Medical Sports Careers: Job Descriptions and Requirements

Learn about the education and training required to pursue a medical sports career. Get a quick view of job requirements as well as details about degree programs and licensure for workers in this field to find out if this is the career for you.

A career in sports medicine requires some kind of degree in order to start practicing. A bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement, while some fields, like physical therapy, will require a graduate degree. Certification or licensure is almost always required.

Essential Information

Sports medicine careers are healthcare careers that relate specifically to medicine, conditioning and training for athletes. Some of these career titles include physical therapist, athletic trainer and kinesiotherapist.

Career Title Physical Therapist Athletic Trainer
Required Education Master's degree Bachelor's degree
Other Requirements State licensure or registration State licensure or registration
Projected Growth (2014-2024) 34%* 21%*
Average Salary (2015) $85,790* $46,940*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov)

Physical Therapist

Physical therapists treat physical ailments in people due to illness or injury by helping patients move and exercise. These healthcare professionals often work hand-in-hand with other medical professionals, such as nurses, occupational therapists, medical doctors and audiologists, rehabilitating patients and teaching them how to take advantage of their basic physical functions. Job openings for physical therapists are predicted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to increase 34% between 2014 and 2024, much faster than the national average. The BLS also reports that the mean annual salary for physical therapists as of May 2015 was $85,790.

Requirements for Becoming a Physical Therapist

Becoming a licensed physical therapist requires students to have graduated from a fully-accredited master's degree or doctoral degree physical therapist program. The accrediting body that oversees these programs is the American Physical Therapy Association. Courses associated with a physical therapist degree program include biology, anatomy, biomechanics, pharmacology, radiology and exercise physiology.

After graduation, the potential physical therapist must pass the National Physical Therapy Examination and fulfill his or her state's requirements. The test is meant to make sure physical therapists have basic knowledge within their field, which is important for the patient's basic safety. The exam has multiple-choice questions and is primarily conducted on a computer. Many physical therapists continue education in order to keep up their certification and license.

Athletic Trainer

Athletic trainers are allied health professionals who often work in hospitals, community health centers and schools. Athletic trainers are often the first responders to injuries that occur during sports activities. They work to prevent, diagnose and assess the rehabilitation of often-sports-related injuries to muscles and bone. These professionals must be able to immediately recognize and provide care when needed. Many athletic trainers also teach within the school at which they work. The BLS expects positions for athletic trainers to increase by 21% between 2014 and 2024, and the mean annual salary, as of May 2015, was $46,940.

Requirements for Becoming an Athletic Trainer

A bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement for working as an athletic trainer, though many have a master's or doctoral degree. Within an athletic training program, students are taught both classroom and clinical sciences. After graduation, the athletic trainer will likely have to become licensed or registered within his or her state. As of 2016, 49 states required some sort of certification, which is conducted through the Board of Certification (www.bocatc.org) and the National Athletic Trainers' Association (www.nata.org).

Kinesiotherapist

Kinesiotherapists use a series of scientific principles to enhance one's strength, well-being and physical conditioning for long-term health. They do so by promoting exercise, medicine and dietary well-being. Patients often see kinesiotherapists after getting a prescription to do so from a physician, physician assistant or nurse. These healthcare professionals often work in hospitals, as well as rehabilitation centers, schools, private practice and sports medicine facilities. Payscale.com reports that kinesiologists made a median salary of $44,931 as of January 2016.

Requirements for Becoming a Kinesiotherapist

Potential kinesiotherapists may enter bachelor's degree programs within this subjects, which include both clinical and classroom learning. The search for such a program may be difficult as there are few within the country offering this specialization. The school must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) in order to qualify the graduate for licensing. After graduation, one must take the Kinesiotherapy Registration Exam, which is offered through the American Kinesiology Association (AKTA), for licensing purposes.

Those interested in practicing sports medicine first must decide which aspect they are interested in, whether it is from a treatment, rehabilitation, or physical conditioning perspective. Degree programs in sports medicine are readily available, although programs for kiniesiotherapists are more challenging to find. Certification and licensing is available by examination and almost always required at the state level.


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