Nutritionist vs Dietitian: What’s the Difference?
The difference between a nutritionist and a dietitian might seem hard to spot from a distance.
Without looking into it, they seem like two different terms for the same thing – they’re both professionals that offer advice in the field of public health, right? So, what’s the difference between a nutritionist and a dietitian? Well, turns out there are clear distinctions that separate the two career paths, and if you’re thinking of becoming a nutritionist, you should understand what they are.
Nutritionists and dietitians are united by their interest in health care, wellness and most importantly, the food industry. Since both nutritionists and dietitians are responsible for changing the way their clients interact with diet regimes and food in general, it’s second nature to merge the two careers.
But it’s important to remember the distinctions that separate a nutritionist and a dietitian; they have different job descriptions because their qualifications offer different types of services, according to their levels of qualification. So, what distinguishes a nutritionist and a dietitian?
First, let’s break down what they do:
A nutritionist’s role is to help their clients by providing advice and encouragement. They provide a healthier lifestyle for their clients by:
While you might assume all nutritionists have undertaken an appropriate nutrition course, that isn’t always the case.
Since the term “nutritionist” is not a protected term in Australia, anyone can call themselves a nutritionist and offer nutrition services without any extensive qualifications.
This means that anyone from a nutrition graduate to someone with little nutrition training can self-proclaim their expertise. This is because there are no specific requirements that need to be met to claim the job title.
Just because the term is unregulated doesn’t mean that nutritionists are any less trustworthy or skilled – it just means that their job description doesn’t necessarily prove their extensive knowledge.
A lot of people employed in health and wellness – personal trainers, for example – will undertake base level nutrition courses so that they can expand the services they offer. Taking these courses means that they can help explain the basics of food science to their clients, which helps the average person digest that information more easily.
If you’re after base level guidance for your food choices, a nutritionist can offer those services to you. However, what a nutritionist can’t do is offer you advice if your needs fit outside the box – if you need a tailored meal plan based on your food allergies, for example, a nutritionist will not be equipped with that level of expertise.
This is when you need a dietitian. Nutritionists aren’t always qualified to give dietary advice to help treat or manage specific dietary requirements or diseases, while a dietitian can. All dietitians are nutritionists but not all nutritionists are dietitians.
What Do Dietitians Do?
Dietitians are qualified to offer food science expertise on a more advanced level than the average nutritionist. A dietitian can offer all the same services a nutritionist can, and additionally, provide for clients by:
Dietitians are allowed to provide these more advanced services to their clients because they are required to complete a course of study in nutrition, while nutritionists are not. Additionally, dietitians have to complete at least a full year of supervised work in professional practice before being granted their position.
This is the main difference that separates the term “nutritionist” from “dietitian” – required accreditation and dietetic registration.
To qualify as an accredited practicing dietitian in Australia you have to be registered with nationally recognised bodies like the Dietitians Association of Australia or the Nutrition Society of Australia. To register with associations like DAA or NSA, you are required to meet certain standards and complete an accredited Bachelor’s degree in dietetics, qualifying you and your specialisation in food science.
As an APD, you’re qualified to work beyond the workplace of nutritionists, meaning that you can work in clinical nutrition settings, like hospitals, community health centres, and private health care facilities.
Why Study Nutrition and Dietetics?
Whether you pursue a career as a nutritionist or a dietitian is entirely dependent on where your personal interest in health and wellness lies. If you’re into health and wellbeing but feel more compelled by the fitness side of things, pursue nutrition – education programs can be as short as six weeks, and if you pursue a career in personal training, your nutritionist qualification will be an asset to your business.
But if it’s food science and clinical treatment that you’re fascinated by, pursue dietetics! Help people with health issues on a more advanced level, in medical nutrition.
People pursue dietetics because they love it and it shows when it comes to job satisfaction; a 2018 Victorian Dietetics Workforce Report showed that a whole 72% of dieticians intended to stay within their profession for six years plus.
Getting accredited as a dietitian pays off.