Table of Contents
Before committing to becoming an athletic trainer, it is crucial to be aware of the expectations and misconceptions of the occupation. These practitioners often need to provide immediate medical care to athletes in the hectic environment of a game or match. Under such circumstances they may also need to make quick decisions about whether or not an athlete can return to play or needs further medical assistance beyond their expertise. Athletic trainers also focus on rehabilitating athletes after they have sustained an injury, sometimes over a period of months or years. In addition, they may work with athletes during training periods to ensure that they are training properly and not at risk for injury.
While athletic trainers are most often associated with the amateur and professional sports sectors, opportunities in the field also exist to work with other types of patients, including dancers, musicians, and members of the military.
Students who aspire to become certified athletic trainers must complete an accredited degree curriculum. These programs combine classroom training and clinical education experiences in the areas of injury and illness prevention and assessment; first aid and emergency care; human anatomy and physiology; therapeutic modalities; and nutrition.
How long does it take to become an Athletic Trainer?
Athletic trainers who wish to become certified by the National Athletic Trainers Association must complete a Bachelor’s degree at a school with an accredited athletic training program. A Bachelor’s degree takes four years to complete, though some schools may offer the option to accelerate the program by taking additional or summer courses.
In addition to the Bachelor’s degree requisite, most states require athletic trainers to be certified and licensed by the Board of Certification. This process normally involves at least two years of academic clinical education. It may be a part of an academic program, or it may be completed outside of the general curriculum.
A Master’s degree in athletic training, which generally takes another two years to complete, is very common in the field.
These educational requirements mean that aspiring athletic trainers spend between six and eight years studying in their field.
Steps to becoming an Athletic Trainer
Becoming an athletic trainer calls for both an educational commitment and a genuine desire to support the careers and well-being of others.
1 High School
It is never too early to start preparing for your career as an athletic trainer. High school biology will provide foundational knowledge on how to treat injuries to the human body and physics can be a useful grounding for university level courses. Pay particular attention, as well, to English and speech classes, which will begin to prepare you to communicate with athletes, coaches, medical staff, and other potential clients.
Consider joining a sports team or sports club to build experience working with athletes and a team. If your high school has an athletic trainer, ask to shadow and observe him/her for a day.
2 Bachelor’s Degree
Earn a Bachelor’s degree in athletic training by completing a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education. Participate in hands-on clinical education under the direct supervision of an experienced athletic trainer.
Although employers will consider hiring new graduates without previous experience, gaining experience while in school will give students a competitive edge in the job market. Students can participate in summer internships, which provide hands-on training in how to develop training programs, conduct patient evaluations, document injuries, and communicate with medical personnel.
4 Certification and Licensure
State licensing requirements are often fulfilled by passing the certification exam administered by the Board of Certification. The exam covers clinical evaluation and diagnosis; treatment and rehabilitation; and emergency care.
5 Master’s Degree
Although voluntary, a Master’s degree in athletic training is especially helpful for trainers working at the collegiate level and seeking career advancement. Graduate degree programs commonly combine both laboratory experiences and clinical internships. They provide further study in exercise and sports medicine, exercise physiology, and advanced athletic training.
Should I become an Athletic Trainer?
As with many occupations, becoming an athletic trainer requires formal education and certification complemented by natural skills and characteristics. Some of the most celebrated athletic trainers fit the same general profile. They are typically social and confident individuals who possess notable communication and decision-making skills. They demonstrate the ability to manage difficult situations and related stress. They are empathetic and have a genuine desire to help others. They are by nature inquisitive. All of these qualities are clearly needed by accomplished trainers in their primary role of liaison between athletes, coaches, and doctors. Flexibility and adaptability are also hallmarks of prototypical athletic trainers, who may often be required to change their schedules on short notice and work evenings and weekends.
Deserving of particular mention is the need for athletic trainers to be detail-oriented. From attentive conversation to note-taking, being aware of details is an asset for anyone engaged in healthcare. For trainers, it is vital. Athletes – especially high-level and elite athletes – are notoriously hard working, and their desire to compete can keep them from recognizing an injury or telling the whole truth about how their bodies are feeling. Because of this reality, it is essential that athletic trainers see and hear the details. By noticing slight changes in range of motion or response times, an attentive trainer is an especially valuable asset in situations where emotions and desire to keep playing can conceal the truth.
What are Athletic Trainers like?
Based on our pool of users, athletic trainers tend to be predominately investigative people. They are typically extroverts and demonstrate compassion, patience, and a keen interest in the workings of the human body.
Take our career test to see what career interest category best describes you.
Athletic Trainers by Strongest Interest Archetype
Based on sample of 203 Sokanu users
Are Athletic Trainers happy?
Athletic trainers rank highly among careers. Overall they rank in the 65th percentile of careers for satisfaction scores.
Athletic Trainer Career Satisfaction by Dimension
Percentile among all careers
Education History of Athletic Trainers
The most common degree held by athletic trainers is Biology. 2% of athletic trainers had a degree in biology before becoming athletic trainers. That is over 1 times the average across all careers. Community And Public Health graduates are the second most common among athletic trainers, representing 2% of athletic trainers in the Sokanu user base, which is 2.6 times the average.
Athletic Trainer Education History
This table shows which degrees people earn before becoming an Athletic Trainer, compared to how often those degrees are obtained by people who earn at least one post secondary degree.
|Degree||% of athletic trainers||% of population||Multiple|
|Community And Public Health||2.0%||0.8%||2.6×|
Athletic Trainer Education Levels
|High school diploma||0%|