Athletic Trainer: Summary of How to Become an Athletic Trainer

Research the requirements to become an athletic trainer. Learn about the job description and duties and explore the step-by-step process to start a career in athletic training.

Should I Become an Athletic Trainer?

Athletic trainers are health care professionals who specialize in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of medical conditions involving disabilities, impairment and functional limitations. Developing and implementing rehabilitation programs, recognizing and evaluating injuries and providing emergency care or first aid are a few of the duties that these professionals have. They typically collaborate with licensed physicians and other medical professionals, and work with patients and clients of all ages.

Athletic trainers can find employment in educational facilities, physicians' offices, fitness and recreational sports centers, in the military or for professional sports teams. Depending on the positions, some work weekends and evenings and may even work outdoors in all types of weather conditions.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree standard, master's degree also common
Degree Field Athletic training
Training and Experience Clinical field training constitutes experience for entry-level positions
Licensure and Certification Certification or licensure required in most states; CPR certification needed
Key Skills Decision-making, communication and interpersonal skills, detail-oriented, compassion
Salary $45,730 per year (2014 average salary for all athletic trainers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Board of Certification ForTthe Athletic Trainer

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree in Athletic Training

An individuals must have at least a bachelor's degree to work as an athletic trainer. In order to be licensed, it's important for students to choose a degree program that has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE). Coursework typically includes human movement sciences, first aid/emergency care, anatomy and physiology and injury/illness prevention. Students also participate in hands-on clinical education with a variety of age groups while working under the direct supervision of an experienced athletic trainer.

Step 2: Gain Relevant Work Experience While in School

Although many employers will consider new graduates without previous experience, gaining experience while in school can help students become competitive candidates in the job market. Students can participating in summer internships, which may last up to eight weeks. An internship program may provide information about how to develop treatment programs, conduct patient evaluations, document injuries and communicate with medical staff.

Step 3: Obtain Certification and Licensure

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most states require athletic trainers to be certified or licensed. Becoming certified by the Board of Certification (BOC) requires the completion of a CAATE-accredited program and passing an exam. Although requirements may vary by state, the process of becoming a licensed athletic trainer is similar to the certification process and involves graduating from an accredited program and passing the BOC exam or separate state exam. Clinical evaluation and diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation, immediate and emergency care and injury/illness prevention are several topics that are covered on the exam.

Step 4: Maintain Certification

Athletic trainers must meet recertification requirements within a reporting period (typically two years) to remain certified. The first step involves complying with the terms of the BOC Standards of Professional Practice followed by paying a certification fee. Trainers must also maintain ongoing certifications in emergency cardiac care, including adult and pediatric CPR, airway obstruction, second rescuer CPR, automated external defibrillator and barrier devices. The completion of continuing education courses is also a component of the recertification process.

Step 5: Consider a Master's Degree

Although a graduate degree is voluntary, it can be helpful for trainers who work at the collegiate level or those seeking career advancement. Master's degree programs provide further study in exercise and sports medicine, exercise physiology and advanced athletic training. Most master's programs can be completed in two years and combine laboratory experiences with clinical internships.

Success Tip:

  • Have a competitive GPA. The process of selecting applicants for master's degree programs related to athletic training is highly competitive. Many master's programs require that students have an undergraduate GPA of 2.75 to 3.0.

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