The vast majority of people interchange Nutritionist with Dietitian as if they were the same thing. Although these professions are incredibly similar in the functions that they research and serve, they are very different roles.
What is a Nutritionist?
Nutritionists are qualified to be experts in food and nutrition, and their primary work function is to help others achieve their health goals, by advising people on how to live a more healthy lifestyle. A Nutritionist does not have the training or authority to advise a client on managing eating disorders or diets for medical conditions.
Generally a Nutritionist will work with individual clients on a private basis because the career is largely unregulated, and therefore is not a service provided by a medical centre or the NHS. Due to the lack of regulation, you will often find Nutritionists with job titles such as:
- Health Coach
- Nutrition Expert
- Wellness Coach
- Infant Nutritional Coach
- Nutritional Specialist
- Sports Nutritionist
- Nutritional Therapist
While these jobs have varying suggested functions, they all are founded upon the same training. The only distinction between the qualification levels of Nutritionists in the UK is whether they are registered with the Association for Nutrition (AfN).
Only individuals registered with the AfN can hold the title Registered Nutritionist abbreviated to ANutr or RNutr; this is a conditional offer based on the Nutritionist earning a Bsc undergraduate degree in Nutrition or a related specialism. Also, they must hold a minimum of 3 years relevant professional experience.
What is a Dietitian?
Dietitians organise foods and nutrition plans to promote healthy eating habits similar to the work that a nutritionist does. Furthermore, the extended training and authority to address eating disorders / medical illnesses can also be covered by a Dietitian.
Dietitians have an incredibly wide range of doors open to them from a career perspective. Many work as part of a commercial organisation, such as a private health care facility or a care home. However, the biggest employer of Dietitians in the UK is the NHS, in a medical advise role within a hospital, or supporting doctors at a GP practice. Less common job roles are in fields such as:
- Computer Science
- Foodservice Systems Management
Dietitians are the only nutrition professionals who are governed and regulated by law, and are required to be registered with The Health & Care Professional Council (HCPC). The HCPC are a strict overseer of policy and practice for dieticians. To be eligible to be a Registered Dietician (RD), you’re required to have a BSc Hons, undergraduate degree in Dietetics or a related science degree with a postgraduate diploma or masters degree in Dietetics.
What is the difference between a Nutritionist and Dietitian?
There are many factors that distinguish a Nutritionist from a Dietitian; but the most significant factor is that Dietitians are the only professionals who are regulated by law.
This addition of regulatory oversight means that Dietitians have extended authority to work on evidence based recommendations. This means they can work with clients within medical treatment programs or with existing severe medical illnesses.
This is an opportunity that is not open to nutritionists, who can only work to provide general diet and healthy lifestyle advice to private clients (adults & children) who are outside of medical treatment.
The average Nutritionist should expect to earn circa £20,000-£22,000 as an annual salary, with Dietitians expecting to earn circa £35,000-£40,000 depending on the area of expertise and the level of experience.