Careers in Fitness and Nutrition

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in fitness and nutrition. Read on to learn more about career options along with education requirements and salary information. Schools offering Fitness & Nutrition degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Career in Fitness and Nutrition Entail?

Nutritionists and fitness trainers use their knowledge and skills to help improve the lives and lifestyles of individuals. They need to have a good knowledge of health factors, diets, and strong understanding of sports science. They may work with athletes or non-professional individuals in order to design fitness plans, work through injuries, lose weight, or generally implement more exercise into their lives. Both nutritionists and fitness trainers need to have strong communication skills in order to motivate their client and effectively assess their needs. Fitness trainers may need to have at least a basic knowledge of first aid in order to respond to emergency situations and injuries.

The following chart describes some requirements for these careers.

Dietitians and Nutritionists Fitness trainers Athletic Trainers
Degree Required Bachelor's Postsecondary education optional, including certificate, associate's or bachelor's degree Bachelor's; master's common
Education Field of Study Dietetics, clinical nutrition Athletics, health sciences, kinesiology Athletic training
Key Responsibilities Plan dietary programs and advise individuals' on healthy lifestyles and activity levels Work with individuals or groups, leading exercise sessions and provide physical fitness guidance and training Most states require licensure or certification
Licensure and Certification Most states require licensure, registration or certification Certifications optional Most states require licensure or certification
Average Salary (2015) $58,410* $40,970 (for fitness trainers and aerobics instructors)*$46,940*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Sort of Careers Are There in Fitness and Nutrition?

There are several careers you can pursue in the fitness and nutrition field. Personal trainers work with individuals and small groups, guiding exercise sessions in weight rooms or other facilities. Fitness trainers also advise on a wide range of issues, including exercise nutrition and common physical injuries.

Sport nutritionists advise individuals on dietary issues in the context of physical fitness. As a nutritionist, you might provide dietary guidance for athletes undertaking certain activities, such as long distance running or weight lifting. You could also assist families in addressing the dietary needs of infants or the elderly.

Sports medicine trainers, or athletic trainers, diagnose, treat and help prevent a myriad of injuries and deficits common to athletics. They may provide tape or ice for minor muscle or tendon strain, aid in rehabilitation from more serious injuries, or diagnosis issues such as shin splints. As allied health practitioners, most athletic trainers are certified on some level and often possess advanced credentials.

What Kind of Education Do I Need?

Fitness trainers generally have experience in athletics and may possess postsecondary credentials. Many universities and community colleges have health and exercise science programs that offer degrees in this field. Your coursework could include a general curriculum in the humanities and sciences, as well as more focused studies in basic health, fitness and nutrition issues. Aspiring personal trainers may pursue a number of certifications as well.

Nutritionists or dietitians commonly possess a bachelor's degree in health or exercise science from an accredited university. Your studies will include a general curriculum in the arts and sciences, as well as focused coursework in nutrition and health. Many nutritionists possess advanced credentials in their field, and a majority of U.S. states and territories require nutritionists and dietitians to be certified.

Sports medicine trainers usually possess bachelor's degrees from universities or colleges, often in health or exercise science. Beyond the core curriculum in these programs, you can take classes in subjects such as kinesiology. Many athletic trainers begin by assisting in their collegiate athletic programs, and many possess postgraduate credentials and certifications within their field.

What Kind of Salary Might I Expect?

In 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the average annual wage for dietitians and nutritionists was $58,410. The average wage for fitness trainers and aerobics instructors was $40,970 and athletic trainers made an average of $46,940 annually.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Sports and nutrition is an extremely broad field with many different career paths to choose from. You may want to consider becoming an exercise physiologist and working with people with long-term and chronic injuries to design fitness programs that promote recovery and safe exercise. Similarly, you could also become a recreational therapist, providing a wider range of activities for people with long-term health conditions to get their recreational needs met, including those related to sports and exercise. Both of these professionals need to be educated to the bachelor's degree level.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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