How to Become a Nutritionist / Dietitian

Learn the State by State Requirements

Careers in Nutrition and Dietetics

Have you ever thought of becoming a dietitian or a nutritionist?

Have you ever thought of becoming a dietitian or a nutritionist? You might not realize that, although both of these careers fall under the heading of food science, there are subtle differences between these two categories of careers. Over the following pages, you will learn the unique characteristics of nutritionist careers, dietitian careers, and specialized careers within both categories. As each state has its own licensure and certification requirements for dietitians and nutritionists, we will elaborate upon these requirements and what education, experience and examinations you must fulfill in order to become a food health professional in these states. We will also discuss what type of living you can expect to earn as a nutritionist, as a dietitian, and within the specialized career titles underneath each broader heading.

Differences Between Nutrition and Dietetics

What is the difference between Nutrition and Dietetics?

When you hear the words “nutrition” and “dietetics,” what comes to mind? For many people, the answer to this question is “food.” Nutrition and dietetics are two categories included within the broader field of nutritional sciences. Some of the degree titles that you may listed for students who are interested in studying nutrition and/or dietetics include:

  • Nutrition
  • Dietetics
  • Nutrition and dietetics
  • Nutritional sciences
  • Human nutrition
  • Food sciences

The difference between nutrition and dietetics really comes down to the differences between the requirements for the professions of nutritionist and dietitian. Both professions have their own regulations regarding education, training, experience and testing that must be followed, depending on the state in which the food professional wishes to work. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) is the organization that regulates the licensure and registration of dietitians and nutritionists. We will explore, in further detail, licensing requirements in each state for nutritionists and dietitians, the titles that these professionals may go by, and whether non-licensed nutritionists or dietitians can practice in each state, in these pages.

It used to be easy to distinguish between a nutritionist vs dietitian: typically, dietitians could be registered, but nutritionists were not always registered. Now, however, terms have become interchangeable, and it can seem confusing to a layperson who is trying to discern which professional is authorized to do what in which state. View the difference between a licensed and non-licensed nutritionist.

Registered Dietitians and Professions Regulated by the CDR

Certain food professionals are regulated by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) of the AND.
These include:

A Registered Dietitian (RD) may also be called a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). According to the CDR, as of January 31, 2022, there are 108,673 RDs and RDNs registered in the United States. Many states require dietitians and/or nutritionists to be registered with this organization in order to be licensed to practice there.

The terms Nutrition Dietetics Technician, Registered (NDTR) and Dietetic Technician Registered (DTR) both refer to the same profession, also regulated by the CDR. There are currently 4584 NDTRs and DTRs registered in the U.S.

State Regulations for Practicing Nutrition

The information provided on this map offers a simplified overview of intricate state laws and regulations. Choose a state to access a summarized version of its legislation. 

AL AK AZ AR CA CO CT DE FL GA HI ID IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MS MO MT NE NV NH NJ NM NY NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC SD TN TX UT VT VA WA WV WI WY DC

Individualized nutrition counseling, excluding medical nutrition therapy in select states, is legal for all. Certain states provide state licensure or certification opportunities for CNSs, RDs, and other proficient nutritionists.

Engaging in personalized nutrition counseling without proper licensure or exemption is illegal. However, there exists a route to obtaining licensure for CNSs, RDs, and other experienced nutritionists.

Engaging in personalized nutrition counseling without proper licensure or exemption is illegal, with licensure primarily limited to registered dietitians (RDs).

Additional food professional careers required to be registered with the CDR, and their current totals nationwide, are:

(0 – 1000 careers)

Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD)
967
Board Certified Specialist in Pediatric Nutrition (CSP)   
935
Board Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition (CSO)
839
Board Certified Specialist in Renal Nutrition (CSR)  
582
Board Certified Specialist in Obesity and Weight Management (CSOWM)  
560
Board Certified Specialist in Gerontological Nutrition (CSG)   
558
Board Certified in Pediatric Critical Care (CSPCC)  
95
Advanced Practice Certification in Clinical Nutrition (RDN-AP or RD-AP)  
89

Explore Degree Options in Nutrition

Associate's or Certificate Degree

Many entry-level positions in nutrition can be earned with an associate’s degree or a certificate in nutrition. Getting your associate’s degree is a great way to get...

Bachelor's Degree

If you are thinking of pursuing a nutrition bachelor’s degree, there are many formats available to you. Degrees are offered completely online, in a hybrid fashion...

Master's Degree

becoming a registered dietitian is merely one of the career options that those who have a master’s nutrition degree can seek. While many students pursuing a master’s...

Specialty Certifications for Registered Dietitians

Other organizations offer specialty certifications for RDs and RDNs who are interested in concentrating on a specific area of nutrition and dietetics. They include, but are not limited to:

  • International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals (IAEDP): This organization offers the certification of Registered Dietitian-Certified in Eating Disorders (CEDRD)
  • Certification Board for Diabetes Care and Education (CBDCE): This organization offers the Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES) credential
  • National Board of Nutrition Support Certification (NBNSC): This organization offers the Certified Nutrition Support Clinician (CNSC) certification

Nutritionists Certified Through the Clinical Nutrition Certification Board

The Clinical Nutrition Certification Board (CNCB) is another certifying body for licensed nutritionists. Some states accept nutritionist certification through this board for licensure to work there. Nutritionists certified by the CNCB may use the following credentials:

Certified Clinical Nutritionist (CCN)

Nutritionists Certified Through the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists

Some states accept nutritionist certification through the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists (BCNS) of the American Nutrition Association as valid for licensure to work there. The BCNS certifies professionals who use this title:

Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS)

They also offer specialty certifications, including:

Certified Ketogenic Nutrition Specialist (CKNS)

Certified Nutritional Genomics Specialist (CNGS)

Non-Licensed Nutritionists

Above, we covered the major credentialing bodies accepted by states who require dietitians and nutritionists to be licensed in order to work. Nutritionists, typically, should have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in order to practice. Some states, however, do not require this. We will now examine the non-licensed nutritionist. Non-licensed nutritionists may pursue education, or not, and may pursue credentials, or not, in order to be able to call themselves nutritionists.

Other Credentialing Bodies for Nutritionists

There are other credentials that nutritionists may pursue, although these are not necessarily aligned with state licensure requirements. Many of these certifications do not require a college degree to obtain. Some of them include:

National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)

Certified Nutrition Coach (NASM-CNC)

American Fitness Professionals and Associates (AFPA):

Autoimmune Holistic Nutrition Specialist

Holistic Nutritionist Certification

Nutrition & Wellness Consultant Certification

Nutritionist Consultant Certification – Master Level

Weight Management Specialist Certification

Sports Nutrition Certification

Senior Nutrition Specialist Certification

Youth Nutrition Specialist Certification

International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA):

Nutritionist

National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association (NESTA):

Sports Nutrition Specialist

Precision Nutrition Certification:

Level 1 Certification (PN1)

National Council on Strength & Fitness (NCSF):

Sports Nutrition Specialist (SNS)

In Which States Must Dietitians and Nutritionists Be Licensed?

According to the AND, as of 2022, in almost all states, either dietitians, dietitian nutritionists, or nutritionists must be licensed in order to practice. There are a few states that are exceptions to this rule.

States With No Licensing Statutes Regulating Dietitians and Nutritionists

In these states, no current regulations or laws exist that specify what type of education, training, licensure and/or certification dietitians and nutritionists must have in order to be licensed in that state. They include:

Arizona

Michigan

Keep in mind that, although the above states may not require dietitians and/or nutritionists to be licensed to legally work in that state, most dietitian jobs still specify that the candidates must be Registered Dietitians through the CDR.

States With Title Protection but No Formal State Regulations of Dietitians and/or Nutritionists

In these states, the titles of dietitian and/or nutritionist are restricted and only allowed to be used by certain credentialed professionals. No formal regulatory board exists for dietitians and/or nutritionists in these states, and no license is required to practice. They are:

California

Colorado

Virginia

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Nutritionist Requirements By State