My Career as a Sports Dietitian

by Sports Dietitian Clare Wood

I get many queries from students who want more information about becoming a sports dietitian. Below are some answers to common questions, and a description of the career and work conditions that can be expected for a sports dietitian. I studied and work in Australia, so the situation may be different if you are living and studying elsewhere. You should also check out the services a sports dietitian provides, and about a career as a sports dietitian.

Nutritionist or Dietitian - what should I study?

Firstly, I am a sports dietitian, which in Australia is a higher qualification than a nutritionist, though it may not be the same elsewhere, and the terms nutritionist and dietitian (also spelt dietician) are sometimes used interchangeably. One first needs to study to become a clinical dietitian in order to be able to treat any clinical issues that may arise for your athletes e.g. Iron deficiency etc., then specialize through work experience and study to specialize in sports nutrition.

How do I become a Sports Dietitian?

To become a sports dietitian in many countries does not require any more than some qualification in basic Nutrition or Dietetics, and then an interest and some experience in the sports nutrition field. There are some courses specifically for sports dietitians. After studying Biochemistry at The University of Western Australia, I studied for Bachelor of Science (Nutrition and Food Science) at Curtin University with a Graduate Diploma in Dietetics. There are many more courses available to extend your sports nutrition knowledge. In Australia, you are required to complete the Sports Nutrition Further Education Course to be able to be accredited as a sports dietitian. I have also completed the IOC Diploma in Sports Nutrition.

In Australia, to become an Accredited Sports Dietitian, you must be a fully qualified dietitian, and then gain credit in a specific sports dietetics course or University unit. In the US, the premier professional sports nutrition accreditation is by the Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD). The CSSD is offered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) for registered dietitians (RDs) who have specialized experience in sports dietetics.

Clare loving food being a dietitian requires a love of food

Nothing Beats Work Experience

Even if you have the right qualifications, a good sports dietitian job can be hard to find. If you have the right contacts and a bit of luck you can get involved with a major sporting team. If that is the direction you wish to go in, it would be best to start helping out (possibly voluntarily) with a local sports team and work your way up from there. I was fortunate to get a scholarship and work at the Australian Institute of Sport which gave me valuable experience working with Australia's elite athletes and also enabled me to work alongside some world-class sports dietitians.

Working as a Sports Dietitian

It is awesome working with high-level athletes, and a really challenging and exciting field to be in. There are very few full-time positions available as a sports dietitian, so to work in this field often a few part-time positions need to be taken. Many sports dietitians do other non-sports related work (such as clinical or community dietetics). On a typical day, I regularly perform anthropometry testing (such as skinfolds etc.) as well as practical sessions like cooking and shopping. A big part of my job is also diet planning and advice, and personal consultations.

The majority of the work is counseling type work and consultations with clients whether they be patients or athletes. I love working with other people, particularly working with highly motivated athletes. I am passionate about sports nutrition, so I love my job! It is a great feeling making a positive impact on peoples' lives.

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