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What Athletic Trainers Do About this section

athletic trainers image
Athletic trainers carry out rehabilitation programs for injured athletes.

Athletic trainers specialize in preventing, diagnosing, and treating muscle and bone injuries and illnesses.

Duties

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.

Work Environment About this section

Athletic trainers
Athletic trainers may travel to games with athletes.

Athletic trainers held about 29,400 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of athletic trainers were as follows:

Educational services; state, local, and private 42%
Hospitals; state, local, and private 20
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists 11
Fitness and recreational sports centers 6
Self-employed workers 2

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.

Work Schedules

Most athletic trainers work full time. Athletic trainers who work with teams during sporting events may work evenings or weekends and travel often.

How to Become an Athletic Trainer About this section

Athletic trainers
Athletic trainers must be licensed or certified in nearly all states.

Athletic trainers typically need at least a bachelor's degree, and master’s degrees are common. Nearly all states require athletic trainers to have a license or certification; requirements vary by state.

Education

To enter the occupation, athletic trainers typically need a degree from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE). Although some jobs are available for workers with a bachelor's degree, many athletic trainers have a master's degree.

Admission into athletic trainer master’s programs generally requires a bachelor's degree with completion of coursework in science and health. Master's degree programs have classroom and clinical components and include instruction in areas such as injury prevention, therapeutic modalities, and nutrition.

High school students interested in postsecondary athletic training programs should take courses in anatomy, physiology, and physics.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Nearly all states require athletic trainers to be licensed or certified; requirements vary by state. For specific requirements, contact the particular state’s licensing board.

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.

Important Qualities

Compassion. Athletic trainers work with athletes and patients who may be in considerable pain or discomfort. The trainers must be sympathetic while providing treatments.

Decisionmaking skills. Athletic trainers must make informed clinical decisions that could affect the health or livelihood of patients.

Detail oriented. Athletic trainers must record patients’ progress accurately and ensure that they are receiving the appropriate treatments or practicing the correct fitness regimen.

Interpersonal skills. Athletic trainers must have strong interpersonal skills in order to manage difficult situations. They must communicate well with others, including physicians, patients, athletes, coaches, and parents.

Advancement

Assistant athletic trainers may become head athletic trainers, athletic directors, or physician, hospital, or clinic practice administrators. In any of these positions, they will assume a management role. Athletic trainers working in colleges and universities may pursue an advanced degree to increase their advancement opportunities.

Pay About this section

Athletic Trainers

Median annual wages, May 2021

Other healthcare practitioners and technical occupations

$54,480

Athletic trainers

$48,420

Total, all occupations

$45,760

 

The median annual wage for athletic trainers was $48,420 in May 2021. 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 $36,960, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $76,180.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for athletic trainers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Educational services; state, local, and private $58,750
Fitness and recreational sports centers 54,710
Hospitals; state, local, and private 48,070
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists 47,210

Most athletic trainers work full time. Athletic trainers who work with teams during sporting events may work evenings or weekends and travel often.

Job Outlook About this section

Athletic Trainers

Percent change in employment, projected 2021-31

Athletic trainers

17%

Other healthcare practitioners and technical occupations

12%

Total, all occupations

5%

 

Employment of athletic trainers is projected to grow 17 percent from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations.

About 2,500 openings for athletic trainers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Some of the projected employment growth in this occupation is due to recovery from the COVID-19 recession of 2020.

Sports programs at all ages and for all experience levels will continue to create demand for athletic trainers. With high levels of participation by children and youth in individual and team sports, athletic trainers will be needed to manage emergency and non-emergency situations that arise. The popularity of college sports and continued participation by student athletes will increase demand for these workers to help athletes prevent and recover from injuries and perform at their highest level.

Meanwhile, growing numbers of middle-aged and older people are remaining physically active. Their continued activity will likely lead to an increase in athletic-related injuries, such as sprains. Athletic trainers will be needed to provide sophisticated treatments in injury prevention and detection.

Employment projections data for athletic trainers, 2021-31
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2021 Projected Employment, 2031 Change, 2021-31 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Athletic trainers

29-9091 29,400 34,500 17 5,100 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about athletic trainers, visit

National Athletic Trainers’ Association

For more information about accredited athletic training programs, visit

Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education

For more information about certification and state regulatory requirements for athletic trainers, visit

Board of Certification for the Athletic Trainer

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