Sports Medicine Certification Information

Sep 30, 2019

Love sports? Do you want to make a career out of it, even though you aren't an athelete yourself? This article briefly describes career requirements for fitness trainers, athletic trainers, exercise physiologist, and sports medicine physicians, as well as the numerous certification and licensure options available to help obtain one of these four jobs.

Essential Information

Certification is available in many fields, and although it is often voluntary, it is highly recommended in many cases since it shows that a person is highly qualified in his or her field. Further education in sports medicine requires an associate, bachelor or master's degree as well as a medical license for those who chose to become a physician.

Careers Fitness Trainers Athletic Trainers Exercise Physiologists Sports Medicine Physician
Required Education High school diploma Bachelor's degree, master's for advancement Bachelor's degree, master's for advancement Bachelor's and medical degree
Other Requirements Certification License, certification Some states require licensure Medical license, sports medicine fellowship, certification
Projected Job Growth (2018 - 2028)* 13% 19% 10% 7% for all physicians and surgeons
Median Annual Salary (2018)* $39,820 for all fitness trainers and aerobics instructors $47,510 $49,270 $208,000 or higher for all physicians and surgeons

Source: *Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

There are number of different careers in sports medicine, ranging from allied health professionals to physicians. You can pursue a job as a fitness or athletic trainer, exercise specialist or sports medicine physician.

Sports Medicine Certification Information

A number of different organizations offer certifications related to sports medicine and cater to different fields of practice. The certification process often requires passing a written examination; however, in some cases, automated external defibrillator (AED) certification, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification or passing a practical examination may also be required.

BLS reports in May 2018 that a median annual salary for all physicians and surgeons is equal to or higher than $208,000. The employment rate for all physicians and surgeons is expected to increase 7% from 2018 to 2028, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Certification Overview

The ACSM offers certification for personal trainers, group fitness instructors, health fitness specialists, clinical exercise physiologists, clinical exercise specialists, physical activity in public health specialists, inclusive fitness trainers and cancer exercise trainers. A college degree and passing an exam is typically needed to earn these certifications. For example, to qualify as a Certified Health Fitness Specialist (HFS), a person must have an associate's or bachelor's degree in a health-related field, while a master's degree in exercise science or a related area is required to qualify as a Registered Clinical Health Physiologist (RCEP).

Some types of certification require practical or clinical experience, such as the Certified Cancer Exercise Trainer (CET) and Certified Clinical Exercise Specialist (CES) designations. The CET, Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainer (CIFT) and Physical Activity in Public Health Specialist (PAPHS) designations are for professionals who wish to specialize in a more concentrated area.

Each ACSM examination consists of multiple-choice questions and takes between 2.5 and 3.5 hours to complete. A certain number of continuing education credits must be earned every three years in order to maintain certification.

National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Certification Overview

The NASM offers the Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) designation. To qualify for this certification, a person must be at least 18 years of age and have both CPR and AED certification. To become certified, personal trainers must pass an examination, which consists of questions in nutrition, assessment, exercise techniques, program design, client relations and professional practice. Certification must be renewed every two years.

American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) Certification Overview

The ABMS certifies allopathic physicians in their chosen specialties. Board certification in sports medicine is available as a subspecialty of emergency medicine, family medicine, internal medicine, physical medicine and rehabilitation, orthopedic surgery and pediatrics. To qualify for board certification in sports medicine, a physician must hold a medical license and have completed residency training in one of the aforementioned areas. After completing a residency, a physician must become certified in his or her specialty, then complete a fellowship in sports medicine before testing for subspecialty certification in sports medicine. To maintain certification, continuing education is required, as are formal examinations and practice performance assessments.

American Osteopathic Association (AOA) Certification Overview

The AOA also offers sports medicine board certification as a subspecialty of emergency medicine, family medicine, internal medicine, neuromusculoskeletal medicine, physical medicine and rehabilitation, preventative medicine and pediatrics. The requirements to test for board certification are generally the same as those for ABMS certification. A physician must hold a medical license, complete a residency, become certified in his or her specialty and complete a fellowship in sports medicine. To maintain certification, a physician must earn a certain number of Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits every three years.

Between the ACSM, NASM, ABMS, and AOA, there's a whole alphabet soup of certificates for professionals working in sports and fitness. Certification, coupled with a formal degree, can be a powerful tool when searching for positions in these energetic occupations.

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