Sports medicine professionals can range from an athletic trainer or nutritionist to a massage therapist or physician. Read on to learn more about education and training for sports medicine professionals, as well what you can look forward to in terns of career opportunities and earnings.
Sports medicine practitioners often focus on the care and rehabilitation of athletes with sports-related injuries. They may also work proactively to help individuals achieve optimum levels of fitness and performance, conduct strength training activities or teach others how to prevent injuries. Medical doctors and surgeons, exercise specialists, massage therapists and nutritionists who work with athletic teams are all examples of sports medicine professionals. Self-motivation and a strong desire to help others, as well as an awareness of the competitive nature of the athletic world, are important qualities in sports medicine.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities and salaries in sports medicine can vary according to the field. For example, employment of athletic trainers, dietitians, exercise physiologists and nutritionists was expected to increase by a faster-than-average rate nationwide between 2012 and 2022. A faster-than-average growth in employment was also expected for physicians and surgeons through 2022, with a much-faster-than average increase in jobs projected for massage and physical therapists during the same 10-year period.
As reported by the BLS in May 2013, athletic trainer and exercise physiologists earned mean annual salaries of $44,720 and $48,790, respectively, while dietitians and nutritionists earned an average of $56,300 a year. In the same month, massage therapists averaged $40,400 per year, and physical therapists earned mean annual salaries of $82,180 (www.bls.gov). Although the BLS does not report salary statistics specific to sports physicians, according to PayScale.com in June 2014, sports doctors could earn anywhere from $36,174 to $259,100 a year, including bonuses.
Formal education requirements for sports medicine professionals vary according to area of specialty and title. Some positions require an industry or state certification or license, prior to which, you'll have to complete a degree or training program and take an exam.
In a Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training program, you'll learn how to help athletes avoid injuries and provide treatments during athletic events. After you've worked in the field, you could also pursue a Master of Science in Athletic Training with a concentration in sports medicine. As a graduate student, you may study the Burdenko Method, a water therapy technique used in sports medicine, as well as eating disorders and nutritional counseling.
Most states require athletic trainers to be certified or licensed, typically through the Board of Certification. Requirements for exercise physiologists are less stringent; certifications are available through the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Society of Exercise Physiologists.
A bachelor's degree in dietetics or food and nutrition is the usual minimum requirement for obtaining a job as a dietitian or nutritionist. Coursework found in a Bachelor of Science in Clinical Dietetics program generally includes topics in biochemistry, food science, nutritional therapy and medical terminology.
Required education and regulations differ from state to state, but most require a license to practice. You could also pursue a voluntary Registered Dietician credential through the Commission on Dietetic Registration of the American Dietetic Association.
Educational requirements for massage therapists include at least 500 hours of formal training. In addition to coursework in anatomy, body mechanics, human physiology and kinesiology, you'll become acquainted with a variety of massage techniques.
While each state has its own requirements, you'll most likely have to pass a nationally recognized exam, such as the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) or the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCETMB), before you can begin practicing professionally.
If you're interested in becoming a licensed sports physician or surgeon, you'll need to complete at least eight years of postsecondary education, including undergraduate prerequisites and four years of medical school. As an aspiring sports doctor and candidate for licensure, you'll also participate in fellowships, internships and residencies. Board certifications and memberships can be found through a number of professional organizations, such as the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine and the American Osteopathic Academy of Sports Medicine.