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Australia’s love of sport is deeply ingrained in our culture, so it’s not surprising that a wealth of job opportunities exist in (and all around) the area.
If you’re someone who wants to be actively involved in the sporting industry, and you have a passion for health, nutrition and helping others, a career in sports nutrition or dietetics could be perfect for you.
The role of a sports nutritionist is an incredibly versatile one. ‘They may range from an exercise physiologist who’s completed a nutrition degree, right through to personal trainers,’ Dr Dominique Condo explains. As a senior lecturer in Sport Nutrition in Deakin’s School of Exercise and Nutrition Science, as well as an accredited sports dietitian, Dr Condo knows the ins and outs of the industry.
There’s a big difference between being a sports nutritionist and an accredited sports dietitian, she explains. If your goal is to work with athletes in your future career, you’ll want to find out what that is.
Dr Condo says the difference between the two is very similar to the difference between a nutritionist and a dietitian.
‘A dietitian is someone who has been through a Master of Dietetics, and they’re actually able to consult from a clinical perspective.
‘Whereas a nutritionist is someone that has some nutrition knowledge, but it is much more general.’
Likewise, an accredited sports dietitian has a greater wealth of knowledge than a sports nutritionist.
‘They know a lot more about the detail and specifics around how nutrients can affect bodies differently, and can advise in different sports scenarios,’ Dr Condo says. Because of this, accredited sports dietitians have a broader range of jobs and roles they can perform.
‘An accredited sports dietitian can work in so many different areas,’ Dr Condo says.
Another path could be to work in industry, Dr Condo explains. ‘There are a lot of sports dietitians that consult to the industry around different supplements and other things.’
Research is another big area where you can make a big difference as an accredited sports dietitian.
‘If you do work in the area of research, then your role would really be to contribute to emerging evidence and to progress the industry so that we’re always practicing with the most relevant and updated evidence base,’ Dr Condo says.
Depending on what area you’re passionate about working in, she explains ‘the role can really vary.’ But a key role is to ‘support athletes and active populations to ensure that they have the most optimal nutrition to be able to perform their best.
‘That includes making sure they’re meeting their nutrient requirements and looking after their general health and wellbeing. As well as adding to how they can actually improve their performance to get their best outcome,’ she explains.
'An accredited sports dietitian can work in so many different areas.'
Dr Dominique Condo,
School of Exercise and Nutrition Science, Deakin University
If you’re getting excited about the thought of working with athletes, or some of those roles caught your eye, you’re probably wondering how you can kick-start a career in the field.
Dr Condo’s advice is to first and foremost, find out what you need to do from a studying perspective.
‘The ideal pathway would be to become a dietitian, and then specialise in sport,’ she says. ‘That’s what’s going to allow you to work with athletes at any level that you want, and to consult with athletes to provide that specific advice.
‘Whereas, a sports nutritionist can’t quite do that.’
The initial step is to complete your Master of Dietetics. ‘What you then have to do is get some kind of experience in the area of sport,’ Dr Condo explains. ‘You’ll then be eligible to complete the Sports Nutrition course through Sports Dietitians Australia (SDA).
‘It’s a four day accreditation course, and you do need to complete it to become accredited,’ she says.
Once you’ve got the qualification, Dr Condo says the rest comes down to experience.
‘My advice would be to find out what volunteer opportunities there are, to meet more dietitians and give your time to help out with anything they may have on offer.
‘That will really help you understand the industry, and get your name known out in the field,’ she says.
‘Just immerse yourself in what’s happening. It will help you find out what you want to do, but it will also open up those doors and pathways so that once you do have that qualification you’ll be able to start a career in that space.’
Dr Condo says if you’re a student interested in becoming an accredited sports dietitian, SDA is ‘an amazing organisation to be a member of.’
Not only is it Australia’s accrediting body, they also oversee and support all sports dietitians in the country.
The resources and education offered by SDA holds a lot of value. ‘They provide really great educational opportunities for students to be able to learn from their experts, and they also offer networking opportunities, which is so important for our industry,’ Dr Condo says.
‘Sports science is quite a small industry, so really getting to know people and getting your name known is important for careers.’
Through SDA, you’ll be able to meet experts, find out about volunteer opportunities that are available, and crucially, get yourself noticed.
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