How to Become a Sports Nutritionist

Oct 20, 2021

Find out how to become a sports nutritionist. Research the education and training requirements, and learn about the experience you need to begin a career in sports nutrition.

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Sports Nutritionist Career Info

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Fields Nutrition or sports nutrition
Licensure/Certification State licensure and Registered Dietician certification required; voluntary certifications available
Experience 1,200-hour internship required
Key Skills Strong verbal and written communication skills; people skills
Salary (2018) $60,370 (median wage for all nutritionists and dieticians)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, American Dietetic Association

Sports nutritionists work with clients to develop nutrition plans that fit athletic lifestyles. They might counsel their clients in healthy eating practices for athletes, promote a healthy lifestyle for individuals in sports and keep abreast of current nutritional research. Those who are self-employed may have more scheduling flexibility and might meet with clients on weekends and evenings.

Sports nutritionists should have proper training as well as strong verbal and written communication skills and people skills. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2018, nutritionists and dieticians in general earned a median annual salary of $60,370.

Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Individuals interested in this career can enroll in bachelor's degree programs in nutrition or sports nutrition accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). Coursework covers nutrition through the life cycle, food science, nutrition counseling, sports nutrition and kinesiology. Prerequisite coursework includes chemistry, anatomy and biology.

Complete an Internship

Completion of a 1,200-hour, ACEND-approved supervised dietetic internship is necessary to become a registered dietician. Some bachelor's degree programs include the internship within the curriculum, while other programs require recent graduates to seek internships on their own. Internship opportunities can be found through universities, non-profit organizations and school districts.

Become Licensed and Registered

Most states require that nutritionists and dieticians be licensed. Licenses are issued based on training and experience, with requirements varying by state. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, one can become licensed by earning the Registered Dietician (RD) certification through the American Dietetic Association, although some states have additional requirements. To become a registered dietician, individuals must pass an exam, which may be different than the state licensure exam.

Become Certified

The Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) offers certification for sports nutritionists. Applicants must be Registered Dieticians with 1,500 hours of specialty practice experience in sports nutrition. Certification is conferred to individuals who pass an exam covering topics such as energy metabolism, macronutrients, micronutrients, nutrition assessment and disordered eating. While certification is not mandatory, it enables sports nutritionists to be listed in the CDR directory.

Earn Continuing Education Credits

The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics requires dieticians to earn continuing education credits to maintain RD status, and some states require continuing education credits to maintain licensure. Students can complete certificate programs, attend lectures or seminars and complete online courses to satisfy continuing education requirements.

Individuals can also earn master's degrees in sports nutrition to continue their education. These programs provide advanced education in kinesiology and sports nutrition, with coursework stressing the relationship between nutrition and exercise science, metabolism and disease. A practicum is often part of the program. A thesis may be required or optional.

Aspiring sports nutritionists must first become registered nutritionists by completing a bachelor's degree and internship and then taking a state licensure test.

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