What Are the Requirements for Sports Nutrition Certification?

Sports nutritionists are consultant dietitians who provide their nutritional expertise specifically to sports teams. Several professional organizations offer certification for sports nutrition specialists, and each has its own requirements. Read on to learn how to become a certified sports nutritionist. Schools offering Nutrition degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Educational Requirements for Sports Nutrition Certification

Educational requirements vary by certifying organization. However, sports nutritionists are required to hold at least a bachelor's degree in order to practice in the profession. You might earn a degree in health, nutrition, dietetics or another applicable field. In some states, you'll also be required to obtain licensure to work as a sports nutritionist.

After gaining experience in the field, you may choose to earn professional certification. Although certification is not absolutely essential for employment, it is considered a desirable professional asset that could lead to career advancement.

Important Information About Sports Nutrition Certification

Online Availability Fully online; blended format
Prerequisites Prerequisites vary by certification; Some require a high school diploma, while others require an associate's, bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree
Possible Careers Sports nutritionist, sports dietitian
Work Environment Settings where both exercise and nutrition are of importance, such as sports organizations, athletic clubs, and rehabilitation centers

Certification Programs

Certification is available through various dietetic and nutrition organizations. Most certifying bodies require a minimum amount of education, experience or both.

International Society of Sports Nutrition

The International Society of Sports Nutrition offers two programs ideal for professionals in this field. You may obtain the Sports Nutrition Specialist (SNS) or Certified Sports Nutritionist from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (CISSN) designations. SNS certification is available to candidates 18 or older with high school diplomas or the equivalent. CISSN certification entails a bachelor's degree in an applicable major, such as exercise science or nutrition, or an equivalent amount of experience in the field. Certification is obtained by passing an examination and must be maintained yearly by completing continuing education units.

American Fitness Professionals and Associates

The American Fitness Professionals and Associates offers the Sports Nutrition certification. This is a course-based program geared toward trainers, fitness instructors and other sports health practitioners. Course materials are delivered online, and you have up to six months to complete the program. Upon completion of the course, you are eligible to take the certification examination. Key course topics include:

  • Performance-focused diet planning
  • Carbohydrates and fats as fuel
  • Fluid and electrolyte balance
  • Nutrition and females
  • Energy and nutrient balance

National Association of Sports Nutrition

The National Association of Sports Nutrition (NASN) offers the Licensed Primary Sports Nutritionist (LPSN) credential to qualified applicants. To qualify, you must have experience in the field as a certified practitioner, or you'll need an undergraduate degree in nutrition or a related field coupled with one year of approved experience. Candidates who graduated from master's degree programs that incorporated adequate science and nutrition coursework also meet the criteria. To become an LPSN, you must then attend a nutrition seminar, complete a home study course and pass an examination.

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) offers a certification program that results in the Registered Dietitian (RD) credential . To be eligible for RD certification, you must have a bachelor's degree and have completed 6-12 months of supervised, practical experience. You may then sit for a certification examination and, upon passage, add the RD credential to your name. You'll also be required to complete 75 continuing education credit hours every five years to maintain certification.

Employment Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for dietitians and nutritionists was projected to grow 15% from 2016-2026 (www.bls.gov). During this time, employment growth may be due to an increased focus on health and wellness. In May 2018, the BLS reported that the median annual wage for dietitians and nutritionists was $60,370.

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