Athletic Trainers

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Summary

Athletic trainers
Athletic trainers help prevent and treat injuries for people of all ages.
Quick Facts: Athletic Trainers
2010 Median Pay $41,600 per year
Entry-Level Education Bachelor’s degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2010 18,200
Job Outlook, 2010-20 30% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2010-20 5,500

What Athletic Trainers Do

Athletic trainers specialize in preventing, diagnosing, and treating muscle and bone injuries and illnesses. They work with people of all ages and all skill levels, from young children to soldiers and professional athletes.

Work Environment

Many athletic trainers work in educational settings, such as secondary schools or colleges. Others work in physicians' offices or for professional sports teams. Some spend much of their time working outdoors on sports fields in all types of weather.

How to Become an Athletic Trainer

Athletic trainers need at least a bachelor’s degree, although both bachelor’s and master's degrees are common. In most states, athletic trainers need a license or certification; requirements vary by state.

Pay

The median annual wage of athletic trainers was $41,600 in May 2010.

Job Outlook

Employment of athletic trainers is expected to grow by 30 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations. As people become more aware of sports-related injuries at a young age, demand for athletic trainers is expected to increase, most significantly in schools and youth leagues.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of athletic trainers with similar occupations.

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What Athletic Trainers Do About this section

Athletic trainers
Athletic trainers assess injuries and, when needed, refer their patients to a physician for additional care.

Athletic trainers specialize in preventing, diagnosing, and treating muscle and bone injuries and illnesses. They work with people of all ages and all skill levels, from young children to soldiers and professional athletes. They work under the direction of a physician, as well as other healthcare providers.

Duties

Athletic trainers typically do the following:

  • Apply protective or injury-preventive devices such as tape, bandages, and braces
  • Recognize and evaluate injuries
  • Provide first aid or emergency care
  • Develop and carry out rehabilitation programs for injured athletes
  • Plan and implement comprehensive programs to prevent injury and illness from athletics
  • Do administrative tasks, such as keeping records and writing reports on injuries and treatment programs

Athletic trainers are usually one of the first healthcare providers on the scene when injuries occur. Athletic trainers work under the direction of a licensed physician and with other healthcare providers. They often discuss specific injuries and treatment options or evaluate and treat patients as directed by a physician. Some athletic trainers meet with a team physician or consulting physician regularly. An athletic trainer’s administrative responsibilities may include regular meetings with an athletic director or other administrative officer to deal with budgets, purchasing, policy implementation, and other business-related issues.

Athletic trainers should not be confused with fitness trainers and instructors, including personal trainers. For more information , see the profile on fitness trainers and instructors.

Work Environment About this section

Athletic trainers
Athletic trainers may travel to games with athletes.

Athletic trainers held about 18,200 jobs in 2010.

Many athletic trainers work in educational facilities, such as secondary schools and colleges. Others may work in physicians' offices or for professional sports teams. Some athletic trainers work in rehabilitation and therapy clinics, in the military, or with performing artists. They may spend much of their time working outdoors on sports fields in all types of weather.

The following industries employed a majority of athletic trainers in 2010:

Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private27%
Fitness and recreational sports centers11
Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private9
Offices of physicians6
Spectator sports4

Athletic trainers who work with teams during sporting events may work evenings or weekends and travel often.

How to Become an Athletic Trainer About this section

Athletic trainers
Athletic trainers apply tape, bandages, or braces to help protect injured areas.

Athletic trainers need at least a bachelor’s degree, although both bachelor’s and master’s degrees are common. In most states, athletic trainers need a license or certification; requirements vary by state.

Education

For most jobs, athletic trainers need a bachelor's degree in athletic training from an accredited college or university; however, master’s degrees are also common. The Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE) accredits most programs. All programs have both classroom and clinical components. Courses include science and health-related courses, such as anatomy, physiology, nutrition, and biomechanics.

Athletic trainers may need a higher degree to be eligible for some positions, especially trainers in colleges and universities, or to increase their advancement opportunities.

High school students interested in athletic trainer programs should take courses in anatomy, physiology, and physics.

Important Qualities

Applied knowledge. Athletic trainers need to be able to retain a wide range of medical knowledge. They must evaluate patients’ symptoms, consult with other healthcare professionals, and recommend and administer appropriate treatments.

Decision-making skills. Athletic trainers must be able to make quick de­cisions that could affect the health or career of their clients.

Detail oriented. Athletic trainers must be able to record detailed, accurate progress and ensure that patients are receiving the appropriate treatments.

Interpersonal skills. Athletic trainers must have strong interpersonal skills and be able to manage sometimes stressful situations. They must be able to communicate well with others, including physicians, athletes, coaches, and parents.

Certification

Nearly all states require athletic trainers to be certified. The independent Board of Certification, Inc. (BOC) offers the standard certification examination that most states use for licensure. Certification requires completing the BOC exam, adhering to the BOC Standards of Practice and Disciplinary Process, and taking continuing education courses. Athletic trainers must graduate from a CAATE-accredited program before taking the BOC exam.

Licenses

In most states, athletic trainers must be licensed; requirements vary by state. Requirements in most states 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.

In school settings, athletic trainers may take on some teaching responsibilities and may need a teaching certificate or license.

Advancement

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.

Pay About this section

Athletic Trainers

Median annual wages, May 2010

Other Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations

$51,850

Athletic Trainers

$41,600

Total, All Occupations

$33,840

 

The median annual wage of athletic trainers was $41,600 in May 2010. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $25,750, and the top 10 percent earned more than $64,390.

Because some work with teams during sporting events, they might be required to work evenings or weekends and travel often.

Job Outlook About this section

Athletic Trainers

Percent change in employment, projected 2010-20

Athletic Trainers

30%

Other Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations

16%

Total, All Occupations

14%

 

Employment of athletic trainers is expected to grow by 30 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth will result in only about 5,500 new jobs over the 10-year period. As people become more aware of sports-related injuries at a young age, demand for athletic trainers is expected to increase, most significantly in schools and youth leagues.

New research reveals that the effects of concussions are particularly severe and long lasting in child athletes. Although concussions are dangerous to athletes at any age, children’s brains are still developing and are at risk for permanent complications, such as fatal brain swelling and learning disabilities. Parents and coaches are becoming educated about these greater risks through community health efforts. Because athletic trainers are usually on site with athletes and are often the first line of defense when injuries occur, the demand for trainers should continue to increase.

Additionally, advances in injury prevention and detection and more sophisticated treatments are projected to increase the demand for athletic trainers. Growth in an increasingly active middle-aged and elderly population will likely lead to an increased incidence of athletic-related injuries, such as sprains. Sports programs at all ages and for all experience levels will continue to create demand for athletic trainers.

Insurance and workers’ compensation costs have become a concern for many employers and insurance companies, especially in areas where employees are often injured on the job. For example, military bases hire athletic trainers to help train military personnel in how to properly lift items or to create training programs aimed at keeping injury rates down. More insurance companies are recognizing athletic trainers as healthcare providers and are reimbursing the cost of an athletic trainer’s services.

Employment projections data for athletic trainers, 2010-20
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2010 Projected Employment, 2020 Change, 2010-20 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Athletic Trainers

29-9091 18,200 23,700 30 5,500 [XLS]

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of athletic trainers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2010 MEDIAN PAY Help
Chiropractors

Chiropractors

Chiropractors treat patients with health problems of the musculoskeletal system, which is made up of bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. They use spinal manipulation and other techniques to treat patients' ailments, such as back or neck pain.

Doctoral or professional degree $67,200
EMTs and paramedics

EMTs and Paramedics

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics care for the sick or injured in emergency medical settings. People’s lives often depend on their quick reaction and competent care. EMTs and paramedics respond to emergency calls, performing medical services and transporting patients to medical facilities.

Postsecondary non-degree award $30,360
Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses

Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses (known as LPNs or LVNs, depending on the state in which they work) provide basic nursing care. They work under the direction of registered nurses and doctors.

Postsecondary non-degree award $40,380
Massage therapists

Massage Therapists

Massage therapists treat clients by using touch to manipulate the soft-tissue muscles of the body. With their touch, therapists relieve pain, rehabilitate injuries, reduce stress, increase relaxation, and aid in the general wellness of clients.

Postsecondary non-degree award $34,900
Occupational therapists

Occupational Therapists

Occupational therapists treat patients with injuries, illnesses, or disabilities through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. They help these patients develop, recover, and improve the skills needed for daily living and working.

Master’s degree $72,320
Physical therapists

Physical Therapists

Physical therapists help people who have injuries or illnesses improve their movement and manage their pain. They are often an important part of rehabilitation and treatment of patients with chronic conditions or injuries.

Doctoral or professional degree $76,310
Physician assistants

Physician Assistants

Physician assistants, also known as PAs, practice medicine under the direction of physicians and surgeons. They are formally trained to examine patients, diagnose injuries and illnesses, and provide treatment.

Master’s degree $86,410
Physicians and surgeons

Physicians and Surgeons

Physicians and surgeons diagnose and treat injuries and illnesses in patients. Physicians examine patients, take medical histories, prescribe medications, and order, perform, and interpret diagnostic tests. Surgeons operate on patients to treat injuries, such as broken bones; diseases, such as cancerous tumors; and deformities, such as cleft palates.

Doctoral or professional degree This wage is equal to or greater than $166,400 per year.
Podiatrists

Podiatrists

Podiatrists provide medical and surgical care for people suffering from foot, ankle, and lower leg problems. They diagnose illnesses, treat injuries, and perform surgery.

Doctoral or professional degree $118,030
Recreational therapists

Recreational Therapists

Recreational therapists plan, direct, and coordinate recreation programs for people with disabilities or illnesses. They use a variety of techniques, including arts and crafts, drama, music, dance, sports, games, and field trips. These programs help maintain or improve a client’s physical and emotional well-being.

Bachelor’s degree $39,410
Registered nurses

Registered Nurses

Registered nurses (RNs) provide and coordinate patient care, educate patients and the public about various health conditions, and provide advice and emotional support to patients and their family members.

Associate’s degree $64,690
Respiratory therapists

Respiratory Therapists

Respiratory therapists care for patients who have trouble breathing; for example, from a chronic respiratory disease, such as asthma or emphysema. They also provide emergency care to patients suffering from heart attacks, stroke, drowning, or shock.

Associate’s degree $54,280
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Athletic Trainers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/athletic-trainers.htm (visited March 28, 2015).

Publish Date: Thursday, March 29, 2012