If you’re lucky, you might have experienced your family making things from scratch – things like preserves, slow-cooked chicken soup, or a slow-roasted dish of either vegetables or meat (slow-roasted anything sounds great!). Most people don’t have the time needed to make every meal from scratch these days, and they use as many ready-made products as they can or forgo it altogether and eat out – especially during the busy work week.
Of course, we don’t want to generalise. Some people really put effort into the preparation of well-balanced meals. The problem with buying ready-made or half-products is that they are packed with chemical substances, add-ons and preservatives. That leads to such problems as weight gain, obesity and heart disease.
As awareness of the importance of a well balanced, healthy diet increases, we can observe the rising popularity of health specialists: the nutritionists and dieticians, who guide us on our food journey to be fit and healthy. The need for professionals to help people with a well-balanced nutrition plan is still rising, so those two fields of study are frequently chosen by high school graduates who want a meaningful career.
As the difference between a nutritionist degree and a dietician degree very often goes unnoticed, we prepared a short guide that might make you understand the contrast between the two and help you to choose a degree perfect for you.
The nutritionist title has quite a broad meaning and thus is less protected under the law and not very regulated. Anyone who completes a nutritionist or nutritionist-related degree can be a nutritionist. That means that even without a very advanced nutrition education, certification or formal training, you can still call yourself a nutritionist.
Nutritionists mostly offer their supervision when it comes to food science and provide their clients with general nutrition knowledge. However, they are not doctors per se; thus, they cannot treat diseases or illnesses.
Nutritionists typically work in local health departments and education facilities to provide nutrition counselling and promote a healthy diet. They might also figure in school districts or other public service organisations to recommend and implement specific nutrition standards. Some of them go through the extended education program to become a PhD nutritionist and conduct research.
In many states, the BA degree of a nutritionist is fully enough to practice as a nutritionist. However, some facilities might require you to have a professional title of a Certified Nutrition Specialist. For that reason, there exist nutritionist certification boards, who take applicant’s certification exams. To let the applicant apply for the exam, they must have an advanced nutrition specialised degree and practical experience. Upon passing the test, they can call themselves Certified Nutrition Specialists (CNS) and gain a protected title.
The title of a dietician is accredited and protected by law. To call yourself a dietician, you have to earn a degree and complete a supervised clinical internship at a hospital, health care facility, or any other health organisation. Then, students need to pass the national exam that will allow them to call themselves a Registered Dietician (RD) and start working either in a public or private organisation.
This degree requires completing a formal education program not only on food science but also on multiple other courses, such as biology, chemistry, sociology etc. This stems from the nature and ultimate goal of this profession, which is treating people.
Dieticians organise nutrition plans and promote good food habits to prevent and treat illnesses. Thus, they need to be able to assess their patient’s medical needs to come up with an adequate food plan.
They also create nutrition programs for people dealing with specific diseases. Thanks to the advanced knowledge of human biology, they can make a detailed nutrition care plan for a particular client that has allergies or eating disorders. Based on the analysis and examination of the patient and his medical history and food patterns, they are able to provide them with the required nutritional and supplementary recommendations.
If you’re interested in food science and nutrition and you want to obtain a degree in this field, all you have to do is choose between the profession of a dietician and nutritionist. Bear in mind that although both of these require you to possess a lot of nutrition knowledge, those are two completely independent paths.
Nutritionist degree is more general, focusing on food science and enabling students to provide general nutrition recommendations. Dietician degree is a bit more specific, where your knowledge about food will be used to treat people’s diseases and illnesses. It depends solely on you and your abilities which career path will be a better fit for you. Good luck!