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HOW TO BECOME A SPORTS DIETITIAN

February 18, 2019

In hindsight, I was always going to be a sports dietitian (probably from the age of about 13). I was super sporty and it was recommended to me that I read a book on sports nutrition. I read the book. I loved it. And that was that.

First step to becoming a sports dietitian: have a love of sports nutrition. Read a few books on sports nutrition (eg Food for Sports Performance by Burke and Cox is a nice place to start.) See if you like the idea of reading and learning about sports nutrition and helping people for the rest of your life.

Remember, the sciences are an evolving area, you have to want to love and want to continue to learn if you are to be a long-term practitioner in the field of any kind of science (or in any kind of profession, really.)

If you don’t love it, no problem, move on.

Second step: start an Undergraduate degree (ideally in the sciences). Focus on learning as much as you can during this time. Graduate.

Third step: start a Master of Nutrition and Dietetics (the alternative to this is to do a 4-year Undergrad specifically in Nutrition and Dietetics, in which case you don’t need the Masters to practise as a dietitian.) Learn as much as you can during this time. In your spare time, offer to work for free for any dietitians or sports dietitians you know/respect. Working for free allows you to see what the industry is like. You also get to know people in the industry. Graduate. Join the Dietitian’s Association of Australia (DAA) (you can also join as a student if you wish).

Fourth step: get a job in clinical dietetics so that you can continue to expand your clinical skills. A sports dietitian MUST have good clinical skills as well as pursue further specific training in sports dietetics.

In your first year out of University, you are considered a Provisional Accredited Practising Dietitian (if you have joined DAA) and must have a mentor for one year. After one year you are considered an Accredited Practising Dietitian.

Fifth step: while working in your clinical position, build your work experience in sports nutrition for two years post graduation. Join Sports Dietitians Australia (you can also join as a student if you wish). In the two years after you graduate, you will need to complete the Sports Nutrition Course at the Australian Institute of Sport. After this course (but before you have finished two years of work experience), you are considered a Provisional Sports Dietitian.

Sixth step: become an Accredited Sports Dietitian! After completing the Sports Nutrition course and gaining experience in sports nutrition over two years after graduation, you can now start working as an Accredited Sports Dietitian! This might involve applying for advertised sports dietitian jobs OR fellow/internship positions OR it will involve you working in the private space (for yourself or for someone else). However, it depends what your passion is and where you would like to take your career from this point!

All up: with an Undergrad, a Masters and two years as a Provisional Sports Dietitian, it takes a minimum of 6-7 years to become and work as an Accredited Sports Dietitian.

Lastly: you can also take on the International Olympic Committee Diploma in Sports Nutrition. This is a 2-year, online, world-renowned program. I highly recommend it.

In order to maintain your accreditation as an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Accredited Sports Dietititan, you need to complete ~30 hours of professional development each year for each of these professions.

Some of the best conferences on sports nutrition include:
– Sports Dietitians Australia bi-annual conference (Melbourne)
– International Sport, Exercise and Nutrition Conference (ISENC) (Newcastle, UK)
– American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) (a different US state each year)
– European Congress of Sports Science (ECSS) (a different European country each year)

Wow. That looks like quite a journey once it’s on paper. The truth is: if you love it, you never count the years or months or weeks in order to ‘get somewhere’, you just live it out, day by day and are thankful for having found the thing that makes you tick!

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