Athletic Trainer: Education Requirements & Career Summary

An athletic trainer uses quick decision-making as he or she works to prevent, diagnose or treat an active injury. Athletic trainer requirements generally include completing a 4-year degree program, getting hands-on training, and securing licensure.

How to Become an Athletic Trainer

Athletic trainers typically need to meet a combination of education and professional licensure to qualify for this career. Learn about the requirements and career information below.

Degree Requirements Bachelor's degree required, graduate degree often preferred
Degree Fields Athletic training, kinesiology, sports science, exercise science
Other Requirements License and/or certification
Annual Average Salary (2018)* $49,280
Estimated Job Growth (2016-2026)* 23%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Athletic Trainer Educational Requirements

While there are not specific athletic trainer degree requirements, they typically must hold a minimum of a bachelor's degree. Most commonly, students interested in athletic training can pursue an athletic training major. Other major options may include kinesiology, sports science, or exercise science.

Some employers may prefer graduates to have a master's degree in the field. Some of the best colleges with athletic training graduate programs offer master's and/or doctoral degree programs, usually in kinesiology.

Whether students study at the undergraduate or graduate level, athletic trainer education typically includes traditional coursework and clinical experiences for hands-on learning. Students usually take courses in topics like:

  • Nutrition
  • Anatomy
  • Biology
  • Physiology

Athletic Training License & Certification

The majority of the country requires athletic trainers to obtain a credential, but specific requirements vary by state. Generally, states use the standard certification exam offered by the Board of Certification for the Athletic Trainer (BOC). Passing this exam and having completing an educational program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE) usually leads to initial certification. Students must take continuing education courses to maintain their certification throughout their career.

The Athletic Trainer Experience

So what exactly do athletic trainers do? They treat muscle and bone injuries in people of various ages that are involved in physical activities. These trainers may work with athletes, performers, military, or law enforcement, and they are often present at sporting or other events and are able to quickly evaluate and diagnose injuries. Athletic trainers provide emergency care or first aid as needed and may perform other job duties like:

  • Working with an injured athlete throughout their rehabilitation
  • Preventing injuries or illnesses through education
  • Fitting athletes with protective gear, such as braces
  • Maintaining injury reports
  • Providing input with policy and budget decisions

Athletic Trainer Job Requirements

Most athletic trainers work full time, but the job often requires attendance at sporting events on nights and/or weekends. Athletic trainers also need to be prepared to work in all kinds of weather conditions.

Athletic trainers generally need to be compassionate and able to work with patients who may be in a lot of pain. They must also be detail-oriented and able to make informed clinical decisions quickly. Their job often requires a high level of communication with athletes, doctors, parents, and coaches.

Athletic Trainer Salary

The average annual salary for athletic trainers in 2018 was $49,280, according to the BLS. The BLS also reported that colleges, universities, and professional schools employed the most athletic trainers at that time, and these trainers earned an average salary of $49,450. The industry with the highest paid athletic trainers was the sporting promotion industry (per the BLS), which had an average annual salary of $74,180 as of 2018.


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