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If you’ve wondered what it would be like to help athletes stay in peak shape, or help patients prevent and treat injuries, then you’ve probably played around with the thought of becoming an athletic trainer. The only problem was, you didn’t find every piece of info you needed about this job, and you’re still uncertain about starting this career journey. If you’re interested in athletic trainer jobs, this article will give you the information you need, from the basic job description to expected job growth, salary, advancement options, and more.

About Athletic Trainer Jobs

What Do Athletic Trainers Do?

If we want a precise athletic trainer job description, we should formulate it along these lines: these healthcare professionals are responsible for carrying out rehabilitation and prevention programs for injured patients and athletes. More specifically, they’re responsible for diagnosing, preventing, and treating bone and muscle injuries and similar health issues.

Athletic Trainer Job Duties

All careers come with a set of responsibilities and tasks. That being said, athletic trainers will usually perform the following tasks and duties:
  • Recognize injuries
  • Evaluate injuries
  • Provide emergency care/first aid
  • Come up with different rehabilitation programs for injured patients and athletes, and help them in carrying out those programs
  • Create and implement different preventive programs to stop injuries and illnesses from happening among patients/athletes, sometimes even among military personnel
  • Apply tapes, braces, and bandages (protective devices that serve to prevent injuries)
  • Performing protocol administrative duties, like record-keeping and report-writing.

Types

If we’re taking into consideration professional settings, athletic trainer jobs include working in:
  • Emergency departments in hospitals
  • Military and law enforcement
  • Occupational and different industrial settings
  • Performing arts
  • Professional sports
  • Intercollegiate athletics
  • Physician offices
  • Secondary schools
  • Sports medicine clinics.
Trainers will most often work with people from all walks of life and of all ages. As you may have seen above, athletic trainer jobs in professional sports can be quite lucrative and appealing. This especially applies to people aiming to make a great impact and develop an incredibly successful career in this field of expertise. Most of the time, athletic trainers are the first health professionals who visit the scene when injuries happen. They usually work with a licensed physician and other healthcare experts, with whom they discuss different programs and courses of action meant to treat and prevent injuries and health conditions. It’s also important to stress that athletic trainer careers are not the same thing as fitness instructor careers—many people make the mistake of using these terms interchangeably. 

Work Environment

People working in this profession held approximately 32,000 jobs in the US in 2019. The most prominent employers were educational service providers (on private, local, and state levels) with 36%. Another 19% of athletic trainer jobs were held in state, local, and private hospitals, and 14% in different therapists offices (occupational, physical, audiologists, and speech therapists). Also, 6% of athletic trainers worked in different recreational sports and fitness centers, while around 4% were self-employed professionals. The nature of their work may demand that they work outdoors, at sports fields, in various conditions and almost all types of weather.

Injuries and Illnesses

When it comes to athletic trainer jobs, an appropriate description will surely mention the most common illnesses and injuries these professionals have to handle. As such, they will treat, prevent, or diagnose strains, sprains, muscle problems, rotator cuff and knee injuries, dislocations, and shin splints. Apart from acute injuries, trainers will also diagnose and treat chronic problems that come with more subtle symptoms signaling overuse. These problems may worsen over time and lead to more serious complications. On the other hand, athletic trainer job responsibilities also include addressing problems like handling stiffness, improving mobility, improving weakened body parts, and muscle groups.

Work Schedules

The vast majority of these professionals work full-time jobs. In case they’re also working with sports teams, they may also have to work during weekends and evenings. Traveling athletic trainer jobs also fit in this context because trainers assisting sports teams are often required to accompany the team regardless of the destination.

How to Become an Athletic Trainer

People who wish to work as athletic trainers first need to meet certain requirements.

Important Qualities

  • Compassion: Most of the time, the patients whom athletic trainers work with are in a great deal of pain. As such, trainers should be sympathetic during treatment sessions.
  • Detail-orientedness: The job description of an athletic trainer involves responsibilities like meticulously recording and examining every patient’s progress. The purpose of this is to ensure their recovery is at optimal pace, and the treatment and fitness regimen doesn’t cause additional complications.
  • Decision-making: As the outcome of specific injuries or conditions and the success of recovery may affect not just the livelihood, but often the overall health and mobility of patients, trainers must make smart decisions to ensure the best outcome.
  • Interpersonal skills: All certified athletic trainer jobs demand excellent interpersonal skills because these professionals often have to handle difficult situations. They must know how to communicate efficiently and clearly—not just with physicians, but also with patients, athletes, parents, coaches, etc.

Education

An athletic trainer job will require at least an accredited university or college bachelor’s degree. There are also numerous master’s degree programs, and in a lot of cases, employers will prefer candidates with higher degrees. Degrees are a must because employers are then certain that the people they’re hiring have participated in programs with health and science-related courses like anatomy, physiology, nutrition, and biology, involving different clinical and classroom components.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Professional athletic trainer jobs impose another criterion—candidates in practically every state need to be licensed and certified professionals. There can also be other, more specific requirements, depending on the state. For instance, the Board of Certification for the Athletic Trainer’s exam (BOC) is a standard certification examination accepted by most states in licensing trainers. This certification requires that the student has successfully graduated from a CAATE-accredited program and passed the Board’s exam. Also, to remain a certified trainer, professionals should continue to attend further seminars and education courses.

Athletic Trainer Advancement Opportunities

Most likely, candidates will start their career by applying for assistant positions. In time, they may make it to head athletic trainer or even athletic director. They may also become practice administrators in clinics, hospitals, or in private practices. College and high school athletic trainer jobs will probably bring opportunities for degree advancement and higher positions as well.

Pay

In 2019, the annual median for these healthcare professionals was $48,440. According to the data for the same year, around 10% of athletic trainers had an annual salary of less than $31,300, while the top 10% managed to earn over $73,470 a year. With athletic trainer jobs, salary will pretty much vary depending on the specific industry professionals work in. In 2019, trainers involved in educational services on state, local, and private levels earned the largest median of $52,660. Next up were professionals working in hospitals, who earned a median of $47,880. The third category of trainers worked in fitness and sports centers and earned around $46,890. Lastly, those who worked with physical, occupational, and other therapists reached a yearly median of $45,240.  It’s also important to mention that the typical income range for this profession in 2020 ranged from $42,603–$52,506. Looking at these figures, one might think that college athletic trainer jobs would be among the most lucrative career paths to take for those drawn to this calling. Annual salaries and monthly wages for these experts don’t only depend on their industry. Many other factors will also influence a typical athletic trainer job salary. Things like additional skills, experience, education level, and additional certificates can also play a huge role.

Athletic Trainer Job Outlook

The future of this profession looks rather promising. As the US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects, between 2019 and 2029, the employment rate in this field of expertise is expected to grow by 16%. This means the demand for such professionals is highly likely to be on the rise, especially as more people remain active and pursue an active lifestyle regardless of their age. Also, more and more people are starting to realize the importance of injury prevention and proper treatment. Certified athletic trainer jobs are already in growing demand since some states require secondary schools to have on-site professionals who can work closely with children and address any lingering problems. Typically, they’re the first medical professionals to respond to injuries in schools. As injury treatment methods and prevention techniques advance, they will keep positively influencing the general job outlook for athletic trainer professionals. Also, with the increasing numbers of people turning to different physical activities and a healthier, more active lifestyle, sports injuries are bound to become more frequent as well. Consequently, there will be a higher demand for athletic trainers who can provide adequate treatment and implement injury-prevention programs.

Job Prospects

Generally, prospects for this job are quite bright. This especially refers to candidates who have completed CAATE programs and are BOC-certified. Candidates with remarkable achievements can land NCAA athletic trainer jobs with attractive salaries, and work with professional sports teams or become physical or occupational therapists, chiropractors, etc.

FAQs

What is an athletic trainer in healthcare?

When looking at their scope of practice, athletic trainers are skilled and well-educated professionals specialized in athletic health care and patient recovery. They often work together with physical therapists, doctors, and coaches. The responsibilities encompassed in a typical athletic trainer job vary depending on the needs of patients. These professionals may be providing basic athletic training services, or applying braces, bandages, and tapes which will protect patients or athletes from sustaining injuries. As such, they can also assist in evaluating injuries and provide immediate aid.  Their duties can also include implementing different rehabilitation training programs for patients recovering from an injury, or developing specific programs to prevent injuries. Lastly, they often perform administrative tasks, like writing instructions and reports.

What can I do with a degree in athletic training? 

Once you finish your studies and get certified, you will have the chance to work with athletes to optimize their training, prevent and treat sports injuries. Also, you’ll be able to apply for military athletic trainer jobs, which are similar in a way that you will also monitor the training regime and habits of military personnel and ensure that their athleticism and overall performance stays at optimal levels.

How do you become a professional athletic trainer?

A bachelor’s degree is enough to become a trainer. However, according to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), around seventy percent of professional athletic trainers have a master’s or even a doctorate degree. Through higher education programs, you can gain more knowledge necessary to treat athletes in the sports medicine industry. Most US states will also require you to become a certified trainer. Certification Criteria may vary from state to state. This means that athletic trainer jobs in New York will probably have a somewhat different set of criteria than, let’s say, those in Idaho. However, in the greatest majority of cases, an accredited bachelor’s program is mandatory, along with having to continue your education in order to keep your certificate. The latter can be achieved through short-term programs or seminars that focus on presenting the latest advancements in sports and medicine. All this allows you to apply the latest knowledge and techniques when writing training programs and coming up with injury-prevention strategies.

What do hospital athletic trainers make?

According to 2019 data, an athletic trainer annually makes around $48,440 on average. The typical range falls between $42,603 and $52,506. If you’re applying for athletic trainer jobs, your salary will depend on various factors. These include the number of certifications you have, your level of education, additional skills, and the amount of experience you’ve accumulated throughout the time you’ve spent working in the field.

What are the advancement opportunities in healthcare for athletic trainers?

First of all, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, this particular job will experience a 16% growth in the 2019–2029 period. As previously mentioned, professionals who continue training and education after getting a bachelor’s degree have more opportunities to grow their careers and advance themselves.  Furthering your education also enables you to pursue other careers that are closely related. These careers can require at least a master’s degree and additional certificates, as well as actual work experience. With all that under your belt, you can become a chiropractor, a physical therapist, or an occupational therapist. The competition can be rough across the country whether you are looking for athletic trainer jobs in CT, CA, or any other state. Still, you should know the number of these job opportunities is expected to increase in the forthcoming years, which helps take some of the pressure off. Lastly, advancement opportunities can also lead to above-average salaries. For example, the median salary for an occupational therapist is approximately $86,850, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Conclusion

As you can see, getting a job as an athletic trainer doesn’t have to be overly complicated, but it isn’t necessarily that simple either. As long as you’re dedicated and meet the athletic trainer job requirements, you’ll make a strong candidate in every possible job opening. Just as with countless other professions, practice, experience, additional skills, and certificates are considered an advantage in the job market. Such achievements play a huge role—not just in landing the perfect job but in opening up different advancement options as well, which can further your career. All in all, athletic trainer jobs are important positions in the world of healthcare as they help patients and athletes prevent or recover from injuries, and generally maintain an active lifestyle with considerable success.