Difference between a Nutritionist and a Dietitian degree?

There is actually a big difference between the qualification of a Nutritionist compared to a Dietitian and the study pathways also differ.

A Nutritionist

A nutritionist has usually finished some sort of tertiary qualification in either nutrition, food science or public health. Nutritionists often work in community and public health sectors to help people achieve optimal health by providing the information and advice on food choices. Rather than treating individuals, nutritionists are involved in population interventions to improve well-being of individuals.

Be careful approaching a “professional Nutritionist” as many people can call themselves a nutritionist without the proper qualification. There are a number of short online courses and workshops that claim to qualify people as nutritionists but this should entail a university degree or equivelant to be properly qualified.

A Dietitian

“A dietitian is a person with a qualification in nutrition and dietetics recognised by national authority[s]. The dietitian applies the science of nutrition to the feeding and education of groups of people and individuals in health and disease.”

This definition was accepted by 34 dietetic association members of the ICDA on May 29th 2004, Chicago – Revised June 2015

Basically, a nutritionist works in promoting optimal eating behaviours and optimal health and well-being in a population setting where as a Dietitian is trained on the science of diseases and recognised by professionals to assist with the feeding and management to promote optimal health and recovery in those with disease, but also those who are of good health. A Dietitian undergoes a more intense, longer amount of study and is a lot more recognised than a Nutritionist. The degree to become a Dietitian also encompasses everything that a Nutritionist learns to become qualified with a lot extra, therefore Dietitians can function as both a Nutritionist in community public health, but also a Dietitian mainly in hospital and clinical settings. 

When beginning my Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics, I must admit I wasn’t even sure what I was going to be studying and I wasn’t sure if it was for me. I feel like there is nothing out there that actually explains what you study to become a Dietitian in comparison to what you study to become a Nutritionist, so here is my take on it all.

Nutritionist degree is heavily focused on:

  • Public Health
  • Community Nutrition
  • Health Promotion
  • Disease at a population level
  • Public Health Interventions
  • Healthy Eating in population
  • Basic Nutrition principles (carbohydrates, fat, protein, energy, micronutrients, macronutrients)

Dietetics degree is focused on:

  • All of the above dot points in the early years of the course
  • Foodservice and menu development
  • Major focus on nutrition in treating diseases (liver disease, cancer, stroke, kidney disease, Irritable bowel syndrome, irritable bowel disease, Cardiovascular disease, Diabetes (type 1 & 2), Malnutrition, Overweight/Obesity and other complex metabolic conditions.
  • Paediatrics nutrition (nutrition in infants, formulas, faltering growth)
  • Allergy management

A huge part of Dietetics is the use of nutrition in chronic disease management, mainly in hospital settings treating both acute and chronic diseases. The Dietetics degree will teach you all the relevant content and part of the assessment will test your ability to be able to articulate this to patients in layman’s terminology.

I hope this answers all your questions, if there are any more please post them below or get in contact over on my Instagram @eonlinenutrition I would love to answer any of your questions big or small!

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