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Sports Nutritionist: Job & Career Info

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a sports nutritionist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about schooling, job duties and possible licensure requirements to find out if this is the right career for you.

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Sports nutritionists are health care professionals who provide advice and counseling to athletes or sports teams about proper diets. Those interested in this field can pursue a bachelor's or master's degree in clinical nutrition or other nutrition related majors. Some states do require licensing for dietitians but those who break into this career path may find themselves earning a lucrative income.

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Essential Information

Sports nutritionists advise individuals on matters of diet, eating habits and nutrition. They may find work with high school or college athletic departments, sports teams, physicians' offices and wellness centers. While a bachelor's degree may be sufficient for some jobs, many sports nutritionists have master's degrees. Some states have licensing requirements.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Other Requirements Licensure requirements vary from state to state
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 16% for all nutritionists and dietitians
Annual Median Salary (2015)* $57,910 for all nutritionists and dietitians

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Sports Nutritionist Career Information

The American Dietetic Association's (ADA) Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition (SCAN) practice group defines a sports nutritionist, also referred to as a dietitian, as an individual who provides nutrition counseling to an athlete or team with the goal of improving performance. They develop nutrition programs based on the needs of their clients and the type of athletics they perform. Sports nutritionists may keep records on their clients to chart their progress or determine what additional steps need to be taken. The ADA indicates that besides assisting athletes, sports nutritionists may work with parents, trainers and coaches. Some sports nutritionists are affiliated with a specific team or organization.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for dietitians and nutritionists are expected to increase 16% from 2014 to 2024. Among reasons for the anticipated growth, the BLS cites growing awareness of disease prevention through better eating habits.

The outlook for sports nutritionists may vary from other careers in nutrition. Sports nutritionists with the proper experience and credentials may be suitable for other lines of work, including health and wellness coaching. In May 2015, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for dietitians and nutritionists was $57,910, while individuals in the top-paid ten percent of the field earned $80,950 or more.

Educational Requirements

Students might want to consider programs that are approved by the American Dietetic Association's Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education (CADE). CADE accredits both undergraduate and graduate programs to ensure that education programs meet professional standards.

SCAN indicates that prospective sports nutritionists might consider bachelor's degree programs in clinical nutrition, food and nutrition or a related major. These programs train students in the composition of nutrients and major nutritional issues, such as childhood obesity. Coursework in nutritional composition includes laboratory sessions that emphasize chemical and biological factors of food. Some programs offer courses specific to sports nutrition. Students also may have to meet additional science requirements in biology, chemistry or microbiology.

While master's degree programs specific to sports nutrition are available, individuals also might consider exercise physiology or nutrition programs, some of which offer a sports nutrition concentration. These curricula often require a research sequence that includes classes in research methods and statistics. Additional courses might cover topics in exercise physiology, biomechanics and nutritional assessment. The capstone requirement is typically a research thesis, although some programs allow students to take a comprehensive exam.

Licensing Information

The BLS indicates that a majority of states require licensure for dietitians and nutritionists. Licensing standards vary by state but typically include meeting minimum education and experience standards and passing an exam.

Sports nutritionists plan and supervise the diets of athletes and sports teams. They will typically have a bachelor's or master's degree in nutrition or related subject, and some states may require them to be licensed to practice their profession. This job market is growing at a predicted rate of 16% over the next decade and those who break in may find themselves earning a median salary of $57,910 a year.

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