Athletic trainers specialize in preventing, diagnosing, and treating muscle and bone injuries and illnesses.
What they do
Athletic trainers typically do the following:
- Apply protective or injury-preventive devices, such as tape, bandages, and braces
- Recognize and evaluate injuries
- Provide first aid or emergency care
- Develop and carry out rehabilitation programs for injured athletes
- Plan and implement comprehensive programs to prevent injury and illness among athletes
- Perform administrative tasks, such as keeping records and writing reports on injuries and treatment programs
Athletic trainers work with people of all ages and all skill levels, from young children to soldiers and professional athletes. Athletic trainers are usually one of the first healthcare providers on the scene when injuries occur on the field. They work under the direction of a licensed physician and with other healthcare providers, often discussing specific injuries and treatment options or evaluating and treating patients, as directed by a physician. Some athletic trainers meet with a team physician or consulting physician regularly.
An athletic trainer’s administrative responsibilities may include regular meetings with an athletic director or another administrative officer to deal with budgets, purchasing, policy implementation, and other business-related issues. Athletic trainers plan athletic programs that are compliant with federal and state regulations; for example, they may ensure a football program adheres to laws related to athlete concussions.
Athletic trainers should not be confused with fitness trainers and instructors, which include personal trainers.
Athletic trainers also may work with military, with law enforcement, with professional sports teams, or with performing artists. Athletic trainers may spend their time working outdoors on sports fields in all types of weather.
How to become an Athletic Trainer
Athletic trainers need at least a bachelor’s degree. Nearly all states require athletic trainers to have a license or certification; requirements vary by state.
Athletic trainers need at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Master’s degree programs are also common, and may be preferred by some employers. Degree programs have classroom and clinical components, including science and health-related courses, such as biology, anatomy, physiology, and nutrition.
The Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE) accredits hundreds of athletic trainer programs, including post professional and residency athletic trainer programs.
High school students interested in postsecondary athletic training programs should take courses in anatomy, physiology, and physics.
Nearly all states require athletic trainers to be licensed or certified; requirements vary by state. For specific requirements, contact the particular state’s licensing or credentialing board or athletic trainer association.
The Board of Certification for the Athletic Trainer (BOC) offers the standard certification examination that most states use for licensing athletic trainers. Certification requires graduating from a CAATE-accredited program and passing the BOC exam. To maintain certification, athletic trainers must adhere to the BOC Standards of Professional Practice and take continuing education courses.
The median annual wage for athletic trainers was $48,440 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,300, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $73,470.
Employment of athletic trainers is projected to grow 16 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Demand for athletic trainers is expected to increase as people become more aware of the effects of sports-related injuries, and as the middle-aged and older population remains active.
Similar Job Titles
Assistant Athletic Trainer, Athletic Instructor, Athletic Trainer, Certified Athletic Trainer, Clinical Instructor, Graduate Assistant Athletic Trainer, Head Athletic Trainer, Head Athletic Trainer/Strength Coach, Resident Athletic Trainer, Sports Medicine Coordinator
Career/Technical Education Teachers-Middle School, Occupational Therapist, Physical Therapist, Recreational Therapist, Registered Nurse
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- American College of Sports Medicine
- American Council on Exercise
- American Physical Therapy Association
- Board of Certification for the Athletic Trainer
- College Athletic Trainers' Society
- National Academy of Sports Medicine
- National Athletic Trainers' Association
- National Strength and Conditioning Association
One of the key players on any sports team never takes the field. Athletic trainers work in the background to keep players in top shape. The most important part of the athletic trainer’s job is helping athletes prevent and recover from sports injuries. Working closely with team doctors, trainers wrap injuries and supervise physical therapy. Trainers spend a lot of time in gyms and locker rooms, as well as on the road traveling to sporting events. They study practice sessions and provide individualized exercise routines for athletes to improve their performance. Game times are usually at night, on weekends or holidays. A trainer might need to find other employment during the off-season. Athletic trainers work with athletes in a wide variety of settings: colleges and universities, high schools, clinics, hospitals, the military and law enforcement, as well as the performing arts. The highest-profile jobs are with professional teams. A love of sports is a good starting point, but a master’s degree in athletic training, sports medicine, physical education or a related field is usually required to enter the field. Many states require a professional license. No matter the setting or the sport, the greatest reward for an athletic trainer is helping athletes achieve their personal best.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org