A Registered Dietitian, or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, is NOT the same thing as a “nutritionist”. The RD and RDN credentials do mean the same thing and have the same requirements. However, just a “nutritionist” does not have the same, or often any, credentials at all.
To become a Registered Dietitian, one must have at minimum a Bachelor’s degree from an ACEND-accredited program. The individual then must complete an accredited dietetic internship which provides over 1200 hours of supervised practice, lasting 8-24 months long. He or she is then eligible to take the national registration exam, and must also gain licensure in any states they plan to practice in. All registered dietitians must maintain continuing education for as long as they practice as well. Beginning in 2024, a Master’s degree will actually be the minimum degree required. Legally, a dietitian is a nutrition EXPERT. He or she is qualified to promote good health through proper nutritional habits.
At least here in the United States, “nutritionist” is a self-proclaimed title. Someone that claims they are a nutritionist may have received education or educated themselves about nutrition, but there is no legal regulation. There are no initial requirements or continuing education requirements. Essentially, anybody could give themselves this title. That’s why it’s so critically important to know who you’re working with.
I can promise you that the process any dietitian is required to go through is RIGOROUS. If somebody isn’t truly passionate about the field, they wouldn’t have been able to earn the credentials… honestly. It’s a hard, long, and draining process, but I know that personally, I never looked back.
I guess my main takeaway for you is this: know who you’re talking to and what you’re signing up for. Dietitians are not perfect; we’re human like everybody else. However, we have been trained and educated as professionals and experts in the field of nutrition, and we abide by a code of ethics and standards of practice. I can’t speak for all dietitians, but I can assure you that I have nothing but your absolute best interest in mind. I want to see you succeed, & I am here to help you to meet your goals.