accredited title. Most elect to take short courses in nutrition, except a clinical certified nutritionist, who has a formal certification. Bottom Line: There’s less regulation around nutritionists, but that shouldn’t keep you from seeking one out.

It all comes down to finding a professional that works for you. Take time to look at the background of the Dietitian or Nutritionist you are interested in working with. Similar to life or career coaches, these professionals have diverse backgrounds that inform the way they work. Look for elements, like previous careers, food philosophies or additional certifications that might mesh well with your personality.


Another difference between Nutritionists and Dietitians is the overall experience. Although it varies from professional to professional, you can expect some of these overall differences.

Nutritionists can sometimes be found in more holistic settings, as opposed to Dietitians who tend to work in more clinical operations. They’ll help you create meal plans that can achieve the personal goals you’ve set. Working with a Nutritionist might include more alternative therapies, and can, but doesn’t necessarily have to, lead you on a path to weight loss.

Dietitians, on the other hand, are more likely to be found in medical centers, like hospitals or nursing homes. If you’re living with a chronic illness or intolerance, it’s likely your doctor will refer you to a Dietitian. For that reason, they’re more likely, but not always, covered by health insurance. Again, working with a Dietitian can, but doesn’t have to, be associated with a weight loss program.

Consider what you want your food journey to look like. Are you interested in trying new foods or open to alternative medicine techniques? Is cost of the service a high priority? Before visiting either professional, take the time to consider what you want out of the experience.

Goal of Both Professionals

Seeking either a Nutritionist or Dietitian is a great first step to a healthier life. Remember, these professionals aren’t just here for weight loss. Dietitians and Nutritionists both have the tools to teach you more about nutrition and healthy lifestyle practices.

However, just like with any type of coach, you have to be willing to do work on your end. Neither is going to give you a magic solution that carries you to your personal health goal. You have to be willing to learn how to eat better, which includes trying new habits, foods and practices. 

At the end of the day, the goal for both educators is to help you understand your relationship with food better by providing more balanced and complete nutrition plans–just through different paths. You shouldn’t look at it as which one is better, Dietitian vs Nutritionist, but instead which one is the best fit for your nutritional needs.

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