Careers in Sports Nutrition

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

What Is a Sports Nutritionist?

A sports nutritionist is a nutritionist who works specifically with athletes. They create comprehensive nutritional plans that can improve their clients' health, optimize their athletic performance and help them manage medical conditions and recover from injuries. When working with individuals, sports nutritionists begin by assessing the athlete's needs and goals, such as muscle gain or weight loss. Then, they devise a dietary strategy, which may be adjusted over time based on the athlete's progress and/or their competitions schedule. In addition to helping individual athletes meet their goals, sports nutritionists may also develop more general meal plans for groups of athletes, like players at training camps.

The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Key Responsibilities Design nutrition plans for athletes to meet goal// track athletes progress and adjust plan accordingly
Licensure Required Licensure and certification required by states
Training Required Internship
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 16%*
Median Salary (2015) $57,910*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Training Do I Need to Become a Sports Nutritionist?

As an aspiring sports nutritionist, you might begin your studies by earning a bachelor's degree in nutritional science, dietetics or a related field. Some schools offer sports nutrition concentrations for undergraduate students, or you can double major in nutrition and sports science. In pursuing your bachelor's degree, you'll typically study principals of nutritional science, dietetic principles, nutritional counseling, exercise physiology, chemistry, biology and other physical sciences.

After receiving your bachelor's degree, you have the option to pursue a graduate degree in nutrition. Many schools offer master's programs in nutrition or health sciences, with an emphasis on sports nutrition, or master's programs in exercise and physical sciences and nutrition. There are also doctorate programs in exercise science, physiology and sports science. Master's-level courses might include advanced nutrition, nutrition therapy and advanced exercise physiology. Doctorate-level courses could cover research and statistics, biomechanics, kinesiology and health promotion.

What Credentials Can I Get?

The National Association of Sports Nutrition (NASN) offers two types of credentials for sports nutritionists. You can become a licensed primary sports nutritionist (LPSN) if you have at least two years of experience, a bachelor's degree plus one year of experience or a graduate degree. Licensed master sports nutritionists (LMSNs) are more highly trained.

If you have a 4-year degree in exercise science, nutrition, physical education or a related field, you should be eligible for the Certified Sports Nutritionist from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (CISSN) designation or the ISSN's Body Composition Certification (BCC-ISSN). To earn either, you must first pass an exam. The ISSN also offers a Fellow of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (FISSN) credential, which acknowledges professional achievements in sports nutrition. Qualifications include a minimum of a bachelor's degree and demonstration of your contributions to the field, such as continued service to an athletic team or publication of a nutrition-related book.

What Would Be My Career Outlook and Potential Salary?

Increased national attention and focus on healthy diet and exercise is one factor that is projected to help the field for dietitians and nutritionists increase 16% from 2014-2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( Sports nutritionists have the training and flexibility to work in fitness clubs, private practices and hospitals or as consultants for professional athletes or professional athletic teams. As of May 2015, the median salary was $57,910. The salary earned by the highest-paid ten percent of dietitians and nutritionists was more than $80,950, while the lowest-paid ten percent earned less than $35,240, according to the BLS.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

As a nutritionist, instead of specializing in sports nutrition, you could focus your practice on a different area of the field. For instance, as a clinical dietitian, you could work in a medical facility and specialize in applying dietary plans to treat and manage diseases and other medical conditions, like diabetes, kidney disease or celiac disease. Alternatively, if you know you want to work with athletes, you could consider becoming a sports coach. In this job, you would advise athletes on a wide variety of topics, including training, competition strategy, workout recovery and dietary fueling. Most sports coaches have a bachelor's degree.

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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