More than ever, many sports organizations acknowledge that having their athletes being exposed to better nutrition is very important for their long term health and performance. For example, the NCAA recently joined with the Collegiate and Professional Sports Dietitians Association and the Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition organization to promote good nutrition among college athletes.
As more sports organizations in the sports community across the US advances the performance of athletes through better nutrition education, the work of sports nutritionists is gaining more recognition and prominence. Most sports nutritionists enter this competitive field with a background in nutrition and/or sports nutrition. Given that sports nutrition is seen as vital today, there are more master’s in sports nutrition and related degrees available.
Generally, after you earn your degree in this field, you will need to become certified or licensed, depending upon your state requirements.
What a Sports Nutritionist Does
The main job duties of a sports nutritionist are as follows:
- Administering counseling in nutrition and fitness for teams and individuals
- Helping to create menu plans to accomplish specific performance goals
- Creating food service initiatives that are rich in nutrition
- Leading modern nutrition education programs for teams and organizations
- Using nutrition to improve professional development in organizations, including health and wellness programs at companies
Where a Sports Nutritionist Works
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 68,000 nutritionists and dieticians working throughout the US. It is expected that there will be a 16% increase in demand in this field by 2024, so you should be able to find plenty of work. While you might think that the main places that you would work would be sports organizations, there are many other places that you may work:
- Nursing homes
- Outpatient care centers
- Local government agencies
- Special food services
- Colleges and universities
- Athletic clubs
- Fitness centers
- Food corporations
- Rehabilitation centers
If you are interested in this career long term, a good idea is to earn a bachelor’s in nutrition and exercise science, followed by a master’s degree in sports nutrition.
Licensing and Certification
Most states do mandate that you have a license in order to practice as any type of nutritionist. The requirements for getting your license vary, but you will need to have at least a bachelor’s in nutrition or ideally a master’s, and pass a certification examination.
Many nutritionists and dieticians prefer to earn their Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) credential. This credential is not always mandatory with all employers, but having this credential is usually enough for you to get a license in a state that requires it. This credential is administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration.
A sports nutritionist also can earn a Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) credential that shows your advanced level of nutrition knowledge. This credential is administered by the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists.
Also note that if you are interested specifically in sports nutrition, the Commission on Dietetic Registration, has established a new credential for Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CCSD). If you are interested in learning more about this credential that will give you more credibility before many employers, you should visit the Commission on Dietetic Registration.
Types of Master’s in Sports Nutrition Degrees
There are several types of master’s degrees related to nutrition and sports nutrition to consider:
Master of Science in Nutrition, Dietetics and Hospitality Management
This master of science degree that is offered online by Auburn University provides you with the same learning experience as coming to a classroom every day. Your lectures are posted in video format online and the course material also is posted online. Your assignments can be completed from the comfort of your home and your exams can be taken in a proctored environment in most US cities.
Also, you will be able to interact a great deal with your classmates and professors online. The curriculum requires you to complete 32 credit hours of classes, and five credit hours of non-thesis research is required.
This program will offer you highly advanced training in nutritional science and sports nutrition for both new and highly experienced professionals in this field. It will prepare you with advanced nutrition knowledge and expanded fitness and health skills, as well as professional leadership so that you can pursue many different career options in sports nutrition and fitness.
The curriculum can be completed in 28 months and you have the option of selecting these specialities:
- Sports Nutrition
- Clinical Nutrition
- Nutrition Science
- Community Nutrition
Your required classes are as follows:
- Human Nutrient Metabolism
- Methods of Research
- Nutrition in Disease Prevention
- Design and Analysis in Education
- Research Seminar I and II
For the sports nutrition speciality, you will also need to take Advanced Anatomical Principles and Advanced Anatomical Principles Lab.
Master of Science in Nutrition and Integrative Physiology
This master of science degree at the University of Utah is designed for students who have a background in dietetics or health science. The online degree, like the campus based degree, will provide you with a complete education in nutritional biochemistry, macro and micronutrient metabolism and research methods.
However, this program online offers you accessibility and flexibility that will allow you to continue to work as you are improving your knowledge of nutrition. This program can be attended by a student who has a bachelor’s in nutrition or dietetics, or by a professional who does not have a background in nutrition.
All students are required to complete 26 core class hours and 12 hours of electives. You can choose the following specialties:
- Eating Disorders
- Nutrition for Fitness and Sport
- Pediatric Nutrition
Your required classes are:
- Nutrition Communications
- Research Methods
- Nutrition Biochemistry
- Metabolism of Macronutrients
- Metabolism of Micronutrients
Master of Science in Sports Nutrition
The University of Mansfield offers a Master of Science in Sports Nutrition that leads to work with people who are active, healthy and competitive, or want to rebuild themselves and their lives into a more active way of life.
The concentration of sports nutrition is well suited for students who want to work in a career in fitness, wellness, as well as with athletic teams at the high school, collegiate or professional level.
If you want to become a registered dietitian as part of this program, you also must finish the dietetics concentration or take classes that can be then applied to an internship.
This program complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act and all efforts are made to accommodate all students, regardless of disability.
Your required nutrition coursework includes:
- Introduction to Nutrition
- Principles of Food Science
- Life Cycle Nutrition
- Community Nutrition
- Nutrition Counseling and Education
- Nutrition Research Seminar
- Advanced Nutrition
The sports nutrition concentration also features these courses:
- Sports Nutrition
- Physiology of Exercise
- Human Anatomy and Physiology I
- Human Anatomy and Physiology II
- Introduction to Chemistry
- Organic and Biochemistry
- Introduction to Biochemistry
- Introductory Statistics I
You should verify that you master’s degree program in sports nutrition has been accredited by one of these regional organizations that are recognized by the Department of Education:
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education,
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges
- Higher Learning Commission
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities