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Sports and Fitness Nutritionist: Job Description and Requirements

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

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To be successful in sports and fitness nutrition, you must have extensive knowledge of the human body and dietary practices, and a passion for working with people on a personal, individual level. A greater interest in preventative care in the U.S. means job growth in the coming years is expected to be strong.

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Essential Information

A sports and fitness nutritionist is responsible for teaching athletes and fitness enthusiasts effective ways to improve their health, optimize their performance and manage their weight. Nutritionists may advise individuals on dietary practices; exercise; and use of vitamins, minerals and supplements. This job requires a bachelor's degree in a sports nutrition-related field. Licensing requirements vary by state, and additional optional certification is available from multiple organizations, including the American Dietetic Association. This career might appeal to individuals with interests in nutrition, sports training and fitness.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Licensure/Certification Licensure required in many states; optional certification available
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 16% for all dietitians and nutritionists
Median Salary (2015)* $57,910 for all dietitians and nutritionists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description

Sports and fitness nutritionists generally give private consultations to assess their client's lifestyle, eating habits, training schedule and use of medications and supplements, along with setting short and long-term goals. A customized program for achieving those goals can be created by the sports and fitness nutritionist, who might also monitor clients to ensure they keep on track and attain goals. Other services typically provided by a sports and fitness nutritionist include supplement consultations, body composition testing, medical nutrition therapy and metabolic rate testing.

Unlike a general nutritionist, sports and fitness nutritionists attempt to provide clients with nutrition plans that increase stamina and endurance and educate them on post-workout recovery needs. Therefore, sports and fitness nutritionists are trained to evaluate an athlete's biochemical composition and physiology in order to create the most optimal nutritional program.

Education Requirements

Sports and fitness nutritionists can begin their careers by earning a bachelor's degree in sports nutrition or a related program that covers clinical nutrition and dietetics. Many states require a sports nutritionist to be licensed. State licensure can include acquiring professional experience in nutrition or sports training, which can be gained through participating in internships and completing an exam.

The American Dietetic Association's credentialing agency, the Commission on Dietetic Registration, offers certification as a Registered Dietitian (RD) to bachelor's degree holders who complete a minimum of 1,200 hours of supervised training and take an exam. The Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) is available to Registered Dietitians who fulfill 1,500 practice hours as an RD and pass a test proving their knowledge of nutrition planning, exercise science, physical anatomy and metabolism (ww.cdrnet.org).

A number of independent organizations offer voluntary programs and certification in sports nutrition, including the International Society of Sports Nutrition (sportsnutritionsociety.org) and the American Fitness Professionals and Associates (afpafitness.com).

Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stated that nutritionists and dietitians could expect to see a 16% increase in employment from 2014-2024, which is much faster than the national average for all occupations. Jobs will be in greater demand due to an aging population and a greater interest in preventative care. The BLS also reported the median annual salary for nutritionists and dietitians as $57,910 in May 2015.

To summarize, earning a bachelor's degree and fulfilling the licensing requirements of your particular state are the typical steps in starting a career as a sport and fitness nutritionist. Professional certification is optional. These professionals have a specific knowledge of the interaction between human diet and exercise, and work to impart that knowledge on an individual basis to patients.

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