Sports Nutritionist Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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A sports nutritionist's annual average salary is around $57,000, but is it worth the education and training requirements? Get the truth about job duties and career outlook to decide if it's the right career for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Sports Nutritionist

Sports nutritionists advise athletes on what to eat. The overall goal of this advice is to ensure the athlete remains in the best shape possible for their sport. By reading below, you can find ot the pros and cons to being a sports nutritionist.

PROS of Becoming a Sports Nutritionist
Opportunity to work and help athletes succeed can be rewarding*
Full-time and part-time career options*
Flexible scheduling in some cases*
Self-employment opportunities in this field*

CONS of Becoming a Sports Nutritionist
Most states have regulations and licensing requirements for nutritionists*
A great deal of supervised training must be acquired prior to employment*
Postsecondary education is necessary for this career*
Research sometimes has to be done in order to keep up on the latest nutrition trends*

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

Occupational Information

Job Description

When a sports nutritionist meets with an athlete, the nutritionist takes the time to explain various issues related to nutrition that the client needs to know about. From there, the nutritionist can assess the diet and health needs of the athlete and make an appropriate meal plan for them. This might involve keeping and maintaining within a specific budget that the athlete is on. As time passes, you can see what kind of effect the meal plan is having on the athlete and make changes as necessary.

Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected the employment growth for nutritionists to be an increase of 21% from 2012-2022. In comparison to other careers, nutritionist employment growth was expected to be faster than the average. Diet is an important part of preventative healthcare and for treating issues such as kidney disease and diabetes, so as more people develop these conditions, more nutritionists are going to be needed to help treat and prevent them.

Salary Information

Nutritionists were reported to make about $27 an hour according to the BLS in May 2013. This results in an average yearly salary of around $56,000. Nutritionists that were in the top ten percentile of wage estimates made closer to $79,000. Finally, on average, the best-paying states for nutritionists were Hawaii, Connecticut, Nevada, Maryland and California.

Career Requirements

Job Training, Licensing and Education

A sports nutritionist ideally finds a bachelor's degree program in sports nutrition and completes it. Alternative majors for a sports nutritionist include food service systems management, dietetics or foods and nutrition. You'll typically take coursework in biology, physiology, chemistry and nutrition. In addition to your education, you're going to have to obtain work experience through an internship during or after your schooling. Lastly, the majority of states need nutritionists to earn a state license prior to practicing. After meeting the training and education requirements, you just have to pass an examination to earn your license in most cases.

What Do Employers Look For?

First and foremost, employers want sports nutritionists who possess the correct educational credentials and state licensing. Advanced education can be seen as a plus for some employers, so a master's degree can be beneficial. Previous work experience is also crucial for many organizations that use sports nutritionists. Several job postings for sports nutritionists from November 2012 were analyzed and summarized below so that you can see what real employers were looking for.

  • A sports nutritionist job with a company in New Jersey preferred applicants who had worked with endurance athletes in the past.
  • Strong presentation skills were a must for a performance nutritionist opening in Texas.
  • A business in Illinois needed a sports dietitian nutritionist who had completed a dietetics didactic program and a practice supervised program approved by the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education.
  • A minimum of three years of experience working with student athletes was preferred in an athletics coach nutritionist job in South Carolina.

How Can You Stand Out as a Sports Nutritionist

Possessing good analytical skills can help set you apart from other sports nutritionists. By engaging and staying current about new nutrition research, you can remain knowledgeable and offer additional services that other sports nutritionists might not even know about yet. Communication and people skills are important for sports nutritionist as well. Some nutritionists might not be able to properly communicate with athletes in a way that motivates them, so if you work on your interpersonal communication, you can be better equipped to do your job. You also have to make sure that your client is happy and that you properly understand what the athlete wants to accomplish. Finally, empathy can help you offer an additional service that some nutritionists don't have. If you're empathetic and understand the struggles an athlete is having, you might be able to better work with him or her and help that athlete stick to an appropriate diet plan.

Alternative Vocational Paths

If you would rather coach or find athletes instead of offering them help with nutrition, then you may want to look into being a coach or a scout. Coaches hold practice sessions for athletes and develop strategies for athletes to use in competition. Scouts on the other hand attempt to find prospective players for athletic organizations. As of May 2011, the BLS reported, coaches and scouts made about $36,000 on average annually. From 2010-2020, coaches and scouts were projected to see a 29% growth in employment.

If you're interested in promoting wellness among communities instead of only athletes, then you might consider becoming a health educator. In this career, you'll work with the people you serve to determine their health and nutritional needs. You'll educate them on health topics that might impact their daily lives. The BLS expected health educator employment to see a growth of 37% from 2010-2020, much faster than the average growth across all occupations. Health educators earned roughly $52,000 or so on average annually as of May 2011.

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