What Are the Differences between a Dietitian and a Nutritional Therapist?

Have you been considering a career related to food? Perhaps you’re already in the food industry, but you would like to expand your knowledge so you could be of more help to people. If that’s the case, why not look into a career in the health and nutrition industry?

Here are the main differences between what it means to be a dietitian and a nutritional therapist:

Educational Background

The type of education and certifications that both these professions need cannot be any different. Sure, they would both work with individuals dealing with problems related to food, but only dietitians are regulated and licensed by the government.

A dietitian would need, at the very least, a college degree (though some places of employment require a master’s degree). They would have to go hours of specialized certification courses, clinical training, and would have to pass a state-licensed board exam before they can be called a full-fledged dietitian.

A nutritional therapist, on the other hand, would be allowed to practice even without any formal training whatsoever. You could always get a nutrition diploma from an educational institution, but generally, anybody whose profession is to give nutrition advice can call themselves a nutritionist or nutritional therapist.

Most people who become nutritional therapists either advocate healthy living or come from a background of holistic living. The advice they give lean more toward recommendations rather than medical advice. Their main goal is to help people meet their nutritional goals and deal with their relationship with food and eating. Think of a nutritional therapist as a counselor and a dietitian as a medical professional.

Where They Work

meal planning and logging

Because it is such a highly regulated profession, dietitians usually work in a hospital setting. They would work with a team of doctors dealing with patients diagnosed with diabetes, obesity, eating disorders, and even for some types of cancers.

Dietitians with master’s degrees in nutrition are also highly sought after in research work. They can work with public health agencies or as food scientists with private food corporations. When working with patients, they are licensed to diagnose and treat eating disorders. They can also prescribe a diet suited to the person’s ailment.

On the other hand, nutritional therapists are usually employed by schools, the health food industry, or institutions offering therapeutic services. Some nutritional therapists can know as much as a dietitian, but they would not be licensed to prescribe nutritional diets to patients.

Nutritional therapists can be employed as a health and wellness coach, either by private individuals or big corporations. Since there’s not much training needed in becoming a nutritional therapist, many people who have a love for healthy living and would like to leave the corporate rat race look into getting into this profession. As of 2019, the wellness industry was worth £2.8 trillion globally, and the number is just growing by the day. Perhaps now is as good a time as any to make that career change.

What’s Right for You

This is something you’re going to have to decide for yourself. Though they have differences, at the end of the day, both professions are about helping people. One through a more medical approach, the other with a more nurturing touch. So ask yourself, what type of setting do you envision yourself working in? Would you like to work on your own or with others? What’s your relationship with food and nutrition? You’ll know which career is right for you based on the answers you give to these questions.

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