RDN, RD, or Nutritionist: What is the difference?

RDN, RD, or NutritionistMany people do not realize there is a difference. Honestly, I did not either when I first started looking into the field of nutrition. However, there is a difference.


Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) & Registered Dietitian (RD)

RDNs are the food and nutrition experts. All RDNs must complete specific requirements set by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

  • Complete a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. The degree must be earned from an accredited university or college in the US. Plus, the coursework must be accredited or approved by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND).
  • Complete an ACEND-accredited Dietetic Internship. 1200 hours must be completed under supervision.
  • Pass the national examination.
  • Complete continuing professional education requirements to maintain RDN credentials.

A few years ago, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Board of Directors and the Commission on Dietetics Registration approved the usage of the RDN credential. By adding ‘nutritionist’ to the registered dietitian credential, it informs the public that RDNs can also be found in the wellness setting. For example, an RDN can provide general individual & group counseling, nutrition seminars, and cooking classes. During these instances, it is possible that an RDNs job title could be a nutritionist. (Confusing, I know.)

Most importantly, an RDN is also the only healthcare professional allowed to provide medical nutrition therapy. For this reason, you may see many RDNs employed in the hospital setting.


A nutritionist is someone that has a background in nutrition, whether if it was a course or a certification. Another way someone can be a nutritionist is if they believe they know enough to name themselves a nutritionist. Currently, the term “nutritionist” is an unregulated term. Which means there are no specific requirements set by a national organization to be a nutritionist.


  • RDNs are the food and nutrition experts that must complete certain requirements in order to obtain credentials.
  • RDNs are the only health professionals allowed to give medical nutrition therapy.
  • An RDN can be labeled as a nutritionist depending on the job description.
  • The term “nutritionist” is not regulated.
Interested in becoming a Registered Dietitian?
  • Visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website.
  • Contact me and I can provide more information and/or direct you in finding the information you are looking for.
  • Stay tuned for more posts about my journey as an RDN.


Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: About Us Resources


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