Should You See a Dietitian or Nutritionist?

Depending on your needs, one of these professionals might be better suited for you than the other.

The nutritionist educates the client on healthy food groups.

When you’re looking for a professional to help you with your nutrition or lifestyle goals, choosing what sort of professional to work with can be confusing, especially when many people use the terms “dietitian” and “nutritionist” interchangeably. Truth be told, these two licensed professions have very different credentials and roles.


A dietitian is a licensed expert in diet and nutrition. They have a bachelor’s degree in nutrition science, completed an extensive internship program that provides hands-on clinical experience, and successfully passed the CDR (Commission on Dietetic Registration) exam.

Upon obtaining their credentials as licensed dietitians, they are required to renew their education credits overtime to keep up with the changes in this field and remain certified. And starting in January 2024, students pursuing a dietitian career will need to have a master’s degree to qualify as a registered dietician (RD).

Dietitians follow medical guidelines and help their clients adjust their dietary plans due to health conditions like diabetes, kidney disease, and surgical recovery. Patients with eating disorders and cancer are often referred to dietitians. Together with their patient, dietitians review the patient’s health and make careful dietary adjustments to fit their health needs.

Most often, dietitians work in professional healthcare settings like hospitals, outpatient clinics, and even some universities.


A nutritionist doesn’t typically address specific medical conditions nor do they work in healthcare settings like hospitals. Unlike dietitians, they are more focused on helping clients reach their weight loss goals, improve their overall lifestyle, and meet some of their basic nutritional needs.

While they aren’t required to complete an educational program in nutrition, their credentials can vary. However, to be recognized as a legal certified nutrition specialist (CNS), they have to obtain either a master’s or doctorate degree and pass a nutritionist certification exam after 1,000 hours of practice.

Nutritionists often are employed in schools, cafeterias, and athletic organizations.

Related: Weight-Loss Friendly Foods to Keep in Your Kitchen

Whom should you visit?

If you are leaning more towards weight loss or weight gain, a dietitian is the best qualified to discuss these issues, especially with how these factors relate to diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and eating disorders. If you are searching for guidance around setting personal and overall health and lifestyle goals, meeting with a nutritionist can provide you with information and support.

If you aren’t sure where to start and wondering whether a dietitian or nutritionist is best for your health needs, start by visiting with your healthcare provider to talk about your dietary needs and goals.

Related: Here's How to Create a Healthy Diet

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