How to Become an Athletic Trainer or Exercise Physiologist
Athletic trainers apply tape, bandages, or braces to help protect injured areas.
Athletic trainers and exercise physiologists need at least a bachelor’s degree. In most states, athletic trainers need a license or certification; requirements vary by state.
Athletic trainers and exercise physiologists need at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Master’s degree programs are also common. Both degree programs have classroom and clinical components, including science and health-related courses, such as biology, anatomy, physiology, and nutrition.
The Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE) accredits athletic trainer programs, as well as post-professional and residency athletic trainer programs.
The Committee on Accreditation for the Exercise Sciences accredits exercise physiology programs.
High school students interested in postsecondary athletic training or exercise physiology programs should take courses in anatomy, physiology, and physics.
Compassion. Athletic trainers and exercise physiologists work with athletes and patients who may be in considerable pain or discomfort. ATs and EPs must be sympathetic while providing treatments.
Decision-making skills. Athletic trainers and exercise physiologists must be able to make informed clinical decisions that could affect the health or livelihood of patients.
Detail oriented. Athletic trainers and exercise physiologists must be able to record detailed, accurate progress and ensure that patients are receiving the appropriate treatments or practicing the correct fitness regimen.
Interpersonal skills. Athletic trainers and exercise physiologists must have strong interpersonal skills and be able to manage difficult situations. They must be able to communicate well with others, including physicians, patients, athletes, coaches, and parents.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Athletic trainers must be licensed or certified in most states; requirements vary by state. The independent Board of Certification, Inc. (BOC) offers the standard certification examination that most states use for licensing athletic trainers. Certification requires graduating from a CAATE-accredited program and completing the BOC exam. To maintain certification, athletic trainers must adhere to the BOC Standards of Practice and Disciplinary Process and take continuing education courses.
Requirements for an athletic trainer license typically include graduating from an accredited athletic training program and passing the BOC exam or a separate state exam. For specific information on requirements, contact the local state regulatory agency.
Just a few states require exercise physiologists to be licensed, although many states have pending legislation to create formal licensure requirements.
The American Society of Exercise Physiologists (ASEP) offers the Exercise Physiologist Certified (EPC) certification that physiologists can use to demonstrate their qualifications. Certification requires graduation with a relevant bachelor’s degree and coursework, completing the ASEP exam, and taking continuing education courses every 5 years.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) also offers certifications for exercise physiologists. ACSM offers the Certified Clinical Exercise Specialist (CES) credential for candidates with bachelor’s degrees and the Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist (RCEP) for candidates with master’s degrees.
Assistant athletic trainers may become head athletic trainers, athletic directors, or physician, hospital, or clinic practice administrators, where they assume a management role. Some athletic trainers move into sales and marketing positions, using their expertise to sell medical and athletic equipment. Athletic trainers working in colleges and universities may pursue an advanced degree to increase their advancement opportunities.
Exercise physiologists with some business training have better opportunities to advance into management positions.