A Registered Dietitian must have a Bachelor's Degree in Nutrition or a related field (certain classes are required). This individual must then complete a dietetic internship from an accredited program (specialties and lengths of programs vary). This process is getting more and more competitive and a spot in an internship is not guaranteed. After completion of an internship, the individual is then able to sit for the Registered Dietitian exam. Onced passed they can officially use the credential of RD. This credential is a nationwide accreditation and is legally regulated.
The governing body of Registered Dietitians is now called the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Some states require licensure of dietitians, while others do not. This may be why you see the credentials RD, LD (licensed dietitian) with some dietitians, but not with others. RDs must also complete a certain number of continuing education units each 5 years to uphold their registration and ensure that we are up to date on the newest information.
The title or credential of Nutritionist is not nationally regulated and can vary based on state. In some states there are no qualifications for the use of this term and anyone desiring to use the title is allowed. However, many Nutritionists have some background knowledge or advanced education in the nutrition field. This is why it is of utmost importance to ask a Nutritionist of their training and education prior to a visit. More states are creating specialist certifications for Nutritionists that will allow certain credentials to be used, but again not all states are incorporating this.
Overall, RDs and Nutritionists can be excellent professionals to seek for assistance in pursuing a healthier lifestyle. A Registered Dietitian is a Nutritionist, but a Nutritionist is not a Registered Dietitian. It is important to understand the difference between the two professions as it will ultimately help you achieve your wellness goals.
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