Sports Trainer: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become a sports trainer. Learn about job duties, education requirements, licensure and certification, and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Education - Sports Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Sports Trainer?

Sports trainers, also known as athletic trainers, are medical professionals who treat athletes as well as a wide range of other patients, from industrial workers to military employees. Most of your work will center on bone and muscle injuries and related conditions. You will likely be involved with both preventing and treating injuries in physically active people, as well as monitoring them after recovery.

It is important that sports trainers have the specific knowledge of human anatomy and sports medicine, but also that they enjoy interacting extensively with people on an individual or group basis. The table below outlines the general requirements for a career as a sports trainer.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Athletic training
Key Skills Decision making skills and attention to detail, interpersonal skills, educating and training clients, utilizing preventive and protective equipment
Certification Required Certification and licensure required by most states
Job Growth (2014-2024) 21%*
Mean Annual Salary (2015) $46,940*

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

What Are the Responsibilities of a Sports Trainer?

As a sports trainer, you would work under the supervision of a licensed doctor to prevent, diagnose and treat injuries that have resulted from physical activity. The American Medical Association reports that you could treat patients in an array of environments including colleges and universities, professional athletic and performing arts organizations, commercial and industrial employment locations, military and hospital-based facilities, physical rehabilitation centers, secondary schools and physicians' offices (www.ama-assn.org).

For preventative care, your primary responsibilities would include educating clients on how to decrease injury risks; applying preventative and/or protective equipment such as braces and bandages; and training clients on exercises that improve strength, flexibility and balance. You would typically perform diagnostic and treatment services to immediate, physical trauma and then follow-up with rehabilitative care.

Some of your administrative duties may involve budgeting, program development and policy implementation. You will also serve as a communication mediator among doctors, patients, employers and patients' families.

What Is the Difference Between a Sports Trainer and a Fitness or Personal Trainer?

Athletic trainers and fitness or personal trainers educate patients on physical fitness and administer exercise programs. However, athletic trainers are healthcare workers who are trained and certified to evaluate and treat injuries, whereas fitness or personal trainers are not.

What Education Is Required?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a bachelor's degree is the minimum educational requirement for almost all athletic trainer jobs. Most baccalaureate programs take four years to complete. Many schools offer Bachelor of Science degrees in athletic training, sports medicine, sports training or similar fields. In addition to liberal arts and other general course requirements, your sports training bachelor's program will typically offer courses such as physiology, sport and exercise pharmacology, anatomy, therapeutic modalities and nutrition. Basic laboratory and clinical experience will also be provided.

Many career opportunities, including those at universities, will require you to have advanced training. Many certified sports trainers have a graduate degree, such as a master's or a doctorate, according to the National Athletic Trainers Association. Your graduate program usually lasts two years and will include a variety of targeted courses, including advanced rehabilitation, orthopedic assessment and other clinical studies.

Do I Need a License or Certification?

Almost every U.S. state requires sports trainers to be certified through the Board of Certification, Inc (BOC). Your certification will be given upon passing a 1-day examination; and your certification will be maintained through BOC-approved continuing education courses.

What Salary Can I Earn?

The BLS reports that in 2015, the average overall salary as a sports trainer was $46,940 annually, with the upper 10% of earners reaching $68,300 or more annually. Your specific salary depends on numerous factors, such as your employer, your experience and your geographic location.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Another career choice you could pursue is recreational therapy. A bachelor's degree is a typical minimum requirement for this field, just as with sports training. Recreational therapists plan and lead activities, such as arts and crafts or sporting activities, to help treat or manage participants' disabilities, injuries, or illnesses. If you're interested in a career that may not require as much postsecondary education, you could complete a certificate program and obtain licensure to be a massage therapist. This career would involve rubbing and manipulating a patient's body to help treat injury or relieve stress.

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