Job prospects should be good in the health care industry;
however, competition is expected for positions with sports
Long hours, sometimes including nights and weekends, are
About one-third of athletic trainers work in health care.
About 7 out of 10 athletic trainers have a masterís or
Nature of the
Athletic trainers help prevent and treat injuries for people
of all ages. Their clients include everyone from professional
athletes to industrial workers. Recognized by the American Medical
Association as allied health professionals, athletic trainers
specialize in the prevention, assessment, treatment, and rehabilitation
of musculoskeletal injuries. Athletic trainers are often one
of the first heath care providers on the scene when injuries
occur, and therefore must be able to recognize, evaluate, and
assess injuries and provide immediate care when needed. They
also are heavily involved in the rehabilitation and reconditioning
Athletic trainers often help prevent injuries by advising on
the proper use of equipment and applying protective or injury-preventive
devices such as tape, bandages, and braces. Injury prevention
also often includes educating people on what they should do
to avoid putting themselves at risk for injuries. Athletic trainers
should not be confused with fitness trainers or personal trainers,
who are not health care workers, but rather train people to
become physically fit. (Fitness workers are
discussed elsewhere in the Handbook.)
Athletic trainers work under the supervision of a licensed
physician, and in cooperation with other health care providers.
The level of medical supervision varies, depending upon the
setting. Some athletic trainers meet with the team physician
or consulting physician once or twice a week; others interact
with a physician every day. The extent of the supervision ranges
from discussing specific injuries and treatment options with
a physician to performing evaluations and treatments as directed
by a physician.
Athletic trainers also may have administrative responsibilities.
These may include regular meetings with an athletic director
or other administrative officer to deal with budgets, purchasing,
policy implementation, and other business-related issues.
The work of athletic trainers requires frequent interaction
with others. This includes consulting with physicians as well
as frequent contact with athletes and patients to discuss and
administer treatments, rehabilitation programs, injury-preventive
practices, and other health-related issues. Many athletic trainers
work indoors most of the time; others, especially those in some
sports-related jobs, spend much of their time working outdoors.
The job also might require standing for long periods, working
with medical equipment or machinery, and being able to walk,
run, kneel, crouch, stoop, or crawl. Some travel may be required.
Schedules vary by work setting. Athletic trainers in nonsports
settings generally have an established schedule with nights
and weekends off; the number of hours differs by employer, but
usually are about 40 to 50 hours per week. Trainers working
in hospitals and clinics spend part of their time working at
other locations on an outreach basis. Most commonly, those outreach
programs include secondary schools, colleges, and commercial
business locations. Athletic trainers in sports settings, however,
deal with schedules that are longer and more variable. These
trainers must be present for team practices and games, which
often are on evenings and weekends, and their schedules can
change on short notice when games and practices have to be rescheduled.
As a result, athletic trainers in sports settings regularly
may have to work 6 or 7 days per week, including late hours.
In high schools, athletic trainers who also teach may work
at least 60 to 70 hours a week. In NCAA Division I colleges
and universities, athletic trainers generally work with one
team; when that teamís sport is in season, working at least
50 to 60 hours a week is common. Athletic trainers in smaller
colleges and universities often work with several teams and
have teaching responsibilities. During the off-season, a 40-hour
to 50-hour work week may be normal in most settings. Athletic
trainers for professional sports teams generally work the most
hours per week. During training camps, practices, and competitions,
they may be required to work up to 12 hours a day.
There is some stress involved with being an athletic trainer,
as there is with most health-related occupations. Athletic trainers
are responsible for their clientsí health, and sometimes have
to make quick decisions that could affect the health or career
of their clients. Athletics trainers also can be affected by
the pressure to win that is typical of competitive sports teams.
Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
A bachelorís degree from an accredited college or university
is required for almost all jobs as an athletic trainer. In 2004,
there were more than 300 accredited programs nationwide. Students
in these programs are educated both in the classroom and in
clinical settings. Formal education includes many science and
health-related courses, such as human anatomy, physiology, nutrition,
A bachelorís degree with a major in athletic training from
an accredited program is part of the requirement for becoming
certified by the Board of Certification (BOC). In addition,
a successful candidate for board certification must pass an
examination that includes written questions and practical applications.
To retain certification, credential holders must continue taking
medical-related courses and adhere to standards of practice.
In the 43 States with athletic trainer licensure or registration
or both in 2004, BOC certification was required.
According to the National Athletic Trainers Association, 70
percent of athletic trainers have a masterís or doctoral degree.
Athletic trainers may need a masterís or higher degree to be
eligible for some positions, especially those in colleges and
universities, and to increase their advancement opportunities.
Because some positions in high schools involve teaching along
with athletic trainer responsibilities, a teaching certificate
or license could be required.
There are a number ways in which athletic trainers can advance
or move into related positions. Assistant athletic trainers
may become head athletic trainers and, eventually, athletic
directors. Athletic trainers might also enter a physician group
practice and assume a management role. Some athletic trainers
move into sales and marketing positions, using their athletic
trainer expertise to sell medical and athletic equipment.
Because all athletic trainers deal directly with a variety
of people, they need good social and communication skills. They
should be able to manage difficult situations and the stress
associated with themófor example, when disagreements arise with
coaches, clients, or parents regarding suggested treatment.
Athletic trainers also should be organized, be able to manage
time wisely, be inquisitive, and have a strong desire to help
Athletic trainers held about 15,000 jobs in 2004 and are found
in every part of the country. Most athletic trainer jobs are
related to sports, although many also work in nonsports settings.
About one-third of athletic trainers worked in health care,
including jobs in hospitals, offices of physicians, and offices
of other health practitioners. Another one-third were found
in public and private educational services, primarily in colleges,
universities, and high schools. About 20 percent worked in fitness
and recreational sports centers.
Employment of athletic trainers is expected to grow much faster
than the average for all occupations through 2014. Job growth
will be concentrated in health care industry settings, such
as ambulatory heath care services and hospitals. Growth in sports-related
positions will be somewhat slower, as most professional sports
clubs and colleges, universities, and professional schools already
have complete athletic training staffs. Job prospects should
be good for people looking for a position in the health care
industry. Athletic trainers looking for a position with a sports
team, however, may face competition.
The demand for health care should grow dramatically as the
result of advances in technology, increasing emphasis on preventive
care, and an increasing number of older people who are more
likely to need medical care. Athletic trainers will benefit
from this expansion, because they provide a cost-effective way
to increase the number of health professionals in an office
or other setting. Also, employers increasingly emphasize sports
medicine, in which an immediate responder, such as an athletic
trainer, is on site to help prevent injuries and provide immediate
treatment for any injuries that do occur. Athletic trainersí
increased licensure requirements and regulation has led to a
greater acceptance of their role as qualified health care providers.
As a result, third-party reimbursement is expected to continue
to grow for athletic training services. As athletic trainers
continue to expand their services, more employers are expected
to use these workers to realize the cost savings that can be
achieved by providing health care in-house. Settings outside
the sports world, especially those that focus on health care,
are expected to experience fast employment growth among athletic
trainers over the next decade. Continuing efforts to have an
athletic trainer in every high school reflect concern for student-athletesí
health as well as efforts to provide more funding for schools,
and may lead to growth in the number of athletic trainers employed
in high schools.
Turnover among athletic trainers is limited. When dealing with
sports teams, there is a tendency to want to continue to work
with the same coaches, administrators, and players when a good
working relationship already exists. Because of relatively low
worker turnover, the settings with the best job prospects will
be the ones that are expected to grow most quickly, primarily
positions in heath care settings. There will also be opportunities
in elementary and secondary schools as more positions are created.
Some of these positions also will require teaching responsibilities.
There will be more competition for positions within colleges,
universities, and professional schools as well as professional
sports clubs. The occupation is expected to continue to change
over the next decade including more administrative responsibilities,
adapting to new technology, and working with larger populations,
and job seekers must be able to adapt to these changes.
Most athletic trainers work in full-time positions, and typically
receive benefits. The salary of an athletic trainer depends
on experience and job responsibilities, and varies by job setting.
Median annual earnings of athletic trainers were $33,940 in
May 2004. The middle 50 percent earned between $27,140 and $42,380.
The lowest 10 percent earned less than $20,770, while the top
10 percent earned more than $53,760. Also, many employers pay
for some of the continuing education required of ATCs, although
the amount covered varies from employer to employer.
The American Medical Association recognizes athletic trainers
as allied health professionals. They work under the direction
of physicians and provide immediate care for injuries. Also,
they provide education and advice on the prevention of injuries
and work closely with injured patients to rehabilitate and recondition
injuries, often through therapy. Other occupations that may
require similar responsibilities include emergency medical technicians
and paramedics, physical therapists, physician assistants, registered
nurses, licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses, recreational
therapists, occupational therapists, and respiratory therapists.
There also are opportunities for athletic trainers to join
the military, although they would not be classified as an athletic
trainer. Enlisted soldiers and officers who are athletic trainers
are usually placed in another program in which their skills
are useful, such as health educator or training specialist.
(For information on military careers, see the Handbook
statement on job opportunities in the armed forces.)
Sources of Additional Information
For further information on careers in athletic training, contact: