An athletic trainer is responsible for preventing and rehabilitating injuries in athletes, as well as ensuring that correct training programmes are implemented in order to achieve the best results. The employment of athletic trainers is predicted to grow much faster than all other occupations and there are employment opportunities available in a range of industries.
Athletic Trainer Career Guide
Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of the job is the relationships I develop with my athletes and patients. When an athlete gets injured, returns to sport, has success, and at the end of their season tells you how much they appreciate you and they will miss you, it gets quite emotional.Jake Webster, MS, ATC
Athletic Trainer Career Ratings
Real-Life Athletic Trainer Job Profiles
What an athletic trainer actually does
The main purpose of an athletic trainer is to prevent, diagnose and treat muscle and bone injuries. Athletic trainers are also responsible for ensuring that athletes accomplish their health and fitness goals and receive the proper training and treatment required. The typical duties of an athletic trainer will vary depending on what type of organisation they work for, the age range the athletes that they are training and the performance level of the athletes they oversee. However, as an athletic trainer, training any age group or sporting level, you can expect to carry out the following duties:
- Working with coaches, athletes, medical professionals and other health professionals to create the best possible exercise and nutrition plans that meet the athletes health, sporting and performance goals
- Designing training programmes that encourage the use of correct technique and aim to reduce the chance of injury
- Designing rehabilitation programmes suitable to each individual athlete. This includes monitoring and documenting the recovery of injured athletes and evaluating their readiness to participate in sport again
- Referring athletes to the relevant health professionals whenever necessary
- Maintaining detailed records that document each athletes condition, training, diet and treatment plan
- Conducting clerical tasks, such as managing budgets and reordering supplies
Why they are needed
Athletic trainers are a key part of any sporting environment as they notice, prevent and rehabilitate athletic injuries, which is crucial in any sporting environment to produce consistent and safe results. They are also needed to help both individuals and teams stay motivated to achieve their sporting goals and athletic trainers provide an extra level of accountability. Athletic trainers are also crucial to any successful sports team as they create effective and fun programmes that are designed to produce results.
Pros and cons of a career as an athletic trainer:
- If you are a sports lover and are passionate about sports, then you get to be around your passion every single day
- You help to inspire and motivate others to be passionate about sport
- No two days are the same and you will constantly get to meet new types of people, most of who will have a strong passion and enthusiasm for sport
- Depending on what type of industry you decide to go into, there are lots of opportunities to travel and work in different states and/or countries
- It is a very rewarding career, as you are helping all sorts of individuals, and teams, meet their goals
- There is a lot of pressure on athletic trainers to produce results, meaning that it can be a stressful and/or challenging career
- There will be times when you will have to work with uncooperative people, such as those who don’t really want to be there or those who don’t feel like your advice or training strategies are correct
- Athletic trainers can work long, and often unpredictable hours, as they are at the mercy of an athlete’s or sports teams schedule
The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the employment of athletic trainers is projected to grow 19 percent from 2018 to 2028, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.
This increase is thought to be because individuals, teams and organizations are becoming more aware of the health and competitive benefits of training correctly, treating injury and designing programmes to keep injury rates to a minimum. Some states in the United States require secondary schools to have athletic trainers as part of their sports programmes, which is another reason why the demand for trainers is set to increase by such a sizeable amount.
To become an athletic trainer, you will need to achieve a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. After graduating, it is not uncommon for aspiring athletic trainers to go on to achieve a masters degree in a related field, such as biology, anatomy, physiology or nutrition.
Once qualified, athletic trainers can then decide who they want to work with: young children, school sports teams, soldiers or professional athletes. Athletic trainers can also advance, with additional experience and education, to become head athletic trainers, athletic directors, physicians or hospital and clinic practice administrators.
Example Job Titles for Athletic Trainer
Benefits & Conditions
Income and benefits
According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average yearly salary for an athletic trainer in the United States was $48,440 in 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,300 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $73,470 per year. The highest paying industry was educational services, with the average annual salary being $52,660 per year.
Autonomy and Flexibility
As athletic trainers have quite a lot of control over the programmes they administer and how they will treat athletes, this gives them high levels of autonomy. However, the flexibility can be minimal sometimes as athletic trainers often have to adhere to the schedule of the athletes or sports team, which can be hectic.
Locations and commute
As many states require all sporting programmes at secondary schools to have athletic trainers, there are jobs available in many locations across states. As athletic trainers can also work for the army, professional sports teams, youth groups or rehabilitation services, there tends to be jobs in lots of locations that will mean a short commute.
According to Zippia, the best states to be an athletic trainer, based on average annual salary and number of jobs available, are:
- Delaware, where the average annual salary is $47,088
- Maine, where the average annual salary is $41,834
- New Jersey, where the average annual salary is $47,088
- Pennsylvania, where the average annual salary is $42,852
- Rhode Island, where the average annual salary is $50,831
The worst states, according to Zippia, are Colorado, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Arkansas and Montana.
The largest employer of athletic trainers is educational services, making up 37% of the total employment of athletic trainers in the United States. Next is hospitals, which hires 17% of all athletic trainers in the United states. Offices of physical, occupations and speech therapist hire 16% of all athletic trainers and fitness and recreational sport centers hire 7% of all athletic trainers in the United States. Only 6% of athletic trainers are self-employed.
Depending on the sport type they supervise, athletic trainers spend most of their time working outdoors on sports fields in all types of weather. They will work in teams with other healthcare professionals or teachers and tend to work full time. However, during sporting events, they may work evenings or weekends and have to travel often.
Common Matching Personality Types
Which personalities tend to succeed and thrive in Athletic Trainer careers? Based on our research, there is a relatively strong positive correlation between the following personality types and Athletic Trainer career satisfaction. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t many exceptions, of course, but if you fit into one of the following personality types then we suggest you give strong consideration to a career in Athletic Trainer.
There is not a huge amount of exploration as to exactly what personality types make successful athletic trainers. However, one study found that for athletic trainers to be considered ‘quality trainers’, they must show the ability to care, commitment, integrity, value professional knowledge and be able to communicate effectively. Similarly, another study found that athletic trainers were less likely to burnout (a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion) if they were agreeable and extroverted.
Accomplishment and mastery
When the athletes that an athletic trainer has trained and supported become successful, due to the training programmes that the athletic trainer has designed, there is a high sense of accomplishment for the trainer. As athletic trainers will learn lots of new skills on the job, there is also a high sense of skill and knowledge mastery.
Meaning and contribution
There is a high level of meaning and contribution in preventing, treating and rehabilitating injuries in order to make people more successful in the sport they enjoy. The work of an athletic trainer is also meaningful as it inspires and motivates people to be the best version of themselves.
Most athletic trainers work normal full time hours, meaning it is a career with a good life fit for most. However, those who work for professional sports teams, may have to work evenings and weekends and may have to travel often.
Who will thrive in this career?
- Someone who is genuinely passionate about sport and is committed and driven to helping athletes achieve their sporting goals
- Someone who is a good communicator and enjoys interacting with others and working in a team with all kinds of different professionals
- Someone who has the ability to pay exceptional attention to detail so that they can write up detailed and effective training and rehabilitation programmes
- To thrive as an athletic trainer, you will also need to be adaptable and dependable as most athletic trainers will need to be available to athletes or sports teams at all times
Who will struggle in this career?
- You will struggle as an athletic trainer if you don’t have a passion for sport or for helping others to progress at sport
- You will struggle as an athletic trainer if you struggle with change, unpredictability or having to be flexible and available
- As athletic trainers work in small teams and often have to communicate with other health professionals, you will struggle if you prefer to work alone and don’t like being told what to do or having to report/share information with others
Skills and talents
As well as being dependable and having a genuine passion and enthusiasm for fitness and safe training, athletic trainers will need skills such as:
- Compassion, as they will have to listen to and understand each athletes concerns
- Problem-solving, to work around injuries or motivational issues and create programmes
- Attention to detail, to design effective training and rehabilitation programmes
- Interpersonal skills, as athletic trainers will work closely with other healthcare professionals, students, athletes, teachers and athletes families and therefore need to be able to build relationships based on trust and respect
- Decision making skills, as athletic trainers will have to decide what to do post athlete injury and will need to make decisions on what will create the most effective training programme
Job prospects are best for candidates with a bachelor’s degree and a masters degree from a programme that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE), which accredits hundreds of courses, or those who have certification from the Board of Certification for the Athletic Trainer (BOC).
Nearly all states require athletic trainers to be licensed or certified. The Board of Certification for the Athletic Trainer (BOC) offers the standard certification examination that most athletic trainers use for licensing. Certification normally requires graduating for a CAATE-accredited program and then passing the BOC exam.
Once qualified and certified, athletic trainers must adhere to the BOC standards of professional practice.
How to Become
An athletic trainer is responsible for preventing and rehabilitating injuries in athletes, as well as ensuring that the correct training programmes are implemented to achieve the best results. The employment of athletic trainers is predicted to increase much faster than all other occupations, and there are employment opportunities available in a range of industries.
Immediate action (so what can you do)
If you are at high school and are considering a career as an athletic trainer, then you should consider applying for courses in anatomy, physiology and physics. Similarly, if you are deciding what degree or masters programme to take, we recommend taking sport or health related courses that are accredited by the relevant bodies.
Education and learning
Athletic trainers will need to complete a bachelors degree, that is accredited by the CAATE. It is also an employment advantage to have a masters degree, also accredited by the CAATE, in a related field.
Athletic trainers will learn many skills through their university education. However, lots of the skills will be learnt on the job. The learn the skills required to be an athletic trainer, we recommend gaining as much experience as possible working in a sporting environment.
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