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Building a Successful Career in Fitness and Nutrition

One survey found that approximately 74 percent of Americans have concerns about their weight. Yet, only 43 percent have changed their diet in an attempt to lose their extra pounds. Another 24 percent say their dislike of exercise makes it harder to sustain a healthy body. The University of Rochester adds that physical activity and nutrition are top health issues. 

You can make a career out of helping these individuals reach their health and wellness goals. One way to do it is by earning your certification as a nutritionist and personal trainer. To get a better idea of what this entails, let’s break it down.

What a Certified Nutritionist Does

When you earn a nutrition certification, you’re able to help clients make better food choices. Your education in human nutrition is applied to increase nutrients while decreasing unhealthy foods. This enables you to create a precision nutrition plan based on their health and needs. This improves their overall wellness based on customized nutrition and dietetics advice.

A certified nutritionist also works with clients to help them overcome food-related obstacles. This generally begins with asking clients to keep a food log. This makes it easier to see where they can improve their diet. It also brings to light poor eating habits. This tells you which changes can best help them reach their health and fitness goals.

Are “nutritionist” and “dietitian” the same thing? No. While both offer nutrition and diet advice, a dietitian has more legal restrictions. For example, in Texas, there are no regulations to work as a nutritionist. In Minnesota, licensure is required. There are also some states in which anyone can serve as a nutritionist, but only a registered dietitian can be reimbursed by the government.

The Personal Trainer Role

Personal trainers work to help clients improve their health and fitness through exercise. This involves applying exercise science principles to create a well-rounded fitness program. Fitness professionals also offer a basic level of nutrition coaching. Though, their primary focus is physical activity. 

A fitness instructor listens to clients’ exercise goals and devises a plan to achieve them. Some also have fitness specializations. A few to consider are group fitness or corrective exercises. Though, you can obtain trainer certification in a variety of areas.

Fitness trainers also work to uncover the obstacles clients face. Except, unlike the nutrition specialist who looks at diet, these obstacles are related to exercise. Once identified, the personal trainer finds ways to overcome them, enabling clients to meet their fitness goals.

Why Become a Fitness and Nutrition Specialist?

There are several benefits to earning your certification in fitness and nutrition and dietetics. The first is that you can address more of your client’s needs. This is because diet and exercise work together to enhance health. 

For example, if a client eats primarily chips and cookies, their body won’t have the nutrition it needs to support regular physical activity. And if they exercise without eating the right foods, they may find it harder to build muscle or lose fat.

They can also take your client’s wellness to the next level. For example, one study found that diet and exercise together improved patients’ health outcomes. Put another way, providing fitness and nutrition advice can reduce your client’s risk of disease.

When you have your certification in both nutrition and personal training, you’re able to develop a complete program. This type of health coaching enables clients to improve their health by making changes in many areas at the same time. 

Getting the education needed to work as a nutritionist and personal trainer also increases your earning potential. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the average annual income for a nutritionist is $60,370 per year. Fitness professionals in the personal training space earn roughly $39,820 per year. 

When you have education in both, you’re able to tap into each of these markets. This also enables you to market yourself in a way that nets the most results. If the fitness market is hot, promote your personal training more. If nutrition is more in demand, share your education in this field.

Plus, the career outlook for both nutritionists and personal trainers is favorable. According to the BLS, both industries are growing at “much faster than average” rates. This makes it a great time to earn your certification in these fields.

Working as a nutrition specialist and personal trainer also enables you to work in many different settings. You could offer your services in gyms and other fitness centers. Or you might decide to build your own business.

No matter how you decide to offer your wellness services, you’ll be in a good position to help clients advance their level of health.

How to Become a Certified Nutritionist and Personal Trainer

The BLS reports that a bachelor’s degree is often needed when working in nutrition and dietetics. Though, keep in mind that legal requirements are more stringent when serving as a dietitian. 

If your goal is to work as a nutritionist, education is still required, but a degree isn’t always necessary. The same is true for personal trainers. Some have a bachelor’s degree in exercise science or physical education. Others take personal training programs before seeking their certification.

How long does it take to become a certified health coach that offers services in nutrition and exercise? The answer depends on the type of education you pursue. 

If you want a bachelor’s degree, you can expect to spend approximately four years in school. If your education is a self-paced online program, like what the ISSA offers, you can reduce this time. In the case of the latter, each certification can be completed in as little as a few months. If you need more time, you can stretch this out to a year or more.

Do You Need to Obtain Trainer Certification? 

Whether you must be certified to work as a nutritionist and personal trainer depends on where you live. Each jurisdiction has its own requirements. So, it is important to follow these. 

Why Get Certified If You Aren’t Required? 

When you complete a certification program, it shows that you have the education necessary to create a complete fitness and nutrition program. This will help clients achieve higher levels of health.

Once you earn your nutrition certification and personal trainer certification, it doesn’t stop there. Working in fitness and nutrition also means that you’ll need to take continuing education classes to keep your certification. 

So, after taking your certification exam, you will need to advance your education regularly. This ensures that you stay current with the updates in these fields. The amount of continuing education required is set by the agency issuing your original certification.

Qualities of a Sought-After Certified Nutrition Fitness Trainer

There are a few things you can do once you become a certified nutritionist and personal trainer to increase your appeal to clients. 

One is to live by example. This is what a good nutrition coach does. It’s also what a good personal trainer does. You can talk about human nutrition and exercise all day, but clients want to work with someone who can “walk the walk.” They want a precision nutrition and fitness program that you’re willing to do too. 

When just starting out, it’s also helpful to learn from others who are currently working in these fields. Talk to people who have their trainer certification. Get their insight into what works and what doesn’t. Find out the mistakes they made so you don’t make them yourself.

Also take the time to do a bit of online research. Search for top tips for new personal trainers. Read about the challenges you’re likely to meet in the nutrition field. The more you know about how to succeed in health and fitness, the more likely it is you will.

Choosing the Best Nutrition and Personal Training Program

If you want to work in nutrition and personal training, the next step is to decide which school to attend. What should you look for when advancing your education in human nutrition and exercise fitness?

First, the school should provide the skills you need to work in the field. Overall, both will talk about how to promote health. But you need the specifics.

For instance, when working as a nutritionist, you’ll be creating customized plans. Therefore, you’ll need to know about precision nutrition and how to apply it. If the course is about fitness, you’ll need to learn about muscles and how they work.

Though it isn’t mandatory, it is helpful to earn your personal trainer certification and nutrition certification from the same organization. Once you’re familiar with the way their courses operate, it is easy to transition from one field of study to the next.

Using an organization that offers recertification is beneficial too. It helps assure that continuing education credits can be used when it’s time to renew your certification.


The ISSA offers both a Certified Nutrition Specialist program and a Certified Personal Trainer program. Each is available online, enabling you to earn your nutrition certification and personal trainer certification from the comfort of your home. Enroll today and start working toward your career in health!

ISSA

Featured Course

Sports Nutritionist

ISSA’s Specialist in Sports Nutrition (SSN) program prepares personal trainers to expand their practices into the specialized area of sports nutrition. Trainers learn how to optimize client performance by combining well-designed training programs with performance nutrition.

Please note: The information provided in this course is for general educational purposes only. The material is not a substitute for consultation with a healthcare provider regarding particular medical conditions and needs. Be sure to check the statutes in your state regarding the nutrition information that non-licensed individuals are able to dispense.

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