Is There a Difference Between a Dietitian and Personal Trainer or Nutritionist?


There is a distinct difference between a “nutritionist” and a dietitian, but it’s inaccurate to use these terms interchangeably. Some registered dietitians (RDs) may refer to themselves as nutritionists, usually in a context to simplify things for those who may not be familiar with the term dietitian. The term “nutritionist” essentially connotes nothing specific. In fact, any random person can deem themselves a “nutritionist”, as there is no regulatory body governing any individual proclaiming that designation. Conversely, RDs are the recognized, legitimate and licensed nutrition experts. RDs have met extensive academic and experiential requirements set forth by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND).


The credential RD (registered dietitian) is a nationally-recognized, legally protected, professional title and it can only be used by those who are authorized by the CDR. In addition, we are licensed providers of medical nutrition therapy, and the only practitioners who can provide this therapeutic intervention. Educational requirements dictate successful completion of bachelor-degree program, although most RDs additionally hold advanced degrees and specialty certifications. More notably, an RD has also completed a dietetic internship or supervised practice program where hands-on, specialized experience is gained. RDs have also passed the registration exam and must recurrently obtain continuing education credits in order to complete the recertification process and remain current in their practice. This process ensures that RDs are continuing to stay abreast of the latest research and practice guidelines to best serve the public.