Athletic Trainers Overview

Many athletic trainers hold a master’s or doctoral degree, even though a bachelor’s degree is usually required for an athletic trainer. Athletic trainers may work long hours, including nights and weekends. There will always be competition for jobs with college and professional teams for athletic trainers but job prospects will be good in high schools and the healthcare industry.

Nature of the Work for Athletic Trainers

Athletic Trainers

The role of an athletic trainer is to help prevent and treat injuries for people of all ages. An athletic trainer’s clientele can include industrial professionals as well as professional athletes. Athletic trainers specialize in areas of prevention, diagnosis, treatment, assessment, and rehabilitation, recognized by the American Medical Association as health professionals. An athletic trainer must be able to recognize, evaluate and asses injuries immediately since they are usually the first healthcare providers to show up to the scene. Athletic trainers are different from fitness and personal trainers who only help people get physically fit.

Athletic trainers will advise people on how to use equipment to reduce the risk of injury. Athletic trainers will also help people with exercises to improve balance and will help applying injury-preventive devices such as bandages and braces. Under the direction of a licensed physician, athletic trainers can work with other healthcare providers to discuss injuries and treatment options with a physician, as well as other things. Athletic trainers can meet with team or consulting physicians daily or weekly for these types of discussions.

Administrative responsibilities are also involved in the work of an athletic trainer, including policy implementation, attending regular meetings and dealing with budgets and purchasing.

Athletic trainers will either spend most of their time working indoors or outdoors. Athletic trainers may also be required to stand for long periods of time, work with medical machinery as well as travel.

The schedule of an athletic trainer will vary according to where they work. Those working in non-sports setting will usually have an established schedule such as a 40 to50 hour workweek. Athletic trainers who work in sports settings usually work longer hours due to games, practices, and competitions and can include working nights and weekends. Athletic trainers working in high schools can even work a 60 to 70 hour workweek.

Athletic trainers who work in hospitals and clinics may work at other locations doing outreach services part of the time. Typical outreach programs include conducting athletic training services and speaking at high schools, colleges, and commercial businesses.

Athletic trainers who work with a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I college or university team usually work a 50 to 60 hour workweek with one team. Athletic trainers working in smaller colleges and universities will often work a 40 to 50 hour workweek for several teams.

Athletic trainers who work for professional sports team usually work the most hours in one week. When working at training camps, practices or competitions, athletic trainers may work up to 12 hours a day.

Athletic trainers must interact with others, consult with physicians, and have frequent contact with athletes and patients. Since an athletic trainer is responsible for the health of their client, athletic trainers can feel some stress when having to make quick decisions that could affect a client’s health or career. Pressures to win can also attribute to an athletic trainer’s stress.

Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Athletic Trainers

Though many athletic trainers hold masters degrees or doctorates, a bachelor’s degree is usually the basic requirement. Almost 70 percent of athletic trainers have a masters or doctoral degree, according to the National Athletic Trainer’s Association. For positions in colleges and universities, a masters or doctoral degree may be necessary. A teaching certificate or license may also be required for athletic trainers teaching in high schools.

With about 350 accredited undergraduate athletic training/trainer programs nationwide, students would be educated in the classroom and in clinical settings and take courses in health, human anatomy, physiology, nutrition and biomechanics.


In order for an athletic trainer to be licensed or registered, they must receive certification from the Board of Certification, Inc. (BOC). In order to receive this certification, athletic trainers must hold a bachelor’s or masters degree from an accredited training program as well as pass an examination.

For athletic trainers to retain this certification, they must continue taking medical-related courses as well as adhere to the standards of practice for the BOC. Obtaining a license in Alaska, California, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia is not required but remains voluntary for those seeking jobs and advancement.

Social and communication skills are important for athletic trainers who are constantly dealing with a variety of people. Being able to manage difficult situations while remaining organized and inquisitive is also important for athletic trainers. Having a strong desire to help people is also essential.

Athletic trainers can advance by switching teams or sports, becoming head athletic trainers or directors, or move into sales and marketing positions where they can take what they know to sell medical and athletic equipment.

Top 10 Most Popular Athletic Training/Trainer Schools

1. Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania (Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania)
2. Texas State University (San Marcos, Texas)
3. Mountainland Applied Technology College (Orem, Utah)
4. Sacred Heart University, Fairfield (Fairfield, Connecticut)
5. University of Puerto Rico, Ponce (Ponce, Puerto Rico)
6. California University of Pennsylvania, California (California, Pennsylvania)
7. Eastern Michigan University (Ypsilanti, Michigan)
8. Northeastern University (Boston, Massachusetts)
9. Central Michigan University (Mount Pleasant, Michigan)
10. Barry University (Miami, Florida)

See All Athletic Training/Trainer Schools

Employment and Job Outlook for Athletic Trainers

Number of People in Profession

15,260

Changing Employment (2008-2018)

Employment is projected to grow much faster than average (increase 20% or more).

Athletic trainers work in sports and non-sports settings.

The projected growth rate for athletic trainers is 37 percent. Many jobs for athletic trainers will be in the healthcare industry, like hospitals and health practitioner offices. Athletic trainers may also find work at recreation sports centers as well as fitness centers. Athletic trainers looking to work for sports team may find it more challenging since many professional sports clubs and colleges have staffs with positions that are already filled.

Thanks to licensing requirements and regulations, many athletic trainers with these licenses have been qualified as healthcare providers.

Many states are trying to have an athletic trainer in every high school to work with student-athletes which may mean more available jobs for athletic trainers. Athletic trainers who specialize with how to deal with repetitive stress injuries will also have more jobs available to them.

Jobs for athletic trainers in the healthcare industry and in high schools will be best for athletic trainers. Jobs with the best growth availability, such as jobs in healthcare and fitness industries, have low turnover and are great settings for athletic trainers.

Athletic trainer jobs may also open in elementary and secondary schools.

Since many athletic trainers prefer to work with their same coaches, administrators, and players, turnover is limited and competition is extremely tough when working for professional and collegiate sports teams.

Opportunities in the military also exist for athletic trainers. Athletic trainers who enlist as soldiers or officers are usually placed in different programs for health educators or training specialists.

Athletic trainers will be expected to take on more administrative responsibilities, be able to adapt to technology, as well as work with larger populations.

Earnings and Salary for Athletic Trainers

Median annual wages for athletic trainers are $41,340. The middle 50 percent earn between $33,810 and $51,310. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $25,510, while the top 10 percent earn more than $65,140.

The majority of athletic trainers work full-time and receive benefits.

Annual Salary for Athletic Trainers

On average, Athletic Trainers earn $41,340 per year.

10% 25% 75% 90% $25,510/yr $33,810/yr $51,310/yr $65,140/yr

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook