Athletic trainers are a unique breed of health care professionals. They’re experts in sports medicine, but they don’t treat patients the same way a doctor or chiropractor would. In fact, their job is mostly to prevent injuries from happening in the first place.
Athletic trainers are often present on site at high school and college sporting events. They provide medical support to athletes on a team, helping them to prevent and treat injuries. They may also help athletes maintain a healthy lifestyle, encouraging them to make healthy food choices and exercise more regularly.
Read on to learn more about what it’s like to be an athletic trainer and what it takes to become one yourself.
Athletic Trainer Job Duties
In general, athletic trainers can be expected to perform the following duties:
- Providing physical therapy services to patients in a clinical setting, including conducting screenings to determine need for treatment and administering treatment plans developed by a physician or other licensed healthcare professional
- Performing rehabilitative exercises designed to improve strength, range of motion, or flexibility in injured parts of the body
- Observing athletes during practice sessions or competitions to monitor their health and performance levels
- Recommending modifications to exercise regimens when necessary
- Making emergency medical decisions in situations such as sudden illness or injury
- Communicating with physicians about athletes’ conditions and charting medical histories
- Working with individuals on team sports teams on issues such as injury prevention, conditioning drills, and training schedules
Athletic Trainer Salary & Outlook
The median annual wage for athletic trainers is $49,674. The highest earners make over $78,000 per year. Those earning higher wages tend to work for professional sports teams.
The employment of athletic trainers is projected to grow much faster than average over the next decade. This growth is due to an increasing awareness of sports-related injuries and the importance of prevention training.
Athletic Trainer Job Requirements
The requirements for athletic trainers are as follows:
Education: Athletic trainers generally need a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology, Exercise Science or Physical Therapy. These programs focus on the human body and its response to physical activity. They also provide students with general courses in biology, chemistry, anatomy and physics. Students may also choose to earn a Master of Science degree in Athletic Training (MSAT). This is most common among professional athletic trainers who want to advance their careers.
Training: Athletic trainers typically spend multiple years of on-the-job training through an internship or apprenticeship. During this time, they learn how to develop and administer treatment plans and protocols for injuries and illnesses. They also work closely with medical professionals like doctors and physical therapists to help athletes return safely to their sport.
Certifications & Licenses: Nearly every state requires athletic trainers to be certified by the Board of Certification (BOC) before practicing as an athletic trainer. To become certified, candidates must meet the educational requirements and pass a national exam.
Athletic Trainer Skills
Athletic trainers must possess the following skills:
Interpersonal skills: Athletic trainers must be able to communicate effectively with doctors and other health care professionals. They also work closely with the athletes under their care, so interpersonal skills are essential for building good relationships.
Good listening skills: A good athletic trainer must be able to listen carefully to what others have to say and ask questions if they don’t understand something.
Strong verbal and written communication skills: A trainer must be able to explain complex medical issues in a way that athletes can understand them, as well as keep accurate records of treatment plans and progress reports for doctors to review when necessary.
Compassion: Athletic trainers often see injuries at their worst, so it’s important for them to have compassion for their patients in order to provide proper care while maintaining a professional demeanor no matter how bad the injury may be.
Analytical skills: Athletic trainers must be able to interpret the data they gather and make decisions based on what they see. They also need to be able to recognize trends and predict future outcomes based on previous results.
Good time management skills: Athletic trainers must prioritize their work based on what is most urgent and then manage their time in order to meet deadlines and stay on track with treatment plans in a timely manner. This requires excellent time management skills.
Physical stamina: Athletic trainers must be physically fit in order to keep up with athletes while they play sports or practice drills.
Athletic Trainer Work Environment
The work environment for athletic trainers varies. Many athletic trainers do their jobs in sports arenas, gyms, and/or college campuses; however some also provide services to individuals who are looking to improve their physical fitness or lose weight at home or via the Internet.
Athletic trainers often spend most of their working days on their feet, moving around to tend to players’ injuries. Also, many athletic trainers travel with teams during competitions. They may be required to stay overnight at hotels while traveling, this can lead to irregular schedules.
Athletic Trainer Career Path
For many athletic trainers, this is a part-time job during their first two years. They spend their time traveling to high school and college games, or working at summer camps. Others are employed by high schools or colleges, where they work with athletes on an as-needed basis. They spend most of their time doing rehabilitation work and monitoring the health of the athletes.
Five Years On The Job
Five-year professionals start to specialize in certain sports or types of injuries. Most athletic trainers now have a good deal of responsibility for their departments and oversee the training and rehabilitation of all athletes in their programs. Salaries increase significantly as athletic trainers earn more responsibility and become coaches to their athletes. Many choose to work for larger organizations where they can supervise teams and offer more services to athletes.
Ten Years On The Job
Ten-year veterans have probably been promoted to some sort of supervisory position. Salaries are somewhat higher, benefits are more common, and chances of promotion are better. Those who have been successful at this stage likely will continue to rise within their organizations. Those who choose not to stay within their organization usually move on to other positions in health care or patient care.
Athletic Trainer Trends
Here are three trends influencing how athletic trainers work. Athletic trainers will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.
Increasing Importance of Preventative Athletic Training
Athletic trainers have long been on the front lines of injury prevention, but now more than ever they are expected to make use of their knowledge and skills to identify risks in the early stages.
In particular, athletic trainers can help to prevent injuries through regular pre-participation physical exams, when they evaluate young athletes for conditions like asthma or high blood pressure that could lead to further complications down the road. In addition, athletic trainers can also help players improve their fitness and overall health with a personalized exercise plan.
Collaboration With Other Sports Professionals
The rise of collaborative sports medicine programs is one of the most promising emerging trends in the athletic training profession, as it is leading to better athlete care.
Sports medicine professionals from a variety of different fields are beginning to collaborate on a more regular basis in order to provide a higher level of service for athletes.
This trend will likely continue as new technology makes it easier for healthcare providers from different specialties to work together on a more regular basis and leads to an increased understanding of how each field contributes to optimal performance.
Increased Importance of Technology
With the increasing popularity of wearable technology, athletic trainers are likely to become more interested in developing their knowledge about health tracking devices.
This could mean anything from knowing how to accurately track metrics like heart rate and blood pressure during exercise or understanding how devices can help patients manage chronic conditions like diabetes.
This trend is also likely to encourage further integration of this technology into training regimens as it can improve outcomes for patients and lower overall costs for clinics.
How to Become a Athletic Trainer
1. Planning Your Career
If you’re thinking about a career as an athletic trainer, you need to be aware of the high educational and licensing requirements that come with this position. As such, it is important to plan accordingly. Once you have completed your education and obtained your license(s), it is important to choose an area of specialization; for example, some athletic trainers work with professional sports teams while others specialize in school systems or physical therapy centers. Once you’ve identified your specialty (and gotten the proper training), it will be much easier to find employment opportunities that match your skill set and interests.
2. Writing a Resume
The best resumes for athletic trainers should emphasize the skills and training they have that directly relates to this position, as well as attention to detail and communication skills.
When describing your work history, be sure to provide details about the teams you worked with and how you were able to support them. If you had any positive impacts on the athletes or teams you worked with, these should also be listed. Emphasize the knowledge of injury treatments and rehabilitation strategies that you gained in past positions.
3. Applying for Jobs
Athletic trainers work in a niche industry, so networking is the best way to land an entry-level position. You can start by volunteering your services at local youth programs, recreational centers, and high schools. While working with these organizations, you should also be looking for positions that match your skill set on job boards like Monster.com or Indeed.com.
4. Ace the Interview
If you want to be an athletic trainer, it is imperative that you communicate your passion for working with athletes. It is also helpful to demonstrate your knowledge of sports medicine and how it applies to athletic training. If you are interviewing for a job at a high school, college, or professional level, make sure you understand the differences between these levels of play. This will help your potential employer see your broad knowledge base.
Athletic trainers are also often asked about their ability to work with different types of people, including athletes with different personalities and backgrounds. You can prepare by brainstorming examples of how you have dealt with difficult personalities in the past.