Bureau of Labor Statistics

Athletic Trainers

athletic trainers image
Athletic trainers specialize in preventing, diagnosing, and treating muscle and bone injuries and illnesses.
Quick Facts: Athletic Trainers
2020 Median Pay $49,860 per year
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2020 30,000
Job Outlook, 2020-30 23% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2020-30 7,000

Summary

What Athletic Trainers Do

Athletic trainers specialize in preventing, diagnosing, and treating muscle and bone injuries and illnesses.

Work Environment

Many athletic trainers work in educational settings, such as colleges, universities, elementary schools, and secondary schools. Others work in hospitals, fitness centers, or physicians’ offices, or for professional sports teams.

How to Become an Athletic Trainer

Athletic trainers need at least a bachelor’s degree. Nearly all states require athletic trainers to have a license or certification; requirements vary by state.

Pay

The median annual wage for athletic trainers was $49,860 in May 2020.

Job Outlook

Employment of athletic trainers is projected to grow 23 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations.

About 3,100 openings for athletic trainers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for athletic trainers.

Similar Occupations

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

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

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

What Athletic Trainers Do

athletic trainers image
Athletic trainers carry out rehabilitation programs for injured athletes.

Athletic trainers specialize in preventing, diagnosing, and treating muscle and bone injuries and illnesses.

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 among athletes
  • Perform administrative tasks, such as keeping records and writing reports on injuries and treatment programs

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 on the field. They work under the direction of a licensed physician and with other healthcare providers, often discussing specific injuries and treatment options or evaluating and treating 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 another administrative officer to deal with budgets, purchasing, policy implementation, and other business-related issues. Athletic trainers plan athletic programs that are compliant with federal and state regulations; for example, they may ensure a football program adheres to laws related to athlete concussions.

Athletic trainers should not be confused with fitness trainers and instructors, which include personal trainers.

Work Environment

Athletic trainers
Athletic trainers may travel to games with athletes.

Athletic trainers held about 30,000 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of athletic trainers were as follows:

Educational services; state, local, and private 38%
Hospitals; state, local, and private 20
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists 14
Fitness and recreational sports centers 5
Self-employed workers 3

Athletic trainers also may work with military, with law enforcement, with professional sports teams, or with performing artists.

Athletic trainers may spend their time working outdoors on sports fields in all types of weather.

Work Schedules

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

How to Become an Athletic Trainer

Athletic trainers
Athletic trainers must be licensed or certified in nearly all states.

Athletic trainers need at least a bachelor’s degree. Nearly all states require athletic trainers to have a license or certification; requirements vary by state.

Education

Athletic trainers need at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Master’s degree programs are also common, and may be preferred by some employers. 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 hundreds of athletic trainer programs, including postprofessional and residency athletic trainer programs.

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

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Nearly all states require athletic trainers to be licensed or certified; requirements vary by state. For specific requirements, contact the particular state’s licensing or credentialing board or athletic trainer association.

The Board of Certification for the Athletic Trainer (BOC) offers the standard certification examination that most states use for licensing athletic trainers. Certification requires graduating from a CAATE-accredited program and passing the BOC exam. To maintain certification, athletic trainers must adhere to the BOC Standards of Professional Practice and take continuing education courses.

Important Qualities

Compassion. Athletic trainers work with athletes and patients who may be in considerable pain or discomfort. The trainers must be sympathetic while providing treatments.

Decisionmaking skills. Athletic trainers must make informed clinical decisions that could affect the health or livelihood of patients.

Detail oriented. Athletic trainers must record patients’ progress accurately and ensure that they are receiving the appropriate treatments or practicing the correct fitness regimen.

Interpersonal skills. Athletic trainers must have strong interpersonal skills in order to manage difficult situations. They must communicate well with others, including physicians, patients, athletes, coaches, and parents.

Advancement

Assistant athletic trainers may become head athletic trainers, athletic directors, or physician, hospital, or clinic practice administrators. In any of these positions, they will assume a management role. Athletic trainers working in colleges and universities may pursue an advanced degree to increase their advancement opportunities.

Pay

Athletic Trainers

Median annual wages, May 2020

Other healthcare practitioners and technical occupations

$51,560

Athletic trainers

$49,860

Total, all occupations

$41,950

 

The median annual wage for athletic trainers was $49,860 in May 2020. 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 $32,980, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $75,810.

In May 2020, the median annual wages for athletic trainers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Educational services; state, local, and private $54,140
Hospitals; state, local, and private 49,030
Fitness and recreational sports centers 46,970
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists 46,410

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

Job Outlook

Athletic Trainers

Percent change in employment, projected 2020-30

Athletic trainers

23%

Other healthcare practitioners and technical occupations

14%

Total, all occupations

8%

 

Employment of athletic trainers is projected to grow 23 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations.

About 3,100 openings for athletic trainers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Some of the projected employment growth in this occupation is due to recovery from the COVID-19 recession that began in 2020.

Sports programs at all ages and for all experience levels will continue to create demand for athletic trainers. Concussions are dangerous at any age, but their effects may be particularly severe and long lasting in children, whose brains are still developing. Because athletic trainers are usually onsite and are often the first responders when injuries occur, some states require public secondary schools to employ athletic trainers as part of their sports programs. The demand for trainers in schools should continue to increase as people become more aware of the effects of sports-related injuries.

Growing numbers of middle-aged and older people are remaining physically active. Their continued activity will likely lead to an increase in athletic-related injuries, such as sprains. Athletic trainers will be needed to provide sophisticated treatments in injury prevention and detection.

Many employers and insurers rely on athletic trainers to help contain costs associated with worker injuries, especially for those who risk injury on the job. For example, athletic trainers may help to rehabilitate injured military personnel. These trainers also create programs aimed at reducing injury rates. Depending on the state, some insurance companies recognize athletic trainers as healthcare providers and reimburse the cost of an athletic trainer’s services.

Employment projections data for athletic trainers, 2020-30

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

Occupational Title

Athletic trainers

SOC Code29-9091
Employment, 202030,000
Projected Employment, 203037,000
Percent Change, 2020-3023
Numeric Change, 2020-307,000
Employment by IndustryGet data

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

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

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2020 MEDIAN PAY
Coaches and scouts Coaches and Scouts

Coaches teach amateur or professional athletes the skills they need to succeed at their sport.

Bachelor's degree $36,330
Chiropractors Chiropractors

Chiropractors treat patients with health problems of the neuromusculoskeletal system, which includes nerves, bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons.

Doctoral or professional degree $70,720
EMTs and paramedics EMTs and Paramedics

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics respond to emergency calls, performing medical services and transporting patients to medical facilities.

Postsecondary nondegree award $36,650
Exercise Physiologists

Exercise physiologists develop fitness and exercise programs that help injured or sick patients recover.

Bachelor's degree $50,280
Massage therapists Massage Therapists

Massage therapists treat clients by using touch to manipulate the muscles and other soft tissues of the body.

Postsecondary nondegree award $43,620
Occupational therapists Occupational Therapists

Occupational therapists treat patients who have injuries, illnesses, or disabilities through the therapeutic use of everyday activities.

Master's degree $86,280
Physical therapists Physical Therapists

Physical therapists help injured or ill people improve movement and manage pain.

Doctoral or professional degree $91,010
Physician assistants Physician Assistants

Physician assistants practice medicine on teams with physicians, surgeons, and other healthcare workers.

Master's degree $115,390
Recreational therapists Recreational Therapists

Recreational therapists plan, direct, and coordinate recreation-based treatment programs for people with disabilities, injuries, or illnesses.

Bachelor's degree $47,710
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.

Associate's degree $62,810

Contacts for More Info

Last Modified Date: Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Athletic Trainers,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/athletic-trainers.htm (visited October 10, 2021).

Telephone: 1-202-691-5700 www.bls.gov/ooh Contact OOH

View this page on regular www.bls.gov

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