top of page
  • Linnette Johnson

Here's the Difference & Why It Matters- Registered Dietitians Vs Certified Nutritionist Specialists (can't lump all Nutritionists as the same...)

Unfortunately, the article below is not uncommon and very harmful due to its generalization and misinformation to my profession and others with CNS credentials. They contain misinformation/generalizations for various reasons, which may be a post for another day.

So let's break this down--

*RDs/RDNs have been around longer- can't change this, but there are two paths to do the work around nutrition now.

* There are more RDs/RDNs than CNSs, but CNSs are climbing in numbers.

*RD/RDN title is protected

*RD/RDN is recognized by the Dept of Education (we're working on this, but it doesn't lessen the CNS credential, requirements, or education at all).

Before 2024--

*RD/RDNs only had to have 900-hour internships and a bachelor's degree in dietitics...

*CNSs had to have a 1000-hour internship and a master's degree in nutrition.

Both require 75 CEs to keep credentials, not including license CE requirements...

Now, as of 01/01/2024--

*RD/RDN requirements reflect the CNS's requirements that we were required to achieve from the beginning-- however, their master's degrees don't have to be in nutrition or dietetics if their 4-year degree was... a CNS still has to have a master's degree in human nutrition. Both still require 75 CEs to keep credentials, not including license CE requirements...

So, another way to understand the difference between the RD/RDN credential and the CNS credential is like comparing MDs to DOs--- RD/RDNs & MDs are taught traditional Western medical aspects like feeding tubes. In contrast, CNSs & DOs are taught root cause aspects through an integrative and functional lens.

Another aspect to understand is that RD/RDNs and CNSs are licensed by the same licensing board- in most states that license both-- this could be LDN or LN /LD ...

CNSs are governed by state laws just like RD/RDNs.... CNSs can provide medical nutrition therapy like an RD/RDN, and CNSs can take insurance, etc., but it depends on the state laws....

For example, using me-

I am a CNS licensed in Maryland, Delaware, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Florida, and I take Carefirst (Maryland) and Cigna insurance. I work in a position previously given to RD/RDNs at the State of Maryland, which I have been doing for almost a year-- my position has expanded to more as of 02/01/2024.... and more is changing...

Again, the only difference between me and someone with an RD/RDN credential is that I can't provide feeding tube aspects once I take a course on feeding tubes. Then, it's in my scope of practice, plus how the state governs our credentials can sometimes be different too- more and more are governing us similarly.

With that said, social media and the internet sometimes provide half-truths and generalized information. It's shocking, right?

So here is my PSA-- make sure you are pulling information and educating yourself with entirely valid and informed resources- and always check a professional's credentials ...

CNSs and RD/RDNs are both needed.... there is enough room in the field of healthcare for all of us... look for a CNS or RD/RDN if you are looking for guidance with nutrition, hydration, meal planning, medication interactions with foods, supplements, and more... not everyone has the required education.... some without the CNS credential that uses the "nutritionist" title aren't all the same ...

Be aware, ask questions, and advocate for yourself always!

Okay, I am stepping down from my advocacy soapbox...

If you are a CNS or CNS intern... keep going-- change is and will happen as we work together!


The article below is the catalyst for the above response-


bottom of page