UCL Faculty of Medical Sciences


What is the difference between a Dietician and a Nutritionist?

Although both are healthcare professionals, the titles 'Dietitian' and 'Nutritionist' are often incorrectly interchanged. The main difference is the training and licensing that applies to each title.

The title of a Registered Dietitian (RD) is protected by law, and practitioners must be registered with the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC).

To become a Registered Dietitian, you need to complete an accredited bachelor’s degree and then a Master's in Dietetics or a Doctorate.

Registered Dietitians are qualified to work with both sick and healthy patients. They assess, diagnose, and provide treatment regarding dietary problems within individuals or communities.

See our MSc Dietetics (pre-registration)

What Dieticians do

Dietitians play a vital role in improving health outcomes for individuals and communities.

Hospital settings: dieticians provide nutritional expertise and encouragement to help inpatients get the best nutritional care to optimise their response to treatment, manage symptoms, support their recovery, and sometimes to ensure a good end-of-life experience.

Outpatient clinics: dieticians offer specialist dietary advice to people with complex nutritional needs. This might include supporting people before and after surgery, and providing expert nutritional advice and motivational support to help people reach and maintain a healthy weight. Dieticians also support people with medical conditions such as diabetes, liver and kidney disease, food allergies and intolerances, neurological conditions, and gut problems.

Community settings: dietitians work with GPs, hospices, care homes, schools, and workplaces to ensure nutritional health advising and supporting groups and individuals and working with catering providers to ensure that menus meet nutritional needs. This work is essential to prevent as well as treat disease.

Sports and leisure industry: dietitians assess and support the needs of elite athletes and those involved in recreational sports and fitness.

Media: dietitians produce engaging and factual articles, podcasts, videos and items for television and radio shows, so the public has access to evidence-based practical information about good nutrition.

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The title of Registered Nutritionist is granted to registrants with the UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists (UKVRN).

Registered Nutritionists are qualified to provide nutritional information and advice as experts in nutritional science, to both individuals and communities.

By completing an advanced degree such as a master’s in nutrition and/or doctorate programme, Registered Nutritionists can continue to become researchers and educators in the field of nutrition.

Although completing an MSc in Nutrition does not lead to registration to practice as a dietitian, it provides foundations to pursue this career path. MSc Nutrition graduates will have the opportunity to gain entry to Dietetics courses.

See our Nutrition degrees