Two women lift weights at a gym

An athletic trainer could...

Bandage a soccer player's knee to prevent an in-game injury. A trainer wraps bandages around another persons knees Design a muscle-strengthening regime to help a swimmer win Olympic gold. Two swimmers race in side-by-side lanes
Help military recruits get physically prepared for combat. A man in a military uniform and harness climbing a rock wall Evaluate a hockey player's injuries to see if he is fit to play. A trainer checks on a hockey player that is curled up on the ice
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Key Facts & Information

Overview Sports injuries can be painful and debilitating. Athletic trainers help athletes, and other physically active people, avoid such injuries, while also working to improve their strength and conditioning. Should a sports injury occur, athletic trainers help to evaluate the injury, determine the treatment needed, and design a fitness regime to rehabilitate the athlete so he or she is ready to go out and compete again.
Key Requirements A strong desire to help others, the ability to stay calm under stress, and excellent communication skills.
Minimum Degree Bachelor's degree
Subjects to Study in High School Biology, chemistry, physics, algebra, geometry
Median Salary
Athletic Trainer
U.S. Mean Annual Wage
Min Wage
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) Much Faster than Average (21% or more) In Demand!
Interview Read an interview with Laura Ramus, head athletic trainer for the Detroit Shocks of the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA).
Related Occupations
Source: O*Net

Training, Other Qualifications

A bachelor's degree is usually the minimum requirement to work as an athletic trainer, but many athletic trainers hold a master's or a doctoral degree.

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.

Education and Training

A bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university is required for almost all jobs as an athletic trainer. In 2006, there were more than 350 accredited programs nationwide. Students in these programs are educated both in the classroom and in clinical settings. Formal education includes many science and health-related courses, such as human anatomy, physiology, nutrition, and biomechanics.

According to the National Athletic Trainers Association, 68 percent of athletic trainers have a master's or a doctoral degree. Athletic trainers may need a master's or a 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.

Other Qualifications

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.

Nature of the Work

Athletic trainers help 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 are also heavily involved in the rehabilitation and reconditioning of injuries. Athletic trainers should not be confused with fitness trainers or personal trainers, who are not health care workers, but rather, train people to become physically fit.

Watch this video from the University of Central Florida for a firsthand glimpse at the work life of an athletic trainer.

Athletic trainers often help prevent injuries by advising on the proper use of equipment and applying protective or injury-preventive devices, such as tape, bandages, and braces. Injury prevention also often includes educating people on what they should do to avoid putting themselves at risk for injuries.

The work of athletic trainers requires frequent interaction with others. This includes consulting with physicians, as well as frequent contact with athletes and patients to discuss and administer treatments, rehabilitation programs, injury-preventive practices, and other health-related issues. Athletic trainers work under the supervision of a licensed physician, and in cooperation with other health care providers. The level of medical supervision varies, depending upon the setting. Some athletic trainers meet with the team physician or consulting physician once or twice a week; others interact with a physician every day.

Athletic trainers often have administrative responsibilities. These may include regular meetings with an athletic director or other administrative officer to deal with budgets, purchasing, policy implementation, and other business-related issues.

Work Environment

Athletic trainers work in a variety of settings, including: high schools, colleges and universities, professional sports, sports medicine clinics, and the military.

Schedules vary by work setting. Athletic trainers in non-sports settings generally have an established schedule—usually about 40 to 50 hours per week—with nights and weekends off. Athletic trainers working in hospitals and clinics may spend part of their time working at other locations doing outreach. Most commonly, these outreach programs include conducting athletic training services and speaking at high schools, colleges, and commercial businesses.

Athletic trainers in sports settings have schedules that are longer and more variable. These athletic trainers must be present for team practices and games, which often are on evenings and weekends, and their schedules can change on short notice when games and practices have to be rescheduled. As a result, athletic trainers in sports settings may regularly work six or seven days per week, including late hours.

In high schools, athletic trainers who also teach may work 60 to 70 hours a week, or more. In National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I colleges and universities, athletic trainers generally work with one team; when that team's sport is in season, working at least 50 to 60 hours a week is common. Athletic trainers in smaller colleges and universities often work with several teams and have teaching responsibilities. During the off-season, a 40-hour to 50-hour work week may be normal in most settings. Athletic trainers for professional sports teams generally work the most hours per week. During training camps, practices, and competitions, they may be required to work up to 12 hours a day.

On the Job

Typical tasks for an athletic trainer might include some of the following:

  • Conduct an initial assessment of an athlete's injury or illness to provide emergency or continued care, and to determine whether he or she should be referred to physicians for definitive diagnosis and treatment.
  • 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 like ankles, fingers, or wrists.
  • Assess and report the progress of recovering athletes to coaches and physicians.
  • Collaborate with physicians to develop and implement comprehensive rehabilitation programs for athletic injuries.
  • Advise athletes on the proper use of equipment.
  • Plan and implement comprehensive athletic injury and illness prevention programs.
  • Develop training programs and routines designed to improve athletic performance.
  • Travel with athletic teams to be available at sporting events.

Source: BLS and ONet

Companies That Hire Athletic Trainers

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