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Nutritionist vs Dietitian; what’s the difference?

If you have personally felt the benefit of a healthy diet and lifestyle, physical wellbeing can easily become a passion you feel inspired to share with others. So how do you turn that passion into a career?

Many lifestyle enthusiasts choose to follow a career in promoting a healthy & nutritionally balanced diet. But which is the right role for you, a nutritionist or a dietitian? At first look, the differences can be hard to spot.

To clear up the confusion, we’ve explored the responsibilities of both professions so you can find the lifestyle role that excites you, and make a difference to peoples’ lives.

What’s in a name…?

In New Zealand, the title ‘nutritionist’ covers a broad range of skills. Through completing courses and gaining qualifications, nutritionists use their knowledge to provide a range of evidence-based services and advice on diet and lifestyle. Any qualified nutrition professional can be called a ‘nutritionist’, but each will have their own specialised areas of interest, therefore the role is rather varied.

Dietitians are also qualified to provide this range of evidence-based nutrition services but are further qualified to provide medical advice and dietary counselling. A dietitian has usually undertaken a much longer course of study, with a deeper knowledge of clinical & medical nutrition. In essence, the role of a dietitian is much more specific.

Whilst different, both roles are united by their common goal: the health and wellbeing of their clients.

What do they do?

A nutritionist’s day to day work can vary depending on their specialised area, their skills & the nature of their clients. However most work by providing advice and encouragement, in addition to tracking progress. Some of the tasks undertaken include:

  • Assess a patient’s current dietary habits and needs
  • Providing information on healthy eating practices
  • Assisting with weight management, creating strategies for gaining or losing
  • Meal planning & recipe suggestions
  • Writing reports on client progress
  • Educating schools or businesses on healthy eating

Many nutritionists focus on lifestyle, wellness and fitness, helping the general public understand the impact of food on their life. They support their clients to stay focused on their goals by providing regular encouragement, accountability and motivation. They can become advisors, coaches or recipe writers… the choices are open!

A dietitian can provide all the above and is also further qualified to give more scientific and medical-dietary advice. They work by:

  • Offering food science expertise 
  • Working with clients who have specific dietary needs or allergies
  • Creating specialised meal planning for specific health conditions like diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, gastrointestinal diseases & eating disorders 
  • Advising on the impact of nutrition on treating and preventing some diseases
  • Providing medical nutrition therapy to patients

In summary, dietitians work on a more specific and advanced level than nutritionists.

Dietitians work on a more specific and advanced level than nutritionists.

How much do they earn?

Qualified nutritionists have an average salary of between $40,000 to $70,000, which varies depending on skill level, client type and area. 

Due to the highly qualified nature of the work, a qualified dietitian’s salary is between $50,000 to $90,000. This is dictated by seniority, experience and the facility they are working in.

How do you become a dietitian?

Dietitians are required to complete a full course of study in nutrition, like an accredited Bachelor’s degree in dietetics. As well as this, they must complete at least one year of supervised work in a professional practice. 

Dietitians also have to be registered with recognised bodies, like the Dietician’s Board Of New Zealand, who check a dietitian’s credentials. 

If food science and clinical treatment are your passion, then dietetics could be the perfect path for you.

How do you become a nutritionist?

If you’re into health and wellbeing, but feel more compelled by the fitness and coaching side of things, life as a nutritionist might be the perfect role for you. 

Due to its diverse nature, there are many ways to enter the nutrition field. Some choose to complete a Bachelor’s degree or even a Masters. While this may mean you can charge clients a higher rate, it is not essential to becoming a nutritionist. 

There are many short courses in nutrition available, which are much kinder to your wallet, and a lot quicker to complete. Our Certificate In Nutrition Business, for example, has been specifically designed for those individuals who want to either start a business in nutrition coaching.

This course equips you with a foundation of skills and knowledge surrounding healthy eating, diet plans and food’s effect on the body. The course also comes with small business training and digital marketing modules, setting you up to build your own nutrition coaching empire. 

This course is also ideal if you are considering a longer university degree in nutritional science, and want to ensure the commitment and cost of a long degree is right for you.

A number of individuals who are already in the health and wellness area, such as personal trainers, will choose to take a short course in nutrition too. Completing this type, of course, means they have the foundation to offer clients further benefits and services.

Whichever avenue you choose, you’ll be making a huge difference to the health and wellness of so many people. Can you think of a more fulfilling job than that?


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