Are you passionate about health? Does the thought of helping athletes reach their goals excite and motivate you? If so, then a career as a sports dietitian could be for you. But whether you’re thinking about what you want to do after high school or considering a career change, there are a few things you need to know before you get started.
Like any career path, sports dietetics comes with its share of pros and cons. Keep reading to learn what you’ll have to do to make it in this competitive industry.
Studying to become a sports dietitian
In order to become an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD), you must obtain a Bachelor’s or Masters degree from an accredited university, specialising in sports nutrition along the way. This takes a minimum of 4 years and will require you to complete at least 20-weeks of placement along the way.
If you are already a qualified dietitian and wish to become a specialised sports dietitian, the SDA outlines the career pathway you can take to advance your education. This usually requires you to complete a specialised sports nutrition and exercise course.
On top of the required study, it’s recommended that you seek out additional professional experience in the field. Because the job market is so competitive, this is often a necessary way to make contacts and gain valuable knowledge that will put you ahead of other job applicants once you graduate. It’s also important to note that much of this work is volunteer-based, meaning you might not be paid for your time.
Getting work in the field
The first thing you need to know about being a sports dietitian is this: a lot of other people want to be a sports dietitian, too. Unfortunately, there is a surplus of graduates entering the job market every year, and simply not as many vacant positions to go around. While it’s certainly not impossible to find a great role, it’s important to know that finding employment may not be easy.
On top of this, many sports dietitian roles do not offer full time hours. For this reason, it’s not uncommon for professionals to work in multiple roles. While some people may be excited by the idea of having variety in their work, it can also mean a lot more travelling and uncertainty when applying for jobs.
What to expect when working as a sports dietitian
Once you’ve landed your first job as a sports dietitian, there are a few things you can expect. First and foremost – long hours. Only part of your day will be spent seeing athletes and clients. In fact, much of your time will be spent researching, producing nutrition and exercise plans and meeting with other professionals whose knowledge will further help you assist your clients. All this can often take you well outside of the standard 9-5 working hours.
The next thing to expect is a less than impressive salary. Sports dietitian graduates typically earn around $25p/h, or $950 per week. While you will certainly increase your pay packet as you gain more experience in the field, it’s important that you don’t expect a lucrative role straight away.
So… is it worth it?
Being passionate about nutrition doesn’t necessarily mean you’re cut out to be a sports dietitian. Many people simply aren’t prepared to spend years completing the training and development it takes to become qualified, only to graduate into a competitive job market and low-salary roles.
However, for people who are driven, highly passionate and flexible in the way they want to work, sports nutrition can be a great career path. Helping athletes and sporting teams optimise their performance can be incredibly rewarding. The path to being a sports dietitian might be tough, but at the end of the day, the right people for the job will be driven by their passion for helping people.
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