Certified Athletic Trainer: Job Outlook and Career Information

Mar 20, 2019

Who can directly influence an NFL, NBA, or Major League Baseball game while not being one of the athletes? Certified athletic trainers can because they stave off athletes' illnesses and injuries and keep them playing. Read further to learn more details about entering this profession.

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Career Definition for a Certified Athletic Trainer

NATA says an 'ACT' (it's an acronym for certified athletic trainer) consults with a physician to keep clients and patients healthy and active by instructing them about exercise, nutrition, and injury prevention. Trainers are best known for mitigating athletes' injuries through the use of athletic tape, bandages, or occasionally casts or splints. In civilian workplaces, an ACT's tasks, such as performing physical rehab or improving workplace ergonomics, help to reduce sick days and workers' compensation.

Required Education A bachelor's degree in sports medicine, athletic training and related fields; passing the certification exam
Job Duties Consulting with a physician to keep clients and patients healthy and active; create and implement a rehabilitation plan; maintain treatment/injury reports
Median Salary (2017)* $46,630 (all athletic trainers)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 23% growth (all athletic trainers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Needed

To be NATA-certified, one must graduate with at least a bachelor's degree from a university accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Foundation (, then pass the test given by the Board of Certification ( Degree programs include sports medicine, athletic training and/or kinesiology, exercise science, or exercise physiology. In 2012, The National Athletic Trainers' Association claimed over 70% of certified athletic trainers have a master's degree or PhD. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says almost every state requires an athletic trainer to be licensed or registered as of 2017.


The BLS notes that ACTs should be able to interact and communicate well with diverse groups. It also says that if you're an athletic trainer, you will need to handle potentially stressful circumstances.

Salary and Career Outlook

The BLS notes that the number of athletic training jobs is projected to grow by 23% from 2016-2026. This growth is much faster than normal, particularly in the booming fields of health care, fitness, and youth sports. However, positions with sports teams are not only in great demand but have low turnover, since they're usually high-stakes, high-profile jobs, even at high schools. As of May 2017, the BLS reports the median annual salary earned by athletic trainers as $46,630.

Alternate Career Options

Here are some examples of alternative career options:

Recreational Therapist

These therapists seek employment planning and directing treatment programs for disabled or injured patients based on recreational activities, like music, dance, drama and sports. In most cases, a bachelor's degree is required, and many employers look for certified recreation therapists. Average job growth of 7% was forecast by the BLS from 2016-2026, and these professionals earned an annual median salary of $47,680 in 2017.

Exercise Physiologist

Faster than average employment growth of 13% was expected from 2016-2026 for exercise physiologists, according to the BLS. These professionals analyze medical histories and test patients to determine appropriate exercise programs. A bachelor's degree is needed, and most states also require licensure or certification. In 2017, these professionals earned a median wage of $49,090 per year, the BLS reported.

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