Athletic Trainer Advancement Opportunities

Career Advancement Options for an Athletic Trainer

Athletic trainers diagnose, prevent, and treat injuries that occur among athletes of all ages. Continuing your education and training beyond the bachelor's degree level can prepare you for related careers like an occupational therapist, physical therapist, or chiropractor. These careers also deal with therapeutic techniques for injuries. The advancement options all require at least a master's degree, but the fundamental classroom and clinical experiences learned in an athletic trainer program will equip you to transition well. The job growth for these opportunities is favorable for each, and the salaries are above average.

Job Title Median Salary (2017)* Projected Job Growth (2016-2026)* Required Education
Occupational Therapist $83,200 24% Master's degree
Physical Therapist $86,850 28% Doctorate
Chiropractor $68,640 12% Doctorate

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information

Occupational Therapist

People who struggle with a physical disability, injury, or illness go to an occupational therapist to learn how to function in everyday situations with their impairment(s). The therapist observes patients and develops a specific treatment plan for them, which typically involves setting goals for oneself, performing various exercises, optimizing one's environment, and using special equipment. Occupational therapists can work in educational, mental health, healthcare, and nursing care facilities. You can also find them in the offices of other therapists. They may act independently or as part of a healthcare team. To become an occupational therapist, you must earn a master's degree in occupational therapy and undergo months of supervised clinical experience; licensure is also required.

Physical Therapist

Physical therapists help individuals improve or work with their immobilizing condition. They work in various settings including rehabilitation and treatment centers. Whether patients are temporarily or chronically incapacitated, physical therapists give them the degree of therapy they require. This may include training a patient on exercises, movement, or adaptive gear; developing health and wellness programs for patients; and performing hands-on remedies for pain or discomfort. The work of a physical therapist is similar to that of an occupational therapist, though more elaborate and proactive. Physical therapists not only need a baccalaureate degree, but a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree as well, which takes usually three extra years to achieve. They must also be licensed, and some therapists choose to become board-certified by completing residencies.


A chiropractor provides remedial care for those with neuromusculoskeletal issues. This bodily system includes the bones, nerves, joints, muscles, tendons, cartilages, and ligaments. The chiropractor manipulates, adjusts, or massages these structures to relieve pain or increase functioning. Chiropractors generally have their own private practice, though some work in offices of other doctors. Given the increased risk of medical error, because one is working with crucial body components, chiropractors must complete a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree program and secure a state license.

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