How to Become a Nutritionist and Registered Dietitian

If you’d like a rewarding career helping other people to live a healthy life and make solid and educated choices in their dietary choices, you may want to consider becoming a nutritionist. This is one of two closely-related careers (the other being a dietitian) that deals exclusively with the nutrition, food, and dietary choices people make in their daily lives.

These professionals know everything from which foods have the highest concentration of given vitamins and minerals, to how supplements work in our bodies as opposed to dietary nutrition. We are becoming more knowledgeable every day about the effects of our diet on life, which makes this a very rewarding career path to follow.

The Nutritionist

A nutritionist performs many of the same functions as a dietitian, but the meaning is much broader than that of the more focused dietitian. In many states, anyone can claim to be a nutritionist, without the need for specific licensure. However, this can also make it dangerous to put too much faith in a non-registered person in this field.

That’s why most qualified nutritionists pursue a bachelor’s degree or even, often, a graduate degree in nutrition science, and become certified via taking certification exams from one of the nutrition certification boards. While they can and usually do provide important nutritional and dietary counseling, nutritionists cannot diagnose eating disorders or help to manage health conditions through dietary planning, unless they are also licensed as a dietitian or are a practicing medical professional.

The Dietitian

Dietitians have a more regulated role than nutritionists, but can also perform more detailed services. After earning at least a bachelor’s degree in food science or nutrition from an accredited program, one can undergo an internship and examination process to become a registered dietitian, or R.D.

This allows one to engage in nutrition planning and even work with health clinics and hospitals, educational institutions and other facilities. They can go into private practice to help plan meals for those in need of counseling for health reasons, and perform a greater range of services than a nutritionist.

Choosing the Right Role

Choosing the right role for you, whether it’s that of a nutritionist or dietitian, is largely a factor of determining how much work and training you are willing to undertake. If you want to work in the field as a registered dietitian, you’ll need to pursue at minimum a 4-year degree in dietetics or nutrition science, then follow it up with 1,200 hours of internship and an exam, as well as maintaining continuing education credits and fulfilling your state licensing requirements.

Being a nutritionist has far fewer requirements, but you are also much more limited in many states regarding what kind of services you can provide, without state licensure. At very least you’ll want to pursue advanced education so you can backup your qualifications.

Learn How to Become a Nutritionist in your State

If you’re considering entering the field of diet and nutritional counseling, you might want to first check the statutes and requirements in your state. We provide lists of licensure and certification requirements for every state on our site. Check them out to learn more today!