First thing’s first — There are major differences between a nutritionist, health coach and Registered Dietitian. Neither a nutritionist nor a health coach are equivalent to a Registered Dietitian. In order to decide if becoming a Registered Dietitian is right for you, it’s important to understand the basis of distinction between each of these titles and the training required to earn your title.
A Registered Dietitian, abbreviated ‘RD’, is a state licensed professional accredited by the CDR. RDs are qualified to provide nutrition counseling, work in clinical settings (hospitals, nursing homes, etc.), and advise the general population on nutrition guidelines. RDs undergo two years of DPD (didactic programs in dietetics) coursework and 1200 hours of supervised dietetic practice to be eligible to sit for the RD exam. Once a dietitian passes the exam, he/she becomes a state-licensed healthcare professional.
What’s the difference between a nutritionist and a dietitian?
Are they the same thing?
No, no, no! A dietitian is a nutritionist, but a nutritionist is not a dietitian. A nutritionist is anyone who has studied nutrition in some capacity. That could be a paid course or even reading a book on nutrition. There is no formal regulation on the term nutritionist, yet. Us dietitians are hoping for a change, so consumers aren’t misled.
What is a health coach?
How do I become one?
A health coach is also not a dietitian. A health coach might call themselves a nutritionist, but it essentially means nothing as it relates to a dietitian. A health coach is someone who takes a course, there are a few, and at the end is rewarded a piece of paper that reads Certified Health Coach. It’s not an official certification. It’s a private organization who put those words together and dubbed themselves as a verification program.
While I don’t believe a health coach has the proper skill, knowledge, or training to see clients, I do think there’s added value to the continuing education and scope of knowledge the program covers in addition to a RD license or nutrition degree. If you are interested in becoming a health coach, you can click this link for my discount. Fun fact: I was the youngest person to join the IIN health coaching program at the time (17!) — close to when they first began back in 2012.
How do I become a Registered Dietitian?
Step #1: Enroll in a DPD program. Here is a list of approved programs. You can do this in your undergrad or as a Master’s. The program you choose must be a DPD program, so you are eligible to apply for your dietetic internship and take the exam after.
Step #2: Apply for a Dietetic Internship. Once you receive your verification statement from the DPD coursework program, you are eligible to start applying to different internship programs. This is a 1200-hour unpaid program with four rotations: Clinical, Food Service, Community, and Elective. It varies by programs. I attended a distance program, which meant I had to find my own preceptors. There are so many options, see dietetic internship programs here.
Step #3: Take the RD exam. Once you complete the internship, you can apply for your exam. This will require a lot of studying. I recommend you begin studying halfway through your internship. You can take the exam multiple times, but must wait 45 days in between test taking. Once you pass, you’re off to the races!
There are so many options available to you once you obtain your license. A few career paths include working clinically (this is where many people start their career), at a private practice counseling patients (usually best after one year of clinical), or working at a private brand as an in-house RD (think brands like Kind Snacks or Siggi’s yogurt). The opportunities are endless and the field is growing. People will never tire of food and becoming the best possible versions of themselves from the inside out.
I’m here to answer any questions you have. Good luck on your journey.