Diet and nutrition are the key to any healthy lifestyle, right? Often considered synonymous in conversation, the two words are not interchangeable within the healthcare field. If you’re considering a career as either a dietitian or nutritionist, several key differences exist that you should take note of before making a long-term choice. Let’s put these two careers up against one another (dietitian vs nutritionist) and see which career stacks up best for you.


The role of a dietitian is more regulated than that of a nutritionist. For starters, the educational requirements for a dietitian is of a higher standard. Usually requiring special certification – in addition to a traditional bachelor’s degree in the health field – dietitians must complete their training with an internship at a health clinic, food service company, hospital or other organization. Once the internship is completed, future dietitians must pass a national exam before being allowed to practice as an R.D. (registered dietitian).

Dietitians organize food and nutrition plans to aid in the treatment of illnesses and diseases. Often collaborating with an R.N. (registered nurse), Doctor and physical therapist, dietitians are an important part of any medical wellness program. Other career opportunities for dietitians include educating at universities, advising food service companies, developing nutritional meals for private businesses and individuals, running a private practice and more.


Not as heavily controlled as the term dietitian, nutritionists have a more general practice field. Anyone can use the term nutritionist to describe themselves, as its use is not regulated like that of a doctor or R.D. (registered dietitian). The educational requirements are fewer, though licensing boards that offer accreditation for nutritionists do exist. For those that pass national examinations and complete internships, a C.N.S. (certified nutrition specialist) certification is available.

While a dietitian may diagnose eating disorders and assist in the treatment of diseases, a nutritionists main responsibility is to educate their clients about the nutritional value of certain foods and to supervise the nutritional intake of those they work with. Many nutritionists work for individual clients, major corporations, businesses or even as food journalists. Because the qualifications of becoming a nutritionist are varied, so are the opportunities in the job market.

Salary & Outlook

Another difference between dietitians and nutritionists is in how much money they make. Both careers are expected to increase at a healthy rate over the next decade as the elderly population and individuals struggling with obesity continues to increase.

Dietitian Salary: As with any career, where you work will make a difference, but the average dietitian makes approximately $51,000 annually.

Nutritionist Salary: Nutritionists make, on average, $41,000 per year.

Which is Right for You

When determining which is better for you in the dietitian vs nutritionist debate, consider the amount of investment you want to make as it relates to education. Though the average salary for a dietitian is higher than that of a nutritionist, you may have little interest in working with individuals to diagnose and treat illnesses or diseases. Therefore, spending the extra time and money on the educational requirements of becoming a dietitian may not be right for you.

For more information about nutritionist jobs, nursing jobs or how to become a traveling healthcare worker, contact a New Directions staffing recruiter today. We are here to help guide you to the career of your dreams!