What is the difference between a dietitian and nutritionist

IMG_9379Moving to San Diego over two years ago changed everything for me, I realized how passionate I was about nourishing my body with real food and exercising. Living here opened up a different side of me and I can honestly say I have found my calling, which was something I never knew existed.

I am meant to help others by giving them the knowledge, tools, and encouragement they need to live healthier and happier lives. That is why I am pursing a career in nutrition.

Dietitian vs Nutritionist

Most people use dietitian and nutritionist interchangeably and it drives me loca. Although both work toward the same goal (you know…helping people get healthy), there’s a big difference between the two. A registered dietitian has a Bachelors and/or Masters degree related to nutrition from an accredited institution. The next step is to apply and complete 6-12 months (most of the time unpaid and full-time) of supervised practice at an accredited Dietetic Internship Program. Once the internship is completed, you will be eligible to take the national exam to become credentialed as a RD. It is required to complete continuing education to remain a RD.

The route to become a nutritionist is much broader and the requirements vary. The major difference is that a RD has specific requirements and is nationally recognized. Dietitian’s can refer to themselves as nutritiontist, but not vice versa.

I want to become a Registered Dietitian because I want to help people in the best way that I can. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s the most highly recognized credential in the nutrition field! 


My road to becoming a Registered Dietitian

Since I have a bachelors in Business Administration and never taken any science classes (besides geology – ha!), I have to complete the undergrad prereqs below. I have also decided to get my Masters in Nutrition Sciences since I need a degree related to nutrition in order to enroll in the Dietetics Program at SDSU. I am working hard to finish these prereqs at a community college, maintain a high GPA, and stay involved at school/community.

Step 1: Undergrad Prerequisite Coursework – General chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry, general biology, microbiology, anatomy, physiology, basic nutrition, and stats. I plan to take one more year at a community college, anatomy & microbiology during the Fall and physiology and biochemistry in the Spring .

Step 2: Apply to the Nutritional Sciences Masters program at SDSU in December 2015. This includes taking the GRE, 2 letter of recommendations, and Statement of Purpose. When I am accepted I will then apply for the Dietetics program. **UPDATE: I got accepted into the Master Program at State!!! I will be starting classes in Fall 2016!**

Step 3: Masters Program Take graduate classes while fulfilling Dietetic requirements. Once all required courses are taken I will then apply for an internship that is 6-12 months of supervised practice.

Step 4: Take the RD test

Step 5: Andrea Arnold, MS RD 

Never settle. Always fight for what you want. Dream big.




YESS! Can’t forget about that. Thanks Cara-Mia!

I am looking forward to us both being a RD! Hopefully we will have a class together sometime soon 🙂


If only I had pursed my passion a few years ago!!! I wouldn’t even know where to begin!! I don’t have my degree so it would be a very long time before I get any certification. What are your thoughts of the NASM Nutrition certificate? They call themselves nutritionists also. It’s an easier route that i’m more inclined to do. 🙂 Helping people live healthier and happier is my passion too, I just need to get pointed to the right direction. Great job!!


Simi, I feel the same way. I wish I had started sooner too, but there was no way I would’ve even known that this was the route I wanted to take. I honestly don’t think it’s too late! You could pretty much do what I am doing, but you would just get your bachelors instead. But, at the same time I understand it is a big commitment and getting a certification is probably the fastest way. You also have to consider that you may not be qualified to do everything that a RD can do.

What is your main goal? Once you have an idea of that, it might be clearer as to what road you should take. I have thought of owning my own practice or even in a hospital, either way I know that these roles require a RD credential. Simi, what if you just took a basic nutrition class at a community college and go from there? That is exactly how I got started. I think right now you are looking at the big picture, which can be overwhelming, but if you just take one small step toward you goal you might have a better idea! Hope that helps xoxo


Oh man, when you write it all out it seriously seems like this never ending process!! But seriously the moment you pass the test is the best moment ever for that exact reason. I have no doubts you’re going to be a phenomenal RD!!


Tell me about it Allie haha I’ll be an old lady by the time I’m a RD 😉 I can’t wait though, I know it will all be worth it!! Thank you for your kind words, means a lot <3


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