Certified Athletic Trainers
This profession was first recognized in 1990. Athletic trainers should not be confused with fitness or personal trainers, who are not members of the health care team. Athletic trainers, on the other hand, are. Athletic trainers help to treat and prevent injuries for patients of all ages. They work with athletes of all stages, from children just learning to play a sport to professional athletes. They also work in industry to help workers prevent and rehabilitate injuries.
Duties, Activities, and Scope of Practice
Some, but not all, athletic trainers who work with sports teams in high schools, colleges, and universities are also required to be teachers.
Athletic trainers work under the supervision of or in coordination with a physician and in conjunction with other health care workers to treat and rehabilitate musculoskeletal injuries such as sprains, strains, contusions, and fractures. They also work with players to prevent injuries by instructing in proper fitness, conditioning, nutrition, and general health.
Teams hire athletic trainers to be present during training, practice, and competition to assess and provide first aid for injuries as well as to work with players to prevent injury. They may have to make quick decisions that can affect the health or career of the athlete as well as the outcome of the competition. In all instances they need to advocate for the patients and not necessarily the outcome of the competition, which may not be the most popular action at the time.
They will help the players warm up properly, massage sore muscles, and apply ice to players leaving the field, such as to a pitcher's arm and shoulder.
They also work in business and industry to help workers prevent on-the-job injuries through proper body mechanics, conditioning, and general health. They are also on-hand in case of an injury to provide immediate treatment.
Education and Training
The undergraduate education curriculum includes anatomy and physiology, nutrition, exercise physiology, kinesiology (study of human muscular movement), physics, pharmacology, pathology, health education, psychology of coaching, and chemistry. They must also complete a CPR course and remain certified. Clinical practice in a supervised setting is also part of the program.
As of 2004, a bachelor's degree in athletic training from an accredited program was required to meet certification requirements for forty-three of fifty states. According to the National Athletic Trainers' Association, 70 percent of athletic trainers have a master's or doctoral degree. Those who work in high schools and are required to teach will have to have a teaching credential as well.
The National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA) is the certifying agency. Candidates must have at least a bachelor's degree in athletic training and 800 hours of experience. The exam measures clinical skills, basic knowledge, and decision-making skills. Recertification requires continuing education. Those who pass the examination become certified athletic trainers and may use the designation ATC.
Some states require licensure. Check with your state government for information.
Work Settings and Salaries
The U.S. Department of Labor reports that there were about 15,000 jobs for athletic trainers in 2004. Of those, about one-third worked in health care, either for hospitals or in offices of physicians or other health care practitioners. Another one-third worked for public or private schools, mostly high schools, colleges, and universities. Others worked for professional sports teams or in business and industry. A small number worked for recreational sports or fitness centers.
The jobs with professional sports teams are highly competitive and generally require a commitment to work the most hours per week. Athletic trainers work long and mostly irregular hours. Those who teach may also have very long workweeks.
Salaries depend on the job, including responsibilities and experience. The median salary for 2004 was $33,940. Salaries ranged from $20,000 to over $53,000 per year. Most included benefits, and some included payment for continuing-education requirements.
Career Potential and Additional Information
This career is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations over the next decade. Positions are expected to grow in elementary and middle schools but may require teaching responsibilities as well.
As the population ages and technology advances, the demand for skilled health care workers will continue to grow. Athletic trainers will be needed to help meet these needs. Demands for trainers interested in preventing and treating musculoskeletal injuries in an aging population will grow faster than the demand for trainers for professional teams. These positions are and will continue to be highly competitive because the turnover of trainers is low.
For further information on careers in athletic training, contact the National Athletic Trainers' Association. Their Web site is