Nutritionist or dietitian. What's the difference?
Nutritionists are qualified to provide evidence-based advice on matters relating to food and its impact on human health. Nutritionists mostly work in group or community settings and often have a focus on community and population health. They're able to provide expert advice and services across a range of sectors such as the food industry, public and community health, media, government and education.
Many current healthcare professionals including fitness professionals, nurses and psychologists choose to study nutrition to complement their area of expertise, broaden their knowledge and acquire the skills to provide further advice to their patients and clients. Fitness professionals study nutrition to gain an understanding of food sciences to complement their exercise expertise, whereas psychologists may see the benefit in studying nutrition to gain in depth knowledge about how our diet can affect our mental health.
Dietitians may work in any of the same settings and roles as nutritionists, however, they have additional accredited qualifications that allow them to work one-on-one with patients in a clinical context, including in hospitals, private clinics and residential care centres. Dietitians are able to provide individuals with medical advice and medical nutrition therapy, and are able to prescribe treatments for many conditions such as diabetes, allergies, cancer and obesity.
To practise as a dietitian in Australia, you must become accredited by Dietitians Australia (as an Accredited Practising Dietitian).
Nutritionists can register with the Nutrition Society of Australia.
Explore careers in nutrition
Nutritionists graduate with the skills and knowledge to work in a range of health-related roles ranging from quality assurance and consulting to marketing and education.
A nutritionist may often function as the intermediary between a company and the public, and have the opportunity to improve the health of the population by analysing and having an impact on food supply. Careers in the food industry can span areas including:
- food analysis and product development
- food technology and science
- sensory evaluation.
Media and marketing
Nutritionists working in media and marketing may work as a media liaison or as a food commentator for radio and television, or may write and edit nutrition-related content for social media, websites, books and magazines.
Nutrition research and education
If you dream of being an expert in your field and have an appetite to understand topics in depth and improve society's understanding of health, you may like to pursue a career in nutrition research. You have the opportunity to publish your work and travel the world conducting research in your chosen field. Work in universities, hospitals, research institutes and in the food industry as an academic researcher.
Public health nutrition
Public health nutritionists aim to prevent disease and illnesses in communities by encouraging people to live healthier lifestyles and promote equal access to health care and health systems. Public health nutritionists work in areas such as:
- community education and development
- policy and guideline development.
Self-employment and consulting
A nutritionist can provide various consulting services to government agencies in public or community health, or private businesses such as gyms, PR agencies and weight loss companies. They can have a focus on corporate wellbeing, or be a weight loss consultant, lifestyle health consultant, or a public speaker engaging in healthy eating and wellbeing seminars.
Working as a nutritionist
Can I work as a dietitian with a nutrition qualification?
A dietitian can work in the same roles and settings as nutritionists, however, nutritionists can't work in some of the settings or perform the work of a clinical dietitian. All dietitians can also be classified as nutritionists but nutritionists can't be classified as dietitians. If you've completed a nutrition qualification such as a Bachelor of Nutrition Science or a Master of Human Nutrition, you can work as a nutritionist only.
Can I become accredited as a nutritionist?
There's no official accrediting body for nutritionists. However, as a nutritionist you're able to apply for registration with the Nutrition Society of Australia.
Can I work in a clinical setting such as a hospital?
Nutritionists can work in many different capacities – mostly with groups in community settings with a focus on population health. However, unless you have a dietetics qualification, you won't be able to work in clinical settings, including engaging in one-on-one consultations with hospital patients.
I thought the Master of Dietetics was the ideal way for me to channel my passion for health and nutrition into a challenging, exciting and meaningful career.
Master of Dietetics and Bachelor of Food and Nutrition student
Explore careers in dietetics
Your qualification in dietetics will open doors to a range of career opportunities. You could find yourself assisting government bodies with food regulation policies, educating your community on the importance of diet or even working for your favourite sporting clubs as a sports dietitian.
Clinical dietitians work as part of a healthcare team in hospitals and residential care centres, and are responsible for assessing the nutritional needs of patients/residents, planning appropriate diets, and educating patients and families about dietary change. Clinical dietitians specialise in a wide range of patient areas including malnutrition, cancer (oncology) and children (paediatrics).
Consultancy and private practice
Dietitians can provide consultancy services to individuals, groups and organisations including individual counselling, group programs, preventive health programs and nutrition education. Dietitians also prepare nutritional information for publication, work with the media through public relations or even establish their own business.
Food service dietitians are responsible for large-scale food planning and service. They coordinate, assess and plan food service processes in healthcare facilities, school food service programs and prisons. Areas of employment can include menu assessment and planning, food service consulting and hospitality and catering.
Media and marketing
Dietitians working in media and marketing may work as a media liaison, a food commentator for radio or television, or even write and edit nutrition-related content for social media, websites, books and magazines.
Public health and nutrition
Dietitians can be involved in nutrition and health education programs at a community or population level, and may assist with health planning, setting nutritional standards and developing nutrition policies. Among the many roles graduates could take on are as a public health dietitian, community dietitian or nutrition coordinator.
Research and education
Graduates wanting to work in research could work as an academic research in teams investigating nutrition and health issues to develop nutrition recommendations. Dietitians in this area are also involved in the training of student dietitians, doctors and other health professionals.
Sports dietitians are fully qualified dietitians who have completed further education in sports nutrition. They can work in areas including health promotion, coaching, sporting clubs and community health. Prior knowledge of sports, physiotherapy or clinical exercise physiology could be an advantage to following this career pathway.
Working as a dietitian
Do I need to be accredited to work as a dietitian?
To practise as an accredited practising dietitian (APD) in Australia, you must become accredited by Dietitians Australia. Deakin's Master of Dietetics is fully accredited, meaning graduates are eligible to join the APD program.
Does a dietitian need different qualifications to a nutritionist?
Yes, to become a dietitian you need to complete a dietetics qualification (such as the Master of Dietetics), which has full accreditation from Dietitians Australia.
Can I work in a one-on-one clinical environment?
Yes, as a dietitian you can work in clinical environments such as hospitals, and work one-on-one with patients.
Can I apply for a Medicare provider number?
Yes, an accredited practising dietitian can apply for a Medicare provider number.
Courses and pathways
To begin your journey towards a career as a nutritionist or dietitian, you can study an undergraduate course such as:
- Bachelor of Nutrition Science
- Bachelor of Nutrition Science (Dietetics Pathway)
- Bachelor of Exercise and Sport Science
- Bachelor of Health Sciences.
Each course includes options to undertake nutrition-related major sequences including sports nutrition, nutrition and food studies and food innovation.
Deakin's undergraduate courses can be used as a pathway to further study in nutrition, or to become a dietitian. Deakin's Master of Dietetics holds 60% of places for Deakin undergraduate students seeking further study. Students who want to pursue a career in dietetics should seek advice from a course adviser early in their undergraduate degree to ensure they meet all the prerequisites needed to study dietetics.
If you're after a career change, are a current allied health professional looking to upskill, or you're wishing to pursue further study in nutrition, we recommend one of our postgraduate courses specialising in human nutrition:
- Graduate Certificate of Human Nutrition
- Graduate Diploma of Human Nutrition
- Master of Human Nutrition.
If your ultimate goal is to become an APD, you'll need to complete our Master of Dietetics, which you can do in just 18 months.
Those wanting to pursue the Master of Dietetics must have an undergraduate degree in a relevant cognate area and must demonstrate learning in human biosciences (biochemistry and human physiology), and food and nutrition science (such as the principles of nutrition lifespan nutrition, diet and disease and food sciences).
For more specific entry requirements, visit the entry requirements section on your relevant course page.