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. View article »

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  • 0:00 Should I Become an…
  • 1:09 Step 1: Earn a…
  • 1:58 Step 2: Gain Experience
  • 2:21 Step 3: Obtain…
  • 2:58 Step 4: Consider a…

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Video Transcript

Should I Become an Athletic Trainer?

Degree Level Bachelor's degree; master's degree common
Degree Field Athletic training
Training/Experience Clinical field training constitutes experience for entry-level positions
Licensure/Certification Certification or licensure required in most states; CPR certification needed
Key Skills Decision-making, communication, and interpersonal skills; detail-oriented; compassion
Salary $46,940 (2015 average salary for all athletic trainers)

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

Athletic trainers work with physicians to treat and prevent medical conditions involving disabilities, impairment and functional limitations. Some of the duties of an athletic trainer include developing and implementing rehabilitation programs, recognizing and evaluating injuries and providing emergency care or first aid. Athletic trainers work on patients of all ages and common employers include educational facilities, physicians' offices, fitness and recreational sports centers, the military and professional sports teams. Depending on the position, some work weekends and evenings and may even work outdoors in all types of weather conditions.

How much can you expect to make in this career? Earnings vary greatly by employer and experience, but according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, athletic trainers in general earned an average yearly salary of $46,940 in May 2015. Now let's discover the steps toward a career in athletic training.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

This career requires at least a bachelor's degree in athletic training. This program generally includes coursework in human movement sciences, first aid and emergency care, anatomy and physiology and injury and illness prevention. Students also participate in hands-on clinical education under the direct supervision of an experienced athletic trainer.

Keep in mind that in order to obtain licensure and certification later, the degree program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education. Here's a tip for success: obtain basic life support certification, which is generally required for licensure and certification as an athletic trainer. Basic life support certification preparation is often incorporated into a degree program's curricula.

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Step 2: Gain Experience

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 participate in summer internships, which provide hands-on training in how to develop treatment programs, conduct patient evaluations, document injuries and communicate with medical staff.

Step 3: Obtain Certification and Licensure

Most states require athletic trainers to be certified by the Board of Certification for the athletic trainer or licensed by the state. Certification requirements include completion of an accredited athletic training program and passage of a certification exam. This exam covers topics such as clinical evaluation and diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation and emergency care. State licensing requirements are often fulfilled by passing the same certification exam. Certification and licensure must be maintained regularly by earning continuing education credits and maintaining basic life support certification.

Step 4: Consider a Master's Degree

Although voluntary, a graduate degree in athletic training can be helpful for trainers who work at the collegiate level or those seeking career advancement. Such a program provides 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.

A career as an athletic trainer requires completion of an accredited athletic trainer degree program as well as licensure or certification. Some employers may prefer trainers with some hands-on experience and a graduate degree can lead to advancement opportunities.

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