It’s Time for a Credentials Check! PT/DPT vs CPT and RDN vs Nutritionist

Hey there! So this blog post kind of grew off of a tweet I made yesterday,

“If we tryin to ‪#prevent, why are the 2 powerhouse professions of ‪#Move & ‪#Fuel not collaboratin? ‪#NNMchat ‪#GetPT1st ‪#PT ‪#RDNday ‪#FreeTheYoke

     I’m talking about the professions of Physical Therapy and Dietetics, which truly are powerful professions that unfortunately go unrecognized for all they can do. With chronic lifestyle diseases continuing to rise, why are we not collaborating? Why are we not giving patients or clients the best of both worlds? Diet and exercise have been proven over and over again to help prevent disease and improve the quality of life, yet I rarely see a PT and an RD working together or even know what the other has to offer. The typical response being that a PT helps the elderly woman walk down the hall while the RD is making their meals. This just isn’t the case. The amount of education, training, and quality control that goes behind earning these credentials is extensive.

     To really highlight how extensive their training is, I’m going to compare them to the public’s immediate response when asked, “who do you go to for help with diet and exercise?” Well a personal trainer or nutritionist, duh! And I want to say that I’m not putting these professions down because there are certified personal trainers (CPT) who do a tremendous job. However, from a consumer’s perspective, I would want an individual that comes highly qualified. I’m going to keep these comparisons brief enough to make my point; otherwise, this post could get more complicated than it needs to be.

Physical Therapist (PT) - All new PTs are now required to hold a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)

Requirements (1):

  • Complete a 4-year bachelor’s degree
    • The major of the degree doesn’t matter as long as requirements are met for PT school application, appropriate courses in anatomy, chemistry, physics, etc.
  • Complete a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from an accredited CAPTE (Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education) program, typically 3 years to complete
    • “curriculum may include, but are not limited to, biology/anatomy, cellular histology, physiology, exercise physiology, biomechanics, kinesiology, neuroscience, pharmacology, pathology, behavioral sciences, communication, ethics/values, management sciences, finance, sociology, clinical reasoning, evidence-based practice, cardiovascular and pulmonary, endocrine and metabolic, and musculoskeletal.”(1)
    • Along with roughly 1,200 hours of clinical experience
  • Pass a national examination, which is given by The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT), to become board certified
  • Become licensed in the state of practice
  • Practice under a code of ethics, set forth by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)
  • Complete approximately 30 hours of continuing education every 2 years, depending upon the state
  • Can hold certification in specialized areas, such as orthopedics, neuro, sports, pediatrics, etc.

Certified Personal Trainer (CPT)

Using the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s (NSCA) certification requirements (2):

  • 18 years old
  • High school diploma
  • CPR/AED Certified
  • Possibly a background in exercise science 
  • Pass a written examination
    • Focused on fitness assessment, program planning, exercise, and safety

Registered Dietitian (RD) or Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist (RDN)

Requirements (3):

  • Complete a 4-year bachelor’s degree in dietetics from a program that is accredited by ACEND (Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics), which is a part of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND)
    • The degree is heavily geared towards food science, biochemistry, medical nutrition therapy, food management, and much more
  • Complete an ACEND accredited dietetic internship, roughly 1200 hours, distributed among healthcare facilities, community health, and foodservice distribution
  • Pass a national examination, which is given by the Commission on Dietetics Registration (CDR)
  • Become licensed in their state of practice
  • Practice under a code of ethics, set forth by AND and CDR
  • 75 hours continuing professional education (CPE) every 5 years
  • Can hold certifications in specialized areas such as geriatrics, sports, diabetes, renal disease, cancer, etc.
  • Most states nationwide require an RD credential, along with state licensure, to perform nutritional counseling and prescribe diets. 
    • Check out this Link for more information



  • Having a passion for nutrition.
  • There is no legal protection over this term, as there is with RD and RDN.
  • This individual could potentially have a degree in food science or nutrition.
  • Not much else to say about this one.


     As you can see, these two professions are truly powerful in the field of human movement and nutrition, providing the keys to preventative healthcare. Both of these professions go to extreme measures to ensure highest quality of care and competency. These credentialed individuals have thousands of hours of education and training under their belt with the ability to do more than walk someone down the hall and cook up some food. So I ask you again, why are these professions not collaborating to provide the best approach to a preventative lifestyle?

Thanks for reading.

- Patrick Berner, SPT

(Soon to be DPT graduate with a degree in dietetics ready to make a change!)



1.  Clark M. Physical therapist (PT) education overview. American Physical Therapy Association. Accessed March 10, 2016.

2.  National Strength and Conditioning Association. CPT certification - certified personal trainer - personal trainer certification. Accessed March 10, 2016.

3. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. What is a registered Dietitian Nutritionist? Accessed March 10, 2016.