How Do I Become an Athletic Trainer?

Athletic trainer education is available at the undergraduate and graduate level and helps prepare students for state certification. Get details for an athletic trainer major, advanced education options, and job duties.

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What Degree Do You Need to Be an Athletic Trainer?

Athletic trainer education generally includes the completion of at least a bachelor's degree, but a master's degree may be preferred by employers and is fairly common in the field. These degree programs help prepare aspiring athletic trainers to prevent and diagnose sports- and non-sports-related injuries and meet their state's certification requirements. Here we discuss the education requirements for an athletic trainer in more detail.

Athletic Trainer Major

A bachelor's degree is the minimum degree required to become an athletic trainer. Students typically need to pursue an athletic training major in a program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE). Typically, these degrees are offered as a Bachelor of Science (BS).

BS in Athletic Training degree programs are usually 4 years in length and generally require around 120 credits. Usually, these degree programs are on-campus programs, due to the hands-on nature of the field, and include various labs and clinical experiences for experiential learning. Other course topics for the major may include:

  • Injury prevention
  • Evaluation of injuries
  • Anatomy
  • Rehabilitation
  • Kinesiology
  • Pharmacology

Advanced Athletic Trainer Education

There are several top schools that offer athletic training graduate programs for students wishing to further their education. Master's degree programs in athletic training are fairly common and are typically offered as Master of Science (MS) or Master of Athletic Training (MAT) degrees.

These master's degree programs can usually be completed in 2 years and are on-campus. Students participate in extensive clinical practicums, and they may also complete clinical rotations to experience various clinical settings. Students at this level may also take courses in subjects like:

  • Therapeutic interventions
  • Orthopedic evaluation
  • Ethics
  • Research methods
  • Musculoskeletal evaluation

Although they are not as common, there are doctoral programs in athletic training or kinesiology with a concentration in athletic training. In contrast to bachelor's and master's degree programs in the field, some of the doctoral programs are available in hybrid formats with most of the coursework taking place online. These programs may take 3 to 4 years to complete for students who have their master's.

Certification

In addition to completing a formal education, athletic trainers are required to meet their state's standards for licensure or certification. Most commonly, states require applicants for licensure to pass the certification exam from the Board of Certification for the Athletic Trainer (BOC). This certification does require continued education.

Athletic Trainer Career Info

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Other Requirements Licensure/certification
Annual Median Salary (2018)* $47,510
Estimated Job Growth (2018-2028)* 19%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Athletic training degree jobs are generally full-time positions that may require some nights and weekends, as trainers are typically required to attend sporting events. However, athletic trainers may work with a variety of non-athletes per se, such as military, performing artists, or law enforcement officers. According to the BLS, most athletic trainers work for educational services at the state, local, or private levels. Athletic trainers may be responsible for duties such as:

  • Evaluating injuries
  • Creating rehabilitation programs
  • Administering first aid/emergency care as needed
  • Helping prevent injuries through programs and injury-preventive devices
  • Maintaining records
  • Assisting with budgets and purchasing
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