Understanding the Alphabet Soup of Nutrition Credentials

On blogs and social media, you run into a lot of different acronyms. I get a lot of questions about the letters after people's names, such as RDN, CNS, CNSC,  and CDE. 
You might be wondering, "What do these mean? Which professional is the right one for me? Can I trust them?"
I'll help you sort through these questions...
But first, you want to know the difference between a nutritionist and a dietitian, visit my previous post on that topic. 
What do these acronyms mean?
APD = Accredited Practising Dietitian

This is not an acronym used by dietitians in the U.S.A., but Americans may run into this acronym when connecting with bloggers and social media influencers from Australia. I know I have. This credential is comparable to a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist in the U.S.A. These professionals
have a Bachelor's or Master's degree in nutrition through a program approved by the Australian Dietetics Council.

CDE = Certified Diabetes Educator
This professional has been certified through the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators.
Many healthcare providers can complete this certification, including nurses, physical therapists, psychologists, podiatrists, and social workers. They are not required to have a degree in nutrition or dietetics. CDEs don't always provide nutrition advice. The area of diabetes education they focus on may depend on their field. For example, a CDE nurse might teach clients how to test their blood sugar and inject insulin, whereas a CDE physical therapist might focus on how exercise can affect blood sugar or how to walk again after a leg amputation from diabetic complications.



CNS = Certified Nutrition Specialist
This term is used by professionals who have taken an exam through the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists. They are required to have a Master's or Doctorate degree in a healthcare-field, but they are not required to have a degree in nutrition or dietetics.

 CNSC = Certified Nutrition Support Clinician
This credential is used by professionals who passed an exam administered by the National Board of Nutrition Support Certification. This exam focuses on enteral and parenteral nutrition, better known as tube feedings and IV nutrition. This means they specialize in helping people who can't eat food. For this reason, they may not be the best source of advice for all nutrition needs. Although some CNSCs are dietitians, CNSCs may also be nurses, physician's assistants, doctors, or pharmacists.


CNP = Certified Nutrition Professional (CNP)
This is a credential through the National Association of Nutrition Professionals. Certified Nutrition Professionals must have a Bachelor's degree or higher in Nutrition and 1200 hours experience prior to taking the board exam.

DTR = Dietetic Technician, Registered
NDTR = Nutrition and Dietetic Technician, Registered
These acronyms are interchangeable. Both titles mean the professional is credentialed through the Committee on Dietetic Registration. Although this committee also credentials Registered Dietitians, DTRs are not dietitians. DTRs may only have an Associate's degree in nutrition or they may have a higher degree but not completed the dietetic internship or passed the board exam to become a dietitian. Often, DTRs are supervised by a dietitian.


LDN = Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist
Some states require Registered Dietitians to also be licensed within the state. Depending on the state, this may require additional continuing education credits or other training not required to be a Registered Dietitian. For example, in Pennsylvania, Licensed Dietitian Nutritionists (and other healthcare professionals) must complete training on recognizing and reporting child abuse.

RD = Registered Dietitian 
RDN = Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
These acronyms are interchangeable. A professional using this acronym is credentialed through the Committee on Dietetic Registration (CDR) in U.S.A. and Canada. The acronym RD is also used by the British Dietetic Association a.k.a. The Association of UK Dietitians. In the U.S., a RD or RDN has either a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in Nutrition or Dietetics, completed at least 1400 hours experience in an internship, and has taken the board exam to become a RDN. To remain a dietitian, they complete 70 continuing education credits every 5 years.


 I've heard RDs are the best source for nutrition advice. Can I trust all of these professionals?
Probably. I can't speak for every single person with these credentials; there will always be a few bad seeds, so to speak. However, all of these healthcare professionals are required to have college degrees and must pass a board exam testing their knowledge. So, they probably are knowledgeable within their field.

Which professional is the right one for me?
That depends on why you want or need nutrition advice. People struggling with diabetes may want to talk to a CDE. Someone with a tube feeding may receive more relevant advice from a CNSC. If you're just looking for general healthy eating advice, a RD or RDN an help you.


Ask me below, if you have any other questions.

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