Sports Nutrition Certification Requirements

Sports nutrition certification may be of interest to several types of professionals, such as dietitians, fitness workers, athletic trainers and even coaches. Explore your program options for studying sports nutrition, and check the requirements for becoming certified. Learn what topics the sports nutrition certification exam covers, and get job outlook and salary information for the nutrition field. Schools offering Nutrition degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Sports Nutritionist?

If you work with athletes or active individuals at the high school or professional level, or even the local gym, providing key nutritional support to these clients is important to their performances. Exercise and nutrition go hand-in-hand and providing that knowledge to your clients will help them succeed in their goals. Sports nutritionists are people that help athletes in maximizing their output by guiding and tracking their diets with food intake, supplements, hydration and other aspects of the athlete's nutrition.

Job DescriptionMaximize athlete output, track diet and nutrition
Certification RequirementsUsually have associate's or bachelor's degree, certification varies by state and local requirements
Common CoursesMeal planning, balance of nutrients, weight maintenance, energy and body composition, influence of exercise
Exam TopicsPhysical anatomy, nutritional planning, metabolism, exercise science
Median Salary (2018)$60,370* (for dietitians and nutritionists)
Job Outlook (2016-26)15%* (for all dietitians and nutritionists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements

Certification is typically seen as a professional achievement as opposed to an educational degree; many people pursuing certification programs have associate's or bachelor's degree in health, nutrition, sports medicine or kinesiology. Most certification programs do not have specific educational requirements, so you may earn certification to advance your career as a trainer or coach. Employers may not require applicants to be certified; however, it is considered a desirable professional asset. You may earn your certification by passing a certification examination offered by professional associations. Some states may prefer or require certification for state licensing, so you might check state and local requirements before earning your certification.

Certification Program

Certification programs may be available online and on-campus, and most can be completed within 24 months. Certification courses teach you to consider a client's diet and nutrition as a part of her or his lifestyle, as well as how these factors impact an athlete's training and performance. Courses give you a comprehensive overview of essential topics and skills related to sports nutrition, such as supplements, meal planning and weight maintenance. Other topics include influence of exercise on proteins and vitamins, balance of nutrients and energy and body composition.

Certification Examination

Upon completion of a sports nutrition program, you can apply to take a certification examination, which is overseen by one of the professional nutritionist organizations. The exams generally cover metabolism, nutrition planning, exercise science and physical anatomy. Other topics may include evaluating body mass, determining calorie intake, classifying hyper- or hypo-metabolism and developing menus. Some exams may also test your abilities in assessing fitness levels, dealing with weight issues and selecting appropriate exercise for your clients.

Employment Outlook

According to the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for dieticians and nutritionists was projected to grow 15% from 2016-2026, due to a focus on diet as a preventative measure and job openings caused retirement and career transition ( The mean annual wage in May 2018 for dieticians and nutritionists was $61,210, the BLS noted.

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