The Difference Between a Nutritionist and Dietitian Career

  • Article by:Health Career Center

Often times, Nutritionist and Dietitian job titles are terms used interchangeably, clouding up the definition of each of the roles. Here’s a look at exactly what a Nutritionist career entails, how that differs from a Dietitian career, and what the job outlook is for both.

What Does a Nutritionist Career Entail?

Nutrition careers in the U.S. are much less regulated than the Dietitian career, which is one of the major differences between the two roles.

In the U.S., a Nutritionist title tends to encompass a broad set of qualifications, yet medical professionals in this field have at least studied diet and nutrition by taking several courses on these topics. Motivated professionals in this field often choose to additionally pursue either a Master’s of Science degree or a Ph.D in nutrition science and take the certification exam when they are looking to gain accreditation and be granted the title of a Certified Nutrition Specialist, which is a more advanced, specialized position. 

In terms of job responsibilities, Nutritionists focus primarily on addressing behavioral issues for their patients and work to educate them on general nutrition and the health properties of various food groups and items. They tend to offer nutrition supervision and come up with nutrition plans to get their patients on track towards a healthy lifestyle.

What Does a Dietitian Career Entail?

The Dietitian job title in the U.S. is much more heavily regulated than that of the Nutritionist. Dietitians are required to receive a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university in a field like nutrition science and are also expected to have experience working as an intern at a related professional establishment, like a health care facility or food service company or hospital. Once they have completed both of these requirements, Dietitians then take the national exam, and once they successfully pass, they are granted the title of an R.D., or Registered Dietitian.

Another key difference between the Dietitian and Nutritionist roles is that Dietitians work to help diagnose eating disorders, in addition to helping plan meals to assist in the management of symptoms related to other health problems.

In addition to those position-specific job responsibilities, the Dietitian career also includes planning and promoting healthy eating habits to their patients, doing research on diet and nutrition related topics, and speaking on public health issues.

The Job Outlook for Nutritionists and Dietitians:

With the growing epidemic of obesity in the U.S., the demand for Nutritionists and Dietitians is higher than ever and is projected to grow 16 percent between 2014 and 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Both Dietitian careers and Nutritionist careers focus around supporting healthy eating habits and educating the public on what a healthy diet consists of and which activities and foods are detrimental to a healthy lifestyle. Considering the fact that over one-third of U.S. adults are obese, according to the CDC, it’s no surprise that these medical professions are in high demand.

In terms of pay rates, a Nutritionist’s median average salary was $41,809 in 2015. Whereas, the more specialized Dietitian role has a median average salary of around $49,684, but more experienced and specialized professionals pursuing the Dietitian career can make up to $71,000 or more annually.

Nutritionist and Dietitian jobs are available in a wide array of areas depending on the applicant’s preference. Professionals in this field can choose to work in outpatient care centers, hospitals, nursing and residential care facilities, or for the government, food service providers, and universities.

If you’re considering a career as a Nutritionist or Dietitian, or are a qualified professional looking for a new employer, browse’s various available employment postings for both Nutrition career opportunities and current Dietitian jobs.