The words “dietician” and “nutritionist” are often used interchangeably, but there is a legal difference between them. To become either, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in nutrition. If you end up simply supporting and educating people about food health, then you can use the title of a nutritionist. By contrast, to officially and legally be called a dietician, you’ll need a license on top of the schooling. Once you’re licensed, you’re known as a Registered Dietician (RD).
Diets aren’t just for people who want to lose weight. Some people have medical conditions that require carefully planned out diets so that they are able to meet their nutritional requirements. These conditions include ailments like diabetes where the person may want to both lose weight and reduce their sugar intake. Other conditions like Celiac disease means that people must be educated on what gluten is and what foods contain gluten. Rare conditions like auto-brewery syndrome require people to make drastic lifestyle changes, like cutting out all carbohydrates, in order to not be permanently drunk/hungover. These aren’t your run of the mill diets and they require careful planning by licensed professionals.
Being a Nutritionist
You can earn a Nutritionist certificate, but this isn’t a licensed profession and there is no specialized training. Therefore, a nutritionist shouldn’t be making a diagnosis or any sort of medical judgment. The job of a nutritionist is to support and educate people on dietary needs. If you want to learn about the health properties of food, a nutritionist will be able to explain that to you.
Nutritionist or Dietician?
Either of these titles will allow you to work with food and educate people on food. How in-depth you want to go depends on you. If you’re already a licensed medical professional, you may want to consider a nutrition certificate as an add-on to your degree. Many doctors feel that learning about nutrition can help them better diagnose and support their patients. If, however, you want to help people treat their dietary illnesses, becoming a licensed dietician is the way to go.