How to work as a dietitian-nutritionist abroad II

This article is a continuation of the article How to work as a dietitian-nutritionist abroad  and explains the particularities of the health system in the United Kingdom.

Differences between Registered Dietitian (RD), Registered Nutritionist (RN) and Dietetic Assistant (DSW)

First of all, I would like to thank those of you who have shown so much interest in the previous article and have contacted you to obtain more information.

In response to your request for questions, I have selected one of them since they have been the most frequent due to the differences between the two countries in terms of the profession.

These are the differences between Registered Dietitian (RD), Registered Nutritionist (RN) and Dietitian Assistant (DSW).

Something to keep in mind before starting:

To answer the first question, the British Dietitians Association (BDA) has kindly allowed me to use the content of their publications, keeping in mind that these are regularly updated in order to adapt to the continuous changes that the profession and the British National Health Service (NHS). They advise us to use the website for future modifications.

Differences between Registered Dietitian (RD), Registered Nutritionist (RN) and Dietetic Assistant (DSW)

Although in Spain we use the term Dietitian-Nutritionist or Nutritionist to refer to diplomas / degrees in Human Nutrition and Dietetics, in the United Kingdom they are different professions. On the other hand, the title of Technician in Nutrition and Dietetics in Spain does not exist as such in the United Kingdom. This means that Nutrition and Dietetic Technicians will not have the skills to practice in the UK as Registered Dietitians.

It is important to be clear about the differences to avoid confusion, disappointment and loss of job opportunities, as many of you have told me.

The following table describes the characteristics of each profession in the United Kingdom and which degrees are suitable to practice in the different professional options.


  Registered Dietitians Registered nutritionists Dietetic Helpers
Title protected by law and governed by a code of professional ethics and professional standards Yes.Through the HCPC.

Only those registered with the HCPC and that appear in its database may be called Registered Dietitians and exercise as such.


Not.Only registered nutritionists with UKVRN (UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists) can be called Registered Nutritionists.


By law, Nutritionists are not allowed to use the title of Dietitians, or to call themselves Dietitians for their practice.

It does not require a specific degree. 

They are governed by the codes of professional conduct outlined by the British Association of Dietitians.

Required academic trainingTo exercise The diploma or degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics is required proving that the requirements demanded by the HCPC are met. Courses that meet strict nutrition standards and are recognized by the Association for Nutrition (AfN). 

The AfN in turn regulates the UKVRN,


Baccalaureate or professional training in health areas. 

Work experience in health, social services is highly valued.


Training completed in Spain and suitable to practice in the United Kingdom  Diploma or degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics. 

Bachelor’s / Bachelor’s Degree in Health Sciences with a postgraduate degree in Dietetics (the latter being studied in the United Kingdom).


Diploma or degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics. 

Technicians in Human Nutrition and Dietetics


Bachelor’s Degree in Health Sciences 


Diploma or degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics 

Technicians in Human Nutrition and Dietetics


Bachelor’s Degree in Health Sciences


Regulation organism Yes – HCPC.There is an obligation to maintain an ongoing professional development portfolio that demonstrates adherence to professional standards. No, it is not a legal requirement to be registered with the UKVRN. 

But there is an obligation to maintain a portfolio of continued professional development.

No, however the British Association of Dietitians through the professional development committee has outlined a code of conduct and standards which include Dietitian Assistants. 
Professional body BDA – British Association of Dietitians.  AfN – Association for Nutrition which also regulates UKVRN.  BDA – British Association of Dietitians.
Where do they work The main area of ​​action of RDs is the NHS, both in primary and specialized care. 

It is also common its presence in public health, media, sports, schools, collective catering companies as well as in the food industry and private practice as Freelance RD


In non-clinical areas:sports, media, food industry, animal nutrition, public health and in public administration. More and more are hired on the NHS Mostly for Nutrition and Dietetics departments in the NHS under the guidelines of Registered Dietitians. 

The activities to be carried out vary depending on the work area within a Nutrition and Dietetics department.



What treatments do they offer Assessments of nutritional states in health and in disease.Identification of nutritional risks and development of multidisciplinary nutritional protocols in primary care and specialized care.

Cost-effective nutritional interventions in the prevention and treatment of chronic and acute diseases.

Nutritional monitoring of patients in outpatient clinics, health centers, homes or residential centers.

Highly valued for their competencies in artificial nutrition and nutritional support.

Being a point of reference for patients with home enteral nutrition.

Dietitians are the point of contact for medical teams when it comes to advising on the use of medications with nutritional implications. eg pancreatic enzymes or insulins.


The Nutrition and Dietetics departments lead the training and nutritional competencies of health personnel in hospital and community units.


They are responsible for developing up-to-date, evidence-based educational material on nutrition issues and disseminating it in their workplaces and among their patients.



Nutritionists are qualified to give information about food and healthy eating but not to advise or guide specific nutritional plans / diets in pathological processes. 

The figure of the nutritionist is increasingly seen in the NHS as part of the Nutrition and Dietetics departments.


Their work is similar to the dietetic assistants but with more clinical responsibility. For example, as assistants to Dietitians who work in home enteral nutrition.


They do not have the competence to guide, recommend or change nutritional plans. 

In general, their tasks can be administrative and / or clinical depending on the experience and needs of the service.


There is internal training, so it is not surprising that dietitians delegate attendees to make face-to-face or telephone reviews, organize enteral nutrition products in hospital discharges and home care.


Anthropometry, nutritional screening and education to other healthcare professionals / patients under the supervision of a registered dietitian



Recipe for nutritional products and supplements Registered dietitians have the powers to advise and facilitate the prescription of nutritional products and supplements recognized by ACBS (advisory committee on borderline substances) with or without prescription within the NHS. They may recommend supplements recognized by the NHS but have no powers to facilitate prescribing or prescribing. No. But they can reinforce the nutritional advice prescribed by the Dietitian or identify patients who can benefit from dietary-nutritional intervention.


Other pending issues

Many other questions remain to be answered and clarified. Some refer to the financial remuneration of dietitians and dietetic assistants in the NHS, and others to the different clinical specialties within the profession and how they are accessed. Both are important when making the decision to work in the UK and I would like to respond soon.

I know that many of you have already submitted documentation to the HCPC and are considering applying for dietetic assistants. In the next article I will focus on the steps to follow to fill out the job application.

For all those who have already called you for interviews, do not hesitate to contact us for any questions and above all to share your experience.

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