Dietitian vs Nutritionist – what is the difference?

Within the Health and Wellness industry, one of the most asked questions is; what is the difference between a Dietitian and a Nutritionist? Whether you’re looking to enter the nutrition field yourself through study, or you’re seeking out the most suitable professional for your needs, it’s safe to say you’re not alone in trying to source a clear-cut answer!
Dietitian and Nutritionist difference

In this blog, we will explain what the Dietitian and Nutritionist professions are.  In addition to this, what each does, the type of clientele they can work with, and the study requirements involved. After that, we should have painted an accurate picture of the age-old: ‘Dietitian vs Nutritionist’ debate.


So, what is the difference?

In Australia, the main difference between a Dietitian and a Nutritionist is the type of clients they help: Dietitians are qualified to work with ‘at risk’ clientele or those with chronic health conditions and diseases. 

Whereas Nutritionists are qualified to work with the ‘otherwise healthy” population.

Let’s break this down a little further…


What study is required to become a dietitian?

There are a few pathway options to becoming a dietitian, but all of these are through university and differ only in the type of degree studied. For example, you can study a Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics OR a bachelor’s degree in a related field followed by a Master of Dietetics. Regardless, due to the clinical nature of the profession, the study can only be completed through university.


Who do Dietitians register with once graduated?

Graduates are eligible for membership with Dietitians Australia, which is the peak body for dietetic professionals, and will receive the title ‘Accredited Practising Dietitian’.


Who do Dietitians usually work with?

During their study at university, Dietitians will complete specific subjects such as medical nutrition therapy and extensive practical placements. These are the distinguishing factors that allow Dietitians to assist clients with diabetes, endometriosis, cancer, post-gastric bypass surgeries, Crohn’s Disease, hyper- or hypothyroidism (and many other conditions) as well children, the elderly or pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.

The bottom line – Dietitians primarily use their nutrition knowledge to treat a range of medical conditions to improve the health and wellbeing of their clients.


What Study is Required To Become a Nutritionist

There are two study pathways available in Australia to ensure someone is suitably qualified as a nutritionist.

1. Completing a bachelor’s degree in nutrition, or a similar combination of degrees through a university.

2. Completing the 11046NAT – Certificate IV in Nutrition.

Either way, the above two drive the same result: graduates are able to work with the ‘otherwise healthy’ population.

Conversely, what doesn’t drive the same result are the multiple nutrition courses that have a career outcome of Health Promotion Officer or Weight loss Consultant.

Currently, the 11046NAT – Certificate IV in Nutrition is Australia’s first Nationally Recognised Certificate IV level course. This course has the formal title of a nutritionist at a fraction of the cost of going to university!


Who do Nutritionists register with once graduated?

Graduates from university are eligible for membership with the Nutrition Society of Australia. Upon approval from the NSA, graduates will be given the title of ‘Associate Nutritionist’. For those who have worked in the industry for three years as well as maintaining a certain number of professional development points, the title of ‘Registered Nutritionist’ will be given.

Graduates of the 11046NAT – Certificate IV in Nutrition are eligible for membership with Nutrition Council Australia. Once the graduate has obtained sufficient insurance, approval is given for the Professional Membership category and they are given the title ‘Nationally Recognised Nutritionist.’


Who do nutritionists usually work with?

Nutritionists are well versed in understanding what the different chronic illnesses and diseases are, but due to not completing medical nutrition therapy subjects, are not qualified to treat those illnesses and diseases with food, nor can they work with children, the elderly or pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.

Therefore, their clientele is referred to as ‘otherwise healthy’. What this means is these clients may have nutrition-related goals and needs, but their nutritional capacity is not compromised by disease or illness.

Examples of nutrition-related goals and needs include weight loss, weight gain, low energy, mild digestive complaints, athletes, muscle gain, improving overall health and many more. From here, nutritionists can then create customised meal plans or individualised nutrition advice to help their clients reach their goals.

So, dietitian vs nutritionist: do you understand the difference a little more after reading this post? Are you more clear on the type of clients you’d like to work with?

If you are leaning more towards nutrition, here are the top 3 reasons to study the 11046NAT – Certificate IV in Nutrition:

  1. Pay a fraction of the cost of university fees, yet still, work with the same clientele.
  2. Gain practical, real-life skills such as structuring effective consultations, which are often overlooked in theory-driven university courses.
  3. Upon graduation, you can work in the industry seeing clients & building your business even if you choose to do further study, which means getting to your goals quicker!
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