How to Become an Athletic Trainer

How to Become an Athletic Trainer

If you have a passion for sports and a desire to help athletes perform at their best, becoming an athletic trainer could be the perfect career choice for you. Athletic trainers are highly skilled healthcare professionals who work with athletes to prevent, diagnose, and treat injuries. They play a crucial role in the sports medicine team, working closely with coaches, physicians, and other healthcare professionals to ensure the athletes’ health and safety.

To become an athletic trainer, you will need to follow a specific path that includes obtaining the necessary education and certification. The first step is to complete a bachelor’s degree in athletic training or a related field. During your undergraduate studies, you will learn about anatomy, exercise physiology, injury prevention, and rehabilitation techniques. You will also have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience by interning with athletic trainers in a variety of settings, such as high schools, colleges, and professional sports organizations.



After completing your bachelor’s degree, the next step is to obtain certification. The Board of Certification, Inc. (BOC) is the certifying organization for athletic trainers in the United States. To become a certified athletic trainer (ATC®), you must pass the BOC exam. This certification is widely recognized and provides assurance to employers and the public that you have met the rigorous standards set by the profession.

Once you are certified, you can start working as an athletic trainer. There are many career opportunities available in a variety of settings, including high schools, colleges, professional sports teams, and healthcare organizations. You could also choose to further your education and earn a master’s degree in athletic training or a related field. A higher degree can open up even more career opportunities and may lead to higher salaries.

The outlook for athletic trainers is promising, with the demand for these professionals expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations. As more people recognize the value of athletic trainers in preventing and treating injuries, the need for their expertise will continue to increase. Whether you are just starting your journey or are already on the path to becoming an athletic trainer, this guide will provide you with valuable information and insights to help you succeed in this rewarding profession.

Education and Training

When it comes to becoming an athletic trainer, you need to provide a strong educational foundation. For instance, most athletic trainers hold a bachelor’s degree in athletic training or a related field. This degree program typically includes courses in anatomy, physiology, sports medicine, and other sports-related subjects.

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After completing your bachelor’s degree, you will need to earn a master’s degree in athletic training (MSAT). This advanced degree provides more in-depth knowledge and practical training in the field. It is important to note that starting in 2022, the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE) will require all athletic trainers to have a master’s degree in order to be eligible for certification.

Once you have completed your education, the next step is to become certified and licensed. Certification is obtained by passing the Board of Certification (BOC) examination. This exam evaluates your knowledge and skills in various areas of athletic training. In addition to certification, some states also require athletic trainers to be licensed in order to practice.

When it comes to career opportunities, there are various paths you can choose as a certified athletic trainer. You can work in high schools, colleges, professional sports teams, or sports medicine clinics. The outlook for athletic trainers is positive, with a projected job growth of 19% from 2018 to 2028, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.



Certification and Licensure

Obtaining certification and licensure is an essential step in becoming an athletic trainer. These credentials provide assurance to employers and the public that you have met the necessary requirements and have the knowledge and skills to practice in the field.

There are two main organizations that offer certification for athletic trainers: the Board of Certification (BOC) and the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA). The BOC offers the Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC) credential, while the NATA offers the Certified Member (ATC) credential.

To become certified, you must first complete a bachelor’s degree in athletic training or a related field. Many schools offer pre-athletic training programs or accelerated 3+2 programs, where you can earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree within a shorter time frame. It is important to choose a program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE).

After completing your undergraduate degree, you will need to pass the certification exam administered by the BOC or NATA. This exam assesses your knowledge and skills in various areas, such as injury prevention, evaluation and assessment, immediate care, treatment and rehabilitation, and organizational and professional health and well-being.

Once you have passed the exam, you will be eligible to apply for state licensure. Licensure requirements vary by state, so it is important to research the specific requirements in the state where you plan to practice. Some states may also require additional documentation, such as proof of CPR and first aid certification.

It is important to note that certification and licensure are not a one-time process. To maintain your credentials, you will need to complete continuing education courses and meet renewal requirements set by the certifying organization and state licensing board.

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Having certification and licensure as an athletic trainer opens up many career opportunities. Most athletic trainers work in high schools, colleges, and professional sports organizations, providing valuable health care services to athletes. They assess and treat injuries, develop conditioning programs, and work with other healthcare professionals to ensure the overall well-being of athletes.

Gaining Experience as an Athletic Trainer

Once you have completed your education and obtained the necessary certifications and licensure, gaining practical experience is crucial for becoming a successful athletic trainer. This hands-on experience will allow you to apply the knowledge and skills you have learned in a real-world setting, working directly with athletes and helping them prevent and treat injuries.

There are several ways to gain experience as an athletic trainer. One option is to participate in a pre-athletic training program during your undergraduate studies. This program typically includes coursework in anatomy, exercise physiology, and injury prevention, as well as hands-on clinical experiences. Another option is to complete a bachelor’s degree in athletic training, which typically includes a combination of classroom instruction and supervised clinical practice.

After completing your education, you may choose to pursue a master’s degree in athletic training (MSAT) to further enhance your knowledge and skills. This advanced degree can provide you with additional opportunities for specialization and career advancement.

By gaining practical experience, you will not only develop your skills as an athletic trainer but also build a valuable network of professionals within the field. These connections can be instrumental in finding job opportunities and advancing your career.

When applying for jobs as an athletic trainer, having a diverse range of experiences will make you a more competitive candidate. Employers are often looking for athletic trainers who have worked with a variety of sports and athletes, as this demonstrates a well-rounded skill set and the ability to adapt to different environments and needs.

In addition to gaining experience in different sports, it is also important to stay up-to-date with the latest advancements in the field. This can be done by attending conferences, workshops, and continuing education courses. It is also beneficial to become certified through a certifying organization such as the Board of Certification for the Athletic Trainer (BOC-AT), which provides assurance to employers that you have met the necessary credential requirements and are committed to maintaining a high standard of practice.

In summary, gaining practical experience is an essential step in becoming an athletic trainer. Whether through a pre-athletic training program, bachelor’s or master’s degree, or internships and volunteer work, the experiences you gain will help you develop the skills and knowledge needed to excel in this field. By staying current with advancements in the field and obtaining certifications, you will position yourself as a valuable and highly qualified athletic trainer.

Career Opportunities and Advancement

Once you have completed the necessary education and training to become an athletic trainer, you will find that there are numerous career opportunities available to you in this field. Athletic trainers work in a variety of settings, including high schools, colleges and universities, professional sports teams, hospitals, and rehabilitation centers.

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Working as an athletic trainer allows you to be part of a team environment where you can help athletes meet their physical needs and overcome injuries. You will work closely with coaches, physicians, and other healthcare professionals to provide the right care and treatment for athletes.

In addition to working with athletes, athletic trainers also have the opportunity to work with the general population. Many people who are not involved in sports may still require the services of an athletic trainer, such as individuals who have suffered from a musculoskeletal injury or those who are looking to improve their overall fitness.

The demand for athletic trainers is expected to grow at an accelerated rate in the coming years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average growth rate for this field is projected to be 16% from 2019 to 2029, which is much higher than the average for all occupations.

As an athletic trainer, you can also advance in your career by pursuing additional education and certifications. Many athletic trainers choose to specialize in a specific area, such as sports medicine or orthopedics, by completing a graduate program or obtaining additional credentials, such as the Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC) credential.

Furthermore, athletic trainers can also find opportunities to work in research and education. They may work as educators at universities, teaching courses related to sports medicine and athletic training. They may also conduct research to further advance the field and improve the care provided to athletes.

In summary, becoming an athletic trainer can be a rewarding career choice for those interested in sports and healthcare. With the right education, training, and experience, you can help athletes and individuals with sports-related injuries and meet their physical needs. The field of athletic training offers a promising outlook, with a higher than average growth rate and opportunities for career advancement.

FAQ

What is an athletic trainer?

An athletic trainer is a healthcare professional who specializes in preventing, diagnosing, and treating injuries related to physical activity.

What education is required to become an athletic trainer?

To become an athletic trainer, you need to earn a bachelor’s degree in athletic training from an accredited program. Some states also require athletic trainers to be licensed or certified.

What skills are important for an athletic trainer?

Important skills for an athletic trainer include strong communication skills, knowledge of anatomy and physiology, the ability to assess and treat injuries, and the ability to work well under pressure.

Is becoming an athletic trainer a smart career choice?

Yes, becoming an athletic trainer can be a smart career choice for individuals who are passionate about sports and helping others. It offers a rewarding career path with opportunities to work in various settings, such as schools, colleges, and professional sports teams.

Dave Pennells

By Dave Pennells

Dave Pennells, MS, has contributed his expertise as a career consultant and training specialist across various fields for over 15 years. At City University of Seattle, he offers personal career counseling and conducts workshops focused on practical job search techniques, resume creation, and interview skills. With a Master of Science in Counseling, Pennells specializes in career consulting, conducting career assessments, guiding career transitions, and providing outplacement services. Her professional experience spans multiple sectors, including banking, retail, airlines, non-profit organizations, and the aerospace industry. Additionally, since 2001, he has been actively involved with the Career Development Association of Australia.