Athletic Trainers and Exercise Physiologists

Summary

athletic trainers image
Both athletic trainers and exercise physiologists can use various forms of physical activity to help patients overcome injuries or chronic health conditions.
Quick Facts: Athletic Trainers and Exercise Physiologists
2012 Median Pay $42,690 per year
$20.52 per hour
Entry-Level Education Bachelor’s degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2012 28,900
Job Outlook, 2012-22 19% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 5,400

What Athletic Trainers and Exercise Physiologists Do

Athletic trainers specialize in preventing, diagnosing, and treating muscle and bone injuries and illnesses. Exercise physiologists develop fitness and exercise programs that help patients recover from chronic diseases and improve cardiovascular function, body composition, and flexibility.

Work Environment

Many athletic trainers work in educational settings, such as colleges or universities. Others work in physicians' offices or for professional sports teams. Exercise physiologists work in hospitals, outpatient clinics, and university laboratories.

How to Become an Athletic Trainer or Exercise Physiologist

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.

Pay

In May 2012, the median annual wage for athletic trainers was $42,090. The median annual wage for exercise physiologists was $44,770 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of athletic trainers and exercise physiologists is projected to grow 19 percent from 2012 to 2022, 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 colleges, universities, and youth leagues.

Similar Occupations

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

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about athletic trainers and exercise physiologists by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Athletic Trainers and Exercise Physiologists Do

athletic trainers image
Exercise physiologists measure key patient health indicators, such as blood pressure.

Athletic trainers specialize in preventing, diagnosing, and treating muscle and bone injuries and illnesses. Exercise physiologists develop fitness and exercise programs that help patients recover from chronic diseases and improve cardiovascular function, body composition, and flexibility.

Duties

Athletic trainers (ATs) 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 among athletes
  • Perform administrative tasks such as keeping records and writing reports on injuries and treatment programs

Exercise physiologists (EPs) typically do the following:

  • Analyze a patient’s medical history to determine the best possible exercise and fitness regimen
  • Perform fitness tests with medical equipment and analyze the subsequent patient data
  • Measure body fat, blood pressure, oxygen usage, and other key patient health indicators
  • Develop exercise programs to improve patient health
  • Supervise clinical tests to ensure patient safety

Athletic trainers work with people of all ages and all skill levels, from young children to soldiers and professional athletes. Athletic trainers are usually one of the first healthcare providers on the scene when injuries occur. They work under the direction of a licensed physician and with other healthcare providers, and 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.

Exercise physiologists work to improve overall patient health, and many of their patients suffer from health problems such as cardiovascular disease, or are obese. Exercise physiologists provide health education and exercise plans to improve key health indicators. Some physiologists work closely with primary physicians.

Athletic trainers and exercise physiologists should not be confused with fitness trainers and instructors, including personal trainers.

Work Environment

Athletic trainers
Athletic trainers may travel to games with athletes.

Athletic trainers held about 22,900 jobs in 2012. Exercise physiologists held about 6,000 jobs in 2012.

Many athletic trainers work in educational facilities, such as secondary schools or 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 their time working outdoors on sports fields, and in all types of weather.

The industries that employed the most athletic trainers in 2012 were as follows:

Colleges, universities, and professional
schools; state, local, and private
25%
Offices of other health practitioners15
Hospitals; state, local, and private13
Fitness and recreational sports centers13

Exercise physiologists work in hospitals, outpatient clinics, and nursing and residential care facilities. 

The industries that employed the most exercise physiologists in 2012 were as follows: 

General medical and surgical
hospitals; state, local, and private
53%
Ambulatory health care services21
Specialty (except psychiatric and substance abuse)
hospitals; state, local, and private
6
Nursing and residential care facilities4

Work Schedules

Most athletic trainers and exercise physiologists work full time. Athletic trainers who work with teams during sporting events may work evenings or weekends and travel often. About 2 in 5 exercise physiologists worked part time.

How to Become an Athletic Trainer or Exercise Physiologist

Athletic trainers
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.

Education

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.

Important Qualities

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.

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. 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.

Pay

Athletic Trainers and Exercise Physiologists

Median annual wages, May 2012

Exercise physiologists

$44,770

Athletic trainers and exercise physiologists

$42,690

Athletic trainers

$42,090

Total, all occupations

$34,750

 

The median annual wage for athletic trainers was $42,090 in May 2012. 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 $25,960, and the top 10 percent earned more than $64,140.

The median annual wage for exercise physiologists was $44,770 in May 2012. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,000, and the top 10 percent earned more than $70,140.

Because some work with teams during sporting events, athletic trainers may be required to work evenings or weekends and travel often.

Job Outlook

Athletic Trainers and Exercise Physiologists

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Athletic trainers

21%

Athletic trainers and exercise physiologists

19%

Total, all occupations

11%

Exercise physiologists

9%

 

Employment of athletic trainers is projected to grow 21 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth will result in only about 4,900 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 colleges, universities, and youth leagues.

Recent 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. Parents and coaches are becoming educated about these greater risks through community health efforts. Because athletic trainers are usually onsite with athletes and are often the first responders 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 and rehabilitate injured military personnel. These trainers also create programs aimed at keeping injury rates down. Depending on the state, some insurance companies recognize athletic trainers as healthcare providers and reimburse the cost of an athletic trainer’s services.

Employment of exercise physiologists is projected to grow 9 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. This is a small occupation, and compared to athletic trainers, licensure for exercise physiologists is less common and therefore there are fewer recognized standards of practice for exercise physiologists. Demand may rise as hospitals emphasize exercise and preventive care as part of their treatment for chronic diseases and long-term rehabilitation. There are few available exercise physiologist positions, so competition for work remains high.

Employment projections data for Athletic Trainers and Exercise Physiologists, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Athletic trainers and exercise physiologists

28,900 34,300 19 5,400

Athletic trainers

29-9091 22,900 27,800 21 4,900 [XLS]

Exercise physiologists

29-1128 6,000 6,500 9 600 [XLS]

Similar Occupations

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

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2012 MEDIAN PAY
Chiropractors

Chiropractors

Chiropractors treat patients with health problems of the neuromusculoskeletal system, which includes nerves, bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. They use spinal adjustments, manipulation, and other techniques to manage patients' health concerns, such as back and neck pain.

Doctoral or professional degree $66,160
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 $31,020
Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses

Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) provide basic nursing care. They work under the direction of registered nurses and doctors.

Postsecondary non-degree award $41,540
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, help rehabilitate injuries, improve circulation, relieve stress, increase relaxation, and aid in the general wellness of clients.

Postsecondary non-degree award $35,970
Occupational therapists

Occupational Therapists

Occupational therapists treat injured, ill, or disabled patients 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 $75,400
Physical therapists

Physical Therapists

Physical therapists, sometimes called PTs, help injured or ill people improve their movement and manage their pain. These therapists are often an important part of rehabilitation and treatment of patients with chronic conditions or injuries.

Doctoral or professional degree $79,860
Physician assistants

Physician Assistants

Physician assistants, also known as PAs, practice medicine on a team under the supervision of physicians and surgeons. They are formally educated to examine patients, diagnose injuries and illnesses, and provide treatment.

Master’s degree $90,930
Podiatrists

Podiatrists

Podiatrists provide medical care for people with foot, ankle, and lower leg problems. They diagnose illnesses, treat injuries, and perform surgery involving the lower extremities.

Doctoral or professional degree $116,440
Recreational therapists

Recreational Therapists

Recreational therapists plan, direct, and coordinate recreation-based treatment programs for people with disabilities, injuries, or illnesses. Recreational therapists use a variety of modalities, including arts and crafts, drama, music, dance, sports, games, and community reintegration field trips to help maintain or improve a patient’s physical, social, and emotional well-being.

Bachelor’s degree $42,280
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 $65,470
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. Their patients range from premature infants with undeveloped lungs to elderly patients who have diseased lungs. They also provide emergency care to patients suffering from heart attacks, drowning, or shock.

Associate’s degree $55,870

Contacts for More Information

For more information about athletic trainers, visit

National Athletic Trainers’ Association

For more information about accredited athletic training programs, visit

Commission on the Accreditation of Athletic Training Education

For more information about certification and state regulatory requirements for athletic trainers, visit

Board of Certification, Inc.

For more information about exercise physiologists and certifications, visit

The American Society of Exercise Physiologists

The American College of Sports Medicine

Committee on Accreditation for the Exercise Sciences

O*NET

Athletic Trainers

Exercise Physiologists

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Athletic Trainers and Exercise Physiologists,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/athletic-trainers-and-exercise-physiologists.htm (visited November 27, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014