How to Become an Athletic Trainer in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become an athletic trainer. Learn about the job duties, education requirements, licensure, job outlook, and salary information to find out if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Fitness Trainer degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does an Athletic Trainer Do?

Athletic trainers provide health care to high school and college students, industrial workers and professional athletes who incur work or sports-related injuries. Athletic trainers diagnose and treat injuries and illnesses of the muscle and bone. They also provide preventive education and treatment and design rehabilitation programs. Among their administrative tasks are record-keeping and regular meetings with an athletic director to discuss budgets, policy implementation and other business-related matters. The table below provides an overview of the general requirements for this career.

Degree Required Bachelor's and/or master's degree
Education Field of Study Athletic training or similar field
Key Responsibilities Identifying and assessing injuries, providing prompt medical care, perform outreach services
Licensure/Certification Required Licensure is required by most states
Job Growth (2018-28) 19%*
Median Salary (2018) $47,510*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What is an Athletic Trainer?

Athletic trainers are skilled health care professionals who are often the first on the scene in the event of an athletic injury. As such, they are responsible for recognizing and evaluating injuries and providing immediate medical care. A portion of an athletic trainer's time might be spent focusing on treatment and rehabilitation after an injury to muscle tissues or bones. At other times, they might perform outreach services such as speaking about illness and injury prevention at businesses or schools.

Step 1: Research the Career Duties of an Athletic Trainer

As an athletic trainer, you often travel along with sports teams. If athletes suffer injuries, you apply braces or bandages, and keep tabs on the players as they recover. If necessary, you utilize physical therapy, massage and medication as a means of relieving muscle pain and soreness. You make determinations as to whether or not to refer players to physicians for further medical treatment. It is your responsibility to work with athletes in training, implementing programs that are designed to improve their performance and reduce the risk of injury.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training

Your educational training should begin with completing a Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training or a related field. Athletic training programs have classroom and clinical components, and will consist of courses such as kinesiology, therapeutic rehabilitation and reconditioning, sport psychology, human anatomy and clinical pharmacology. Ideally, your program of study should be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE). As of 2009, there were about 350 undergraduate training programs across the country.

Step 3: Complete a Master of Science in Athletic Training

If you decide to acquire a master's degree, there are two types of programs you might consider. First, there is an entry-level master's program for students without an undergraduate degree in athletic training. The other option is the advanced master's program intended for those who already have an Athletic Trainer Certification (ATC). Your master's curriculum might offer classes such as athletic training administration, therapeutic exercise, educational research statistics and orthopaedic evaluation.

Step 4: Become Certified as an Athletic Trainer

In 2009, there were 47 states that required licensure or registration of athletic trainers before they could practice. To obtain certification, you must pass the Board of Certification, Inc. (BOC) examination. This involves completing an accredited bachelor's or master's program in athletic training, and passing stringent examinations that evaluate your professional abilities. Continuing education may be mandatory to retain your credentials.

Step 5: Find Employment and Advance Your Career

To find a position, you can apply to high schools, colleges and fitness centers. Health care centers also employ trainers. If you'd like to increase your level of pay, it might be possible to do so by changing sports or transferring to another team. As an experienced athletic trainer, you could eventually take on an administrative or managerial role in a clinic or hospital. You might also consider selling athletic and medical equipment as a marketing professional. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the median salary for athletic trainers in May 2018 was $47,510. The BLS also reports the projected job growth for 2018-2028 for athletic trainers is 19%.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Exercise physiologists design chronic disease recovery fitness and exercise programs, with the goal of improving function and flexibility. These professionals often have a bachelor's degree. Occupational therapists assist injured, ill or disabled patients in garnering the skills needed for everyday living. A master's degree is necessary to enter this field.

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