Understanding The Difference Between A Nutrition Coach And A Nutritionist

difference between nutrition coach and nutritionist

Though the two might sound similar, there is actually a distinct difference between a nutrition coach and a nutritionist when it comes to their responsibilities. We are here to explain both roles so you can decide which route you want to take if you’re interested in this as a career. 

We’ll discuss the following topics:

Before we get straight into it, if you’re ready to take the first step, check out OriGym's Nutrition Course. Find this and many other health and fitness courses in our downloadable course prospectus. 

Nutrition Coach Vs Nutritionist: What Qualifications Do They Hold?

First off, to get going in the nutrition industry in any capacity, you must have the correct qualifications. That being said, let’s take a look at what the requirements are for both a nutrition coach vs a nutritionist.

What Qualifications Does A Nutritionist Have?

difference between nutrition coach and nutritionist

In comparison to the term ‘nutrition coach', who will typically have a vocational qualification, a ‘registered nutritionist’ will generally have a degree level of education behind them. 

However, you may often see the title ‘nutritionist’ still used for professionals who aren’t registered nor have a degree which can make the lines a little blurry. 

So, for the purpose of this article we are referring to Registered Nutritionists as 'nutritionists' and those who aren't registered as a 'nutrition coach' to make it clear.

Some of the recognised degree titles that a Registered Nutritionist could have may include but are not limited to:

  • Human nutrition
  • Public health nutrition
  • Nutrition and public health
  • Food and nutrition

The UKVRN (UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists) holds a list of all accredited nutritionists, and to be a part of this, you’ll need a formally recognised qualification. 

In order to become a registered nutritionist and get onto the UKVRN, you would be required to demonstrate that you have a degree or, as they put it - “be able to demonstrate significant professional experience at the equivalent of honours-degree level in nutrition science (usually a minimum of seven years)

Registering this way means you can advertise your services as:

  • Registered Nutritionist, RNutr
  • Registered Associate Nutritionist, ANutr

You will also be able to gain public listings on UKVRN of registered status, which allows you to show off your reliability and works as a recognition from a regulator which will help potential clients find you.

The Qualifications A Nutrition Coach Holds

the difference between nutrition coach and nutritionist

On the other hand, comparing a certified nutrition coach vs nutritionist the term ‘registered’ makes all the difference and is how potential clients can tell the difference between the educational background between the two titles.

A nutrition coach typically has vocational training, meaning they would have a level 4 qualification such as a level 4 in advanced sports nutrition.

Many nutrition coaches pair this kind of qualification with complementary courses in similar disciplines to enhance their level of education and improve employability prospects.

For example, a level 3 diploma in personal training has a module on nutrition, which can be furthered by the aforementioned level 4 in nutrition. The reason for this combination is the implementation. 

By completing this personal trainer course and holding their vocational nutrition qualification, a nutrition coach can provide clients with informed advice on training and eating right. This is ultimately going to provide an improved service for clients. 

The two blend nicely together, which is why it is a popular option to do both courses to offer a more fulfilling services to clients - for example, this PT below does just that and combines the two, you can see her services here:

difference between nutritionist and nutrition coach

The two of course work hand in hand, you simply cannot out-run a bad diet so this is when a vocational additional course to somebody who is already in the fitness industry can be hugely beneficial.

Nutritionist vs Nutrition Coach: Where Do They Work?

There is a stark difference between nutritionist and nutrition coach working environments due to the fact that there are varied levels of responsibility and limitations for both career choices. First, we’ll see where nutritionists work:

Where do Nutritionists Work?

what's difference between nutritionist and nutrition coach

Nutritionists can work in a clinical or non-clinical environment, so there are a huge array of potential job options. 

Take a look at the list that Prospects puts forward below, this is for people who have a nutrition degree or equivalent experience could potentially go on to do:

nutritionist job description

As you can see, some of these may be more so progression opportunities, yet they are still jobs that you could use your nutritionist degree as a stepping stone at the very least. 

Also note, that these may not always be in the fitness industry, which is why those who want to combine nutrition with sport directly would often opt for a sports nutrition course since the content of this course is specific to this relationship.

For these prospective job roles, you could expect to work in the following environments as a nutritionist:

  • Schools
  • Colleges and universities
  • Food industry manufacturers and retailers
  • Gyms, leisure centres and health clubs
  • Virtually / remotely

The locations in which you can work as a nutritionist are widely spread, or at least grant you the ability to climb the ladder and gain further qualifications if you want to go on to be a dietician for example.


Kick off your Career as a Nutrition Coach with OriGym!

Take the first step into starting your dream career with OriGym by taking a level 4 course in advanced sports nutrition!

Where do Nutrition Coaches Work?

nutrition coach vs nutritionist

On the other hand, you have nutrition coaches, who often work in the following places: 

  • Voluntary roles
  • Community outreach projects 
  • Gyms and health centres
  • Remotely or virtually (you can run an online nutrition coaching business)

A hugely popular approach to nutrition coaching is taking the online route, becoming an online nutritionist and running your own business. 

There is a reason why this is such a popular entry route into the industry, it essentially is a cheaper and faster way to the same, if not better, career prospects and salary than taking a degree.

There is a common misconception that you have to have a degree or higher education to be successful as a nutrition coach, but it simply isn't the case.

This is especially true if you're willing to write a nutrition business plan and start your own company, since as the business owner, you can determine what qualifications you want your employees to have! 

Whether you offer exclusively want to create meal plans for clients, offering with 1-2-1 meetings and nutrition support, or you offer nutrition plans as part of a wider personal training business, there are multiple possibilites for job opportunties.


For some more resources on a career in the dietary industry, head over to these articles below:

Understanding The Difference Between Nutrition Coach And Nutritionist Roles

nutritionist vs nutrition coach job roles

Another factor you need to think about when it comes to assessing the jobs of a nutritionist vs a nutrition coach are the roles you will have to undertake as while some are similar, there are some limitations for both that you should be aware of.

Something that you do need to remember though, is that there are large crossovers between both titles. Meaning that the common roles of a nutrition coach will often seep into the roles of a registered nutritionist and vice versa. 

You can see this more clearly in our examples below.

The Roles A Nutritionist Will Undertake

Nutritionists have vast responsibility, and while this can differ from a nutrition coach's day to day, it can also look pretty similar to and will require responsibilities that will often link to the physicality of fitness. 

You can see this below in this example job role, that a nutritionist will work with people who either need their expertise independently or for a sports team - like this example job role below:

nutritionist vs nutrition coach job roles

You can see that there are heaps of responsibilities that come with being a performance nutritionist, including contributing to the development of sports teams. 

This is a different level of responsibility, since you have the workload of keeping a sports team intact. This might mean working with other professionals that help clients and maintaining certain standards if you’re working in a prestigious club.

The roles of a nutritionist are ultimately more work-load heavy and often require more responsibility due to the fact that you must be at a degree level to actually be employed or operate as a nutritionist. 

That being said, you should think about what you want for your career, as it is unlikely you’d be able to work on other career prospects, say personal training perhaps, if you had the responsibility of a rugby team. 

While this might be some peoples goal, some may want more freedom within their career, which makes vocational courses a good option too.

What Roles Does A Nutrition Coach Have?

nutritionist vs nutrition coach job responsibilities

The role of a nutrition coach is a little more conventional, in the sense that as a coach, you’re expected to work in roles that only offer advice, guidance and coaching in a nutshell. The majority of responsibilities include:

  • Consultations about lifestyle habits in relation to food
  • Basic body measurements, E.G, height, weight, BMI, body fat and composition
  • Providing informed advice and encouraging change
  • Coaching clients to elevate their sports performance with the correct nutrition
  • Referring to higher professionals when necessary.


Kick off your Career as a Nutrition Coach with OriGym!

Take the first step into starting your dream career with OriGym by taking a level 4 course in advanced sports nutrition!

To make it a little more clear, the roles that you cannot undertake as a nutrition coach include jobs such as:

  • Planning and distributing / prescribing diet plans
  • Putting clients on a specific diet
  • Dispensing / prescribing supplements or medication
  • Diagnosing or treating eating disorders
  • Diagnosing or treating any medical conditions

These are out of your scope of practice, the roles within your means are simply the aforementioned activities. 

You can still be an effective input on clients in terms of coaching, guidance and advice can be just what a client needs, particularly if you’re aware of their goals. 

If they’re on a fitness journey themselves and are working with a personal trainer, you could be a great help to them if you’re qualified in advanced sports nutrition since this includes education with a direct link between activity and nutrition. 

Nutrition Coach vs Nutritionist: Salary Expectations

Aside from where and how both the difference between a nutrition coach and nutritionist lie, there is the ultimate question of income. So, below you can find what to expect of each professional salary.

The Average Salary a Nutritionist Earns

certified nutrition coach vs nutritionist

A key difference between a nutritionist and nutrition coach are the salary expectations. 

You should expect varied ways of gaining income, which doesn’t necessarily mean that one earns more than the other. 

Often, nutritionists are hired, this doesn’t mean that freelance nutritionist don’t exist, they do, but an attractive motive for those who want to get into the industry is the fact that they’re able to have a bracketed salary, like this job below:

certified nutrition coach vs nutritionist

This is with the NHS, where you’re expected to earn in and around £25,000 to £35,000 a year. 

Though this can still be a great career path, earnings are going to be capped in a role such as this, which is why many people take the route of a nutritionist coaching role because you can earn as much as possible that way on your own accord.

Nonetheless, it is subjective to the kind of career that you want to pursue, whether this is in private health institutions, the NHS or a self-employed path. 

If you do want a higher salaried role as a nutritionist, you should look for sports team roles, just like the one we spoke about earlier. Particularly in sports clubs higher up, as a nutritionist your salary could be higher, so keep this in mind when job searching. 

You should also keep in mind that these jobs don’t come around all that often, in fact you’ll probably have a faster journey into the nutrition industry as a freelance nutrition coach because like we mentioned earlier, experience is often much more valuable.

Nutrition Coach Salary Expectations

certified nutrition coach vs nutritionist

The salary of a nutrition coach is slightly different as many people in this role take the approach of being freelance in conjunction with other career paths like PTing, like this nutrition coach below:

certified nutrition coach vs nutritionist

You can see how paired together, this could rack up an extremely healthy income since these are the prices per client.

On the other hand, while there isn’t an overwhelming amount of job roles for nutrition coaches alone, there are many jobs that combine a fitness coaching role and a nutrition coaching role into one which is another option if you take the vocational qualification route.

For example, take a look at this job description below for just that:

certified nutrition coach vs nutritionist

As you can see, this offers a healthy income of approximately starting at £2,000 a month, but you would likely have to obtain at least a level 2 in gym instruction first to combine with your nutrition qualification. 

This will make you more qualified for the position and give you a head start against those who don’t have this combination of certifications.

However, if you’re looking to become a freelance nutrition coach, you can expect to earn much more since your earnings are uncapped. Paired with personal training, you could earn way beyond the limitations of a salaried role of a nutritionist.

Before You Go…

Hopefully you feel more clear on the difference between a nutrition coach and nutritionist, it can be easy for the lines to get blurred, but if you take your route and keep within your limitations, you’ll thrive!

If you’re ready to take the first step and get going with a qualification, be sure to find out more about OriGym’s L4 course in advanced sports nutrition today! Find this and more in our downloadable course prospectus. 

Written by Kimberley Mitchell


Having gained a B.A Hons degree in Media, Culture and Communications, Kimberley has gained experience in areas of web journalism, website production and marketing.

Alongside this, Kim expanded her knowledge and passion for fitness, by becoming a fully qualified fitness instructuor and personal trainer. Kim has also gained specialist qualifications in yoga, nutriton, spin and many more.

After working in the industry as a PT, Kimberley went on to study an MA in Digital Marketing and continues to expand her knowledge in the industry. Her main focus is to keep up with current trends and communications with a focus around health & fitness, writing and being creative.

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