Do You Know the Difference? Registered Dietitian (RD) Board-certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS, LDN)

Adding to the confusion on the topic of nutrition is the heavy marketing of individuals promoting themselves as nutritionists, nutrition experts and more.

Starting with the difference between registered dietitians and board certified nutrition specialists, I am hopeful this will clear up some confusion regarding education, background and board certified professionals.

Registered dietitian (RD): RDs have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited university. Dietitians spend 1,200 hours in a dietetic internship through an accredited program. About half of RDs work in hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices and extended-care facilities or nursing homes. They are trained in all aspects of food handing in a commercial facility and are credentialed by the Commission on Dietetic Registration. RD’s are not required to acquire education beyond the bachelor’s degree for certification.

Certified nutrition specialist (CNS): Must have a master’s degree in nutrition or a doctorate in nutrition or a doctorate in clinical health care from a regionally accredited university as well as 1,000 hours of supervised experience. They must pass a four-hour board exam focused on medical nutrition therapy. Certified and licensed nutrition specialists often work in clinics, private practice or community settings. They are credentialed by the National Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists (CBNS.)

Note: Only those who have passed the CBNS board exams and met the professional experience required, can legally add the letters CNS after their name.

Sometimes causing confusion, other titles are awarded from organizations offering certificates in nutrition ranging anywhere from 6 weeks to one year (mainly online.)

Upon completion of the program, the title of Health Coach, Lifestyle Medicine Coaching, Healthy Living Coach and others are given. National board exams, internships, bachelor or master’s degree are not required.