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What’s the Difference Between a Dietician and a Doctor?

How do dieticians and doctors differ? Although the terms dietician and doctor are sometimes used interchangeably, there are some fundamental differences between the two. Both dieticians and doctors have an understanding of nutrition and nutrition-related health issues, but their educational experiences, as well as their types of employment, are very different from one another. If you have any more questions about the difference between dieticians and doctors this article will explain how these two professionals can differ.

Who is a Dietician?

Some people refer to dieticians as nutritionists or registered dietitians. All of these health care professionals work in similar ways, guiding proper nutrition. But what exactly is a dietician? What kind of training do they receive, and where do they work?  A dietician’s job is largely centred around improving patients’ diets.

This often includes working with people who are overweight or obese, individuals with diabetes or heart disease, senior citizens needing assistance managing their medications and daily diets, patients struggling with eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia, post-operative patients who need special dietary needs during recovery periods and many others.

Is A Dietician a Doctor or Not?

The medical practitioners’ Act says that only medical practitioners may use terms such as ‘doctor’ or ‘surgeon’. Some non-medical professionals may be allowed to use these terms by using post-nominal letters after their name, but they don’t need to do so. A dietitian registered with AHPRA is entitled to add ‘dietitian’, ‘dietician’ or ‘nutritionist’ to his/her name if he/she wants.

According to AHPRA, most organisations will automatically add ‘registered dietitian’ (RD) or RD(SA) following your name on business cards and other publications if you have your certificate with you when giving presentations. You can also ask about adding letters at registration. If we look at it in simple terms: ‘Doctor’ is an official title for someone who is registered as a medical practitioner in Australia and it indicates that he/she has been accepted by the Medical Board of Australia or comparable authority outside of Australia as being competent to practice medicine.

Similarly, ‘Dietitian’ is an official title for registered dietitians in Australia who have met specific criteria in training, experience and assessment determined by AHPRA. It indicates that they have been accepted by AHPRA as being competent to practise dietetics. Whether a nutritionist can be called a doctor: The answer to this question depends on whether you are talking about nutritionists registered with AHPRA or those not registered.

Is A Nutritionist an Alternative to Seeing a Doctor?

If you have health concerns, it’s best to see your doctor. A dietician can help identify nutritional deficiencies, but if you experience specific symptoms, it’s important to rule out any underlying diseases that could be causing them—that’s what your doctor is for. It can be tempting to skip out on seeing your physician because you think dieticians know more about nutrition than they do, but there are many reasons why you should see both a nutritionist and a doctor.

It’s important to see both your doctor and your dietician for different reasons. For example, if you see your doctor about weight loss or weight gain, they may recommend eating healthier food—but how do you get healthier food in your diet? Your doctor isn’t likely to provide recommendations on where to shop for groceries or what types of foods to buy. That’s where your dietician comes in.

Dieticians can provide information on what types of foods to eat, where to find them, how much to buy, and how often you should be eating. Your doctor may be able to prescribe you drugs if you’re overweight or obese, but your dietician is who can help determine whether or not it’s appropriate for you. Therefore, a nutritionist is no alternative to seeing a doctor.

That’s why doctors will usually refer patients to nutritionists before they consider surgery options. Surgical methods are typically reserved for those who have lost multiple pounds through proper diet and exercise without success over an extended period.

What’s The Difference Between a Dietician and A Doctor?

the main difference between a dietician and a doctor is that doctors are licensed physicians who typically prescribe medication to treat patients, although many of them specialize in one area of medicine. Dieticians, on the other hand, focus on nutrition, fitness and disease prevention.

That said, there’s some crossover – some medical professionals will also call themselves dietitians; additionally, any person with a Bachelor’s degree in nutrition or food services may refer to themselves as a dietitian after they pass their RD exam.

As mentioned earlier, both dieticians and doctors have similar skillsets when it comes to caring for patients. They both have extensive knowledge in anatomy and physiology which they use when diagnosing patients or prescribing treatment plans.

Most states don’t require dietitians to pass an exam to practice, as long as they have earned their degree from an accredited school. However, while licensing may not be required in all states, some things differ: for example, dietitians can’t prescribe medication or perform surgery like their doctor colleagues.

Dieticians Are Experts in Nutrition and Weight Loss Intervention

Dieticians educate people on healthy eating habits, guide patients through diet programs, and even help people choose healthier foods.  They don’t diagnose or treat medical conditions, but they are trained to understand how nutrition can affect certain conditions.

Dieticians often work in hospitals or clinical settings alongside doctors and nurses, helping clients make changes that will lead to long-term weight loss and health improvement.

When it comes to weight loss, your diet is just as important as your exercise regime. A skilled nutritionist will help you learn new eating habits that lead to long-term changes that leave you feeling better than ever. Finding a good, qualified dietician in your area can be tough; different states have different regulations for who can call themselves dieticians or nutritionists, and some states require licenses to practice.

All Dieticians Are Health Practitioners, But Not All Health Practitioners Are Dieticians.

Dieticians are health practitioners with an education in nutrition, but dieticians aren’t necessarily doctors. Many people confuse dieticians with nutritionists or nutrition counsellors. Although these all fall under health practitioners, they aren’t all on equal ground as far as their credibility as professionals go; there is some debate over whether a registered dietitian can use doctor in her title.

The terms nutrition counsellor and registered dietitian-nutritionist (RDN) are similar, so it can be confusing when it comes to distinguishing between those three job titles. Therefore, when looking for a professional make sure you know what each of these titles means and how each applies to your situation. This will help ensure that you see someone who provides truly qualified advice about your nutritional needs.


A dietician is different from a doctor, but that doesn’t mean either one isn’t competent. Both can be tremendously beneficial to your health. One may be better for you than another, depending on your specific situation. Be sure to do your research on who can help you most before making an appointment with anyone – even if they’re a nutritionist or dietician.


1. What are the benefits of going to a dietician?

Since they have extensive knowledge in their areas, you will get healthy food suggestions based on your body needs. Also, they can devise meal plans that help fight certain diseases like diabetes or high blood pressure, apart from helping you lose weight if that’s what you want

2. Are nutritionists’ doctors?

Ans. No, but some might choose to add ‘M.S., R.D., C.N.’ as an added designation next to their name just below their diplomas/degrees. These letters stand for ‘Master of Science,’ ‘Registered Dietitian’ and ‘Certified Nutritionist,’ respectively—and yes, these credentials mean they are doctors by training too.

3. Can a doctor be called a nutritionist?

A medical professional who has completed a 5-year residency program is called a physician. They would be trained to diagnose patients during their clinical rotations and prescribe medications. Most physician residencies include additional training in nutrition, which is why many physicians may also go on to practice as certified nutritionists after completing medical school.

4. What’s the difference between a registered dietitian and other nutrition experts?

Registered dietitians (RDs) are qualified to provide expert advice about healthful eating patterns that promote optimal health, disease prevention, treatment and recovery through eating well.

5. How do I know I’m working with a good dietician?

It can be difficult to gauge if you’re working with a good dietician. However, by asking some key questions, you’ll be able to determine who would best serve your needs as an individual; ask what their training is, how long they’ve been in practice.

6. Can a nutritionist prescribe medicine?

Nutritionists do not have prescribing rights. Doctors—and only doctors—are licensed to provide medicine and/or perform surgeries in their state of practice.


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