The Difference Between a Nutritionist and a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)

The Difference Between a Nutritionist and a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)

I am often asked about the difference between my title,
“Registered Dietitian Nutritionist” (RDN), and a “nutritionist”. Many people use the two interchangeably, but there are significant differences between them. Difference between a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutritionistA Registered Dietitian Nutritionist meets rigorous qualification standards and maintains skills through continuing education. In addition, Registered Dietitian Nutritionists abide by a code of ethics and practice under state licensure, like other health providers you may visit. A nutritionist, on the other hand, is not vetted nor held to a unified standard or licensing board. Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. Here’s a breakdown that sums up the differences.

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)


Accredited Degree

ACEND approved Bachelors Degree Not required

Graduate Degree

Held by more than 50% of
RDNs. Will be requirement
beginning in 2024
Not required

Accredited Supervised Practice

1200 ACEND approved
supervised practice hours

National Examination

Required Not Eligible

Continuing Education

Required throughout entire
career with audits every 2.5
Not maintained

Adherence to Code of Ethics

Yes No

Regulated by State License

Yes No

Services reimbursed by health
insurers and eligible for HAS/FSA

Yes No

Recommendations backed by current reliable research

Yes Unknown

Trusted to work for hospitals, schools, professional & collegiate sports teams, public health departments, and clinical research

Yes No


Other Differences Between a Nutritionist and a Registered Dietitian


It’s important to note that a dietitian’s recommendation is based on scientific information. This information can come
from peer-reviewed articles, medical journals, or other professional sources. In contrast, an unlicensed nutritionist
can get information from anywhere and is not held accountable for using reliable information. When visiting a health professional, you want to make sure that you’re not being sold on the latest, baseless fad, but rather real, scientific, research-based and evidence-backed information that can truly improve your health.

Code of Ethics

Registered Dietitian Nutritionists must abide by a code of ethics that requires them to refrain from giving false or misleading information, protect a client’s privacy like any other clinician,
and assume lifelong accountability and responsibility for personal competence in practice, to name just a few.(You can view the full code of ethics here.) All this is intended to help consumers feel confident that by choosing a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, they’re getting the most professional care that will help them achieve their nutrition goals.

Sign Up for Healthy Recipes, Nutrition Tips & More!