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Athletic Trainer Career

Career Description

An Athletic Trainer helps prevent and treat injuries for people of all ages. Their clients include everyone from professional athletes to industrial workers. Recognized by the American Medical Association as allied health professionals, athletic trainers specialize in the prevention,  assessment, treatment, and rehabilitation of musculoskeletal injuries. Athletic trainers often are one of the first heath care providers on the scene when injuries occur, and therefore they must be able to recognize, evaluate, and assess injuries and provide immediate care when needed. They also are heavily involved in the rehabilitation and reconditioning of injuries.

Common Work Tasks

  • Help prevent injuries by advising on the proper use of equipment and applying protective or injury-preventive devices such as tape, bandages, and braces
  • Educate people on what they should do to avoid putting themselves at risk for injuries
  • Meet with the team physician or consulting physician once or twice a week
  • Discuss specific injuries and treatment options with a physician and perform evaluations and treatments as directed by a physician
  • Meet with an athletic director or other administrative officer to deal with budgets, purchasing, policy implementation,  and other business-related issues
  • Discuss and administer treatments,  rehabilitation programs, injury-preventive practices, and other health-related issues for athletes and patients
  • Recognize, evaluate, and assess injuries and provide immediate care when needed
  • Care for athletic injuries using physical therapy equipment, techniques, and medication
  • Evaluate athletes’ readiness to play, and provide participation clearances when necessary and warranted
  • Apply protective or injury preventive devices such as tape, bandages, or braces to body parts such as ankles, fingers, or wrists

Other Job Titles

Athletic Trainers are also known by other titles, including:

  • Physical Therapists
  • Medical Assistants
  • Recreational Therapists
  • Registered Nurses

Education,  Training, and Experience

Education and Training
A bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university is required for almost all jobs as an athletic trainer. Athletic trainers may need a master’s or higher degree to be eligible for some positions, especially those in colleges and universities, and to increase their advancement opportunities. Because some positions in high schools involve teaching along with athletic trainer responsibilities, a teaching certificate or license could be required.

Certification and Licensure
In 2006, 46 States required athletic trainers to be licensed or registered; this requires certification from the Board of Certification, Inc. (BOC). For certification,  athletic trainers need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited athletic training program. In addition, a successful candidate for BOC certification must pass a rigorous examination. To retain certification, credential holders must continue taking medical-related courses and adhere to the BOC standards of practice. In States where licensure is not required, certification is voluntary but may be helpful for those seeking jobs and advancement.

  Because all athletic trainers deal directly with a variety of people, they need good social and communication skills. They should be able to manage difficult situations and the stress associated with them, such as when disagreements arise with coaches, clients, or parents regarding suggested treatment. Athletic trainers also should be organized, be able to manage time wisely, be inquisitive, and have a strong desire to help people.


The median annual salary for an Athletic Trainer is $38,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $60,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $23,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of athletic trainers are:

  • Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools - $41,070
  • Other Amusement and Recreation Industries - $36,490
  • General Medical and Surgical Hospitals - $40,420
  • Offices of Other Health Practitioners - $37,710
  • Elementary and Secondary Schools - $47,440

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  24%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 4,200
  • Employment 2006 : 17,000
  • Employment 2016:   21,000
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