How to Become an Athletic Trainer
A career as an athletic trainer requires endurance and dedication.
From golf players to football players, every athlete risks sustaining an injury. A small ankle twist can result in excruciating pain and weeks of immobilization that are devastating to a professional athlete’s career. Fortunately, there are licensed professionals who know how to prevent and treat these injuries. If you want to help people get back on their feet, consider learning how to become an athletic trainer.
Athletic trainers don’t only work with professional athletes. As more people become health conscious, there’s been an uptick in demand for athletic trainers. Construction workers, police officers, first responders, performing artists, and those who work in other physically demanding occupations rely on athletic trainers to help them heal from injuries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), athletic trainer jobs will grow at a pace of 16% over the next 10 years. That puts this career much further ahead in the race than most other occupations.
If an athletic training career interests you, read on to learn what it takes to become certified and stay in the running for a first-place job.
What Is an Athletic Trainer?
An athletic trainer is a health care professional who specializes in sports medicine, rehabilitative care, physical therapy, and preventative care. Athletic trainers play an important role in keeping athletes and physically active people mobile and healthy.
What Does an Athletic Trainer Do?
Athletic trainers work in clinical settings and at sporting events where they’re usually the first people to respond to sports injuries that occur during a competition. If a soccer player twists an ankle, athletic trainers might rush out to the field to apply ice and compression. They also work directly with licensed physicians when diagnosing and treating injuries in health care facilities.
The typical duties of an athletic trainer include:
- Diagnosing and treating injuries to the muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments
- Helping athletes and other clients develop strength, flexibility, and proper posture to prevent injury
- Providing emergency or first aid treatment
- Applying medical tape, bandages, braces, and other protective devices
- Creating and implementing rehabilitation programs for injured athletes
- Creating injury prevention programs for athletes that are in compliance with state and federal regulations
- Writing reports, keeping records, and tracking client progress
- Meeting with athletic directors and other administrative officials to discuss business-related issues
Most athletic trainers work in educational services, hospitals, physical therapy offices, and fitness and sports centers. Some are self-employed or work directly with the military, law enforcement, professional sports teams, or performing artists.
Take a look at Monster’s athletic trainer job description to get an idea of the experience and duties employers expect from candidates for athletic training jobs.
How to Become an Athletic Trainer
A career as an athletic trainer requires endurance and dedication—and much like the pros, you’ll need to pace yourself to get to the finish line. To become a licensed athletic trainer, you’ll first need to complete an undergraduate athletic trainer degree from a college or university accredited by The Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE). Some employers prefer candidates who have also completed athletic training master’s programs.
When studying as an athletic training major, you’ll learn about anatomy, physiology, nutrition, biology, physics, and kinesiology. There are several CAATE-accredited colleges and universities that offer athletic training programs both in person and online. To find a program that best fits you, check out this list of the best athletic training colleges before taking a look at these athletic training scholarships that can help you hit the ground running after graduation.
Once you’ve completed your postsecondary education, you’ll need to pass an exam issued by The Board of Certification for the Athletic Trainer (BOC) to obtain an athletic trainer certification. The BOC athletic training exam is four hours long and features 175 questions covering the following topics:
- Wellness and injury/illness prevention
- Injury diagnosis and evaluation
- Emergency care
- Treatment and rehabilitation
- Organization and professional health
But being an athletic trainer is a marathon, not a sprint. Even after you become a certified athletic trainer, you’ll need to comply with the BOC Standards of Professional Practice and continue pursuing education: Athletic trainers must complete 25 continuing education units during their certification maintenance period.
How Long Does It Take to Become an Athletic Trainer?
It generally takes four years to finish your undergraduate athletic trainer education requirements. Obtaining a master’s in athletic training can take an additional one to three years.
Becoming BOC certified can take a few months. Once you’ve taken the BOC certification exam, results will be available within two to four weeks. After you’ve passed, you’ll need to ensure that you meet the continuing education requirements every two years to keep your certification active.
Find Athletic Trainer Internships
Before landing your first athletic trainer job, you may benefit from an internship during your final year of an undergraduate program, as part of your graduate program, or in place of a graduate program. While not required for certification, an internship can help you get hands-on experience under the supervision of a certified athletic trainer. Not all internships offer pay, but some pay up to $30,000 per year.
Check out Monster’s list of available athletic trainer internships to find one that best fits you.
How Much Do Athletic Trainers Make?
According to Monster data, the median athletic trainer salary is $46,948 per year. The lowest-earning athletic trainers make around $38,823, and the highest-earning make around $59,098. Salaries fluctuate depending on where athletic trainers work and their level of experience. For example, the average college athletic trainer salary is slighter higher than the median at $52,660, according to the BLS.
You can look up the average salary for athletic trainers in your location by using the Monster Salary Guide.
Find Athletic Trainer Jobs
You have the degree, the certification, and the hands-on experience. You know how to become an athletic trainer. Now it’s time to earn your place on the podium with a first-place job. Flex your resume-writing skills to show potential employers that you know your stuff. Monster’s resume writing tips can help you create a strong athletic trainer resume.
When you’re writing your resume and cover letter, keep in mind that employers are looking for the following qualities and skills in their athletic trainers:
- Compassion for patients who suffer from serious pain and discomfort
- The ability to make informed clinical decisions that lead to positive outcomes
- Attention to detail when recording and tracking patients’ progress
- Strong interpersonal skills and the ability to manage difficult situations
When you’re ready to apply, Monster offers an extensive list of athletic trainer jobs.
According to the BLS, the five states with the highest employment levels for athletic trainers are:
The top five U.S. metro areas are:
Show Employers That You’re Fit for the Job
So you’ve learned how to become an athletic trainer. Now it’s time to see your job search through to the finish line. Upload your resume for free and Monster can keep you in the running with new job alerts and career advice delivered straight to your inbox.