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How to Become a Sports Therapist: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Learn the steps for becoming a sports therapist. Research the various job duties and the education requirements and find out how to start a career in sports therapy.

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Do I Want to Be a Sports Therapist?

Also known as athletic trainers, these therapists work with athletes to prevent and treat injuries. Sports therapists might work with amateur or professional athletes of all ages and often need to work outdoors in inclement weather conditions. Those working with a sports team may need to travel and work evenings or weekends.

Job Requirements

They need a minimum of a bachelor's degree in athletic training, and some therapists have a master's degree. Most states require that sports therapists are licensed. The following table contains the core requirements for sports therapists based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

Common Requirements
Degree Level Bachelor's or master's degree
Degree Field Athletic training
Experience Gained while completing degree program
License and Certification Required by most states; certification is optional
Key Skills Interpersonal skills, decision-making skills

Step 1 - Earn a Bachelor's Degree

The minimum requirement for sports therapists is a bachelor's degree. Students take science and anatomy courses as well as exercise science and biomechanics. They learn to assess athletic injuries and apply therapy techniques. A practicum will likely be required as part of the program. During the program, it is possible for students to work alongside sports physicians and health professionals to work hands-on with athletes. Accredited programs should prepare students to take the Board of Certification exams, which may or may not be required for licensing.

Step 2 - Obtain a License

Almost all states require that athletic trainers have a license. The requirements vary by state, although most states require that individuals pass an exam. In most cases, students have to take Board of Certification exams, which meet requirements for both licensing and professional certification. In other cases, students may be required to take different or additional exams administered by the state. In addition, sports therapists who wish to work with schools may require an additional teaching license.

Step 3 - Become Certified

The Board of Certification, Inc. offers optional certification for sports therapists and athletic trainers. Once students have completed a Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE)-accredited training program, they become eligible to take the exam. Once sports therapists are certified, they must maintain certification in emergency cardiac care, including adult and pediatric CPR and airway obstruction. In addition, they must earn a minimum number of continuing education credits in a given time period.

Step 4 - Earn Continuing Education Credits

In addition to maintaining certification, athletic trainers will likely be required to earn continuing education credits in a set time frame to maintain a valid license. Continuing education credits can be earned by purchasing and reviewing DVDs or webinars as well as attending workshops, seminars or conferences.

Step 5 - Obtain a Master's Degree

It is not uncommon for sports therapists to pursue a master's degree. Although some programs are open to anyone, other programs require that sports therapists already be certified and licensed for admission. Students learn advanced therapeutic assessment and therapeutic techniques. Students will likely have to meet a research requirement and pass an exam to graduate from the program. They may also have a chance to choose between a thesis and non-thesis option. It is also possible that students will have an opportunity to complete a practicum or meet a teaching requirement.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics