Career Path on How to Become a Sports Nutritionist

More than ever, professional and college-level sports organizations are acknowledging the importance of exposing their athletes to more nutrition conscious lifestyles. In fact, recently the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has joined forces with the Collegiate & Professional Sports Dietitians Association (CPSDA) and the Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition (SCAN) to more actively promote nutritious lifestyles among its athletes.

The following bachelors and Master’s programs offer career-focused instruction delivered by trained nutritionists with experience in the field. Find out more what each individual course of study offers through the locations below.

Featured Nutritionist Programs

Sports Nutritionist Profession

As the sports community continues to advance athletic performance through nutrition education, the sports nutrition profession continues to gain greater recognition.

Most sports nutritionists gain entry into the field by gaining a combination of formal education and training in nutrition-related disciplines.

Often, the most successful sports nutritionists are certified, licensed or registered nutritionists with specialized training in athletic, fitness and sports settings.

Job Description

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the primary job responsibilities for sports nutritionists include:

  • Administering nutrition counseling for individuals
  • Engaging in menu development plans
  • Creating nutrition-rich food service initiatives
  • Spearheading nutrition education for teams, groups or wellness programs
  • Using nutrition to facilitate professional development

Education Requirements for Sports Nutritionist

Regulatory restrictions for sports nutritionists will inevitably vary from state to state.

Most employers hire sports nutritionists that have proven occupational proficiency by completing an undergraduate degree in a career-related major such as nutrition, exercise science, sports nutrition, kinesiology, food science and dietetics. However, sports nutritionists that complete graduate or post-graduate education often attract a greater volume of employers and clients alike.

Students that are searching for degree programs in sports nutrition are encouraged to select one that is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency such as the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). In addition, the program should prepare students to sit for the Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD).

Sports Nutritionist Certification and Licensing

Since the sports nutrition is not a federally regulated occupation, each state is free to set their own certification and licensing standards.

Some states currently require sports nutritionists to obtain a license or certificate from their Board of Nutrition in order to practice, while other states do not.

Even sports nutritionists that are not legally obligated to become certified or licensed professionals often earn credentials through a national credentialing agency such as the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) to establish professional competency in the field.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2021, the average salary for nutritionists was $65,620. Early career professionals earned about $49,490, while those with extensive experience earned about $93,640 during this time.*

A sport nutritionist’s salary is largely dependent on their level of formal education, experience, specialized training, industry in which they work, and geographic location. As of May 2021, the states with the highest average salary for nutritionists included:

  • California
  • Washington DC
  • Hawaii
  • New Jersey
  • Rhode Island

The top-paying industries for nutritionists included:

  • Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing
  • Nondurable goods merchant wholesalers
  • Home healthcare services
  • Federal agencies (e.g., CDC, FDA, CMS)
  • Scientific research and development services

*2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary figures and job growth projections for dietitians and nutritionists reflect national data not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Salary statistics representing entry-level/early career = 25th percentile; mid-level= 50th percentile; senior-level/highly experienced = 90th percentile. Data accessed April 2022.

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