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Athletic Trainer

Athletic Trainer: Salary, Job Description, Association, Education & Colleges

What does an Athletic Trainer do?

An athletic trainer can work while holding a number of job titles, each slightly different and sometimes reflecting the individual’s specialization. A trainer may specialize in sports medicine and become a Sports Medicine Coordinator, or the trainer might become a Resident Athletic Trainer, Athletic Trainer and Strength Coach, the Head Athletic Trainer, Graduate Assistant Athletic Trainer, Clinical Trainer, Certified Athletic Trainer, or an Athletic Instructor, among alternative titles. The person filling the role of athletic trainer works with athletes specifically and therefore, they are working within athletic programs, universities, schools, and may work for a specific sports team. An athletic trainer might also work for fitness centers. The main role or the athletic trainer is to observe training effectiveness and to make any necessary changes based on the athlete’s needs and health.

Who is an Athletic Trainer?

The person pursuing the athletic trainer career learns about fitness plans and advises athletes about such regimes, but the same individual will also be responsible for handling any injuries the athlete experiences. The trainer helps the athlete in the process of recovery and, if necessary, the rehabilitation of the individual as well. In some positions, the trainer takes on the additional role of strength trainer, nutritionist, and prepares training for meets, games, practices, and regimens. The main responsibility of the athletic trainer is observing the training effects and making any changes required to maximize strength and health while reducing the likelihood of potential injury.

Athletic Trainer Job Description


When working as an athletic trainer, one will have to attend meets, practices, and games and always has to be at the ready to address any injury an athlete might endure. The athletic trainer is capable of identifying an injury quickly and must be able to make important decisions on behalf of the athlete in terms of the best move going forward. If the injury is minor, the trainer might immobilize the area and tape it thereby allowing the athlete to return his or her attention to the initial activity, whether it is a practice, game, or meet. However, if the athletic trainer identifies an injury that is more serious in nature, the trainer will work in conjunction with professionals in the medical field in an effort to further examine the injury, identify the issue, and treat it accordingly. The athletic trainer assists the athlete when recovering and helps when rehabilitation is required. When necessary, there is ongoing communication and consultation between the medical professionals treating the athlete and the trainer to monitor the individual’s progress.

If the athletic trainer is working in a fitness center, the individual is likely to deal with athletes when they pull a muscle or get a strain. At the same time, the trainer is also likely to work with newer athletes as they train and in the rehabilitation process. Sometimes the trainer works or volunteers to work during triathlons, marathons, and other special events in an effort to help the athletes participating.

Athletic trainers are not the same as fitness instructors or personal fitness trainers. The trainer may work with children or adults and with people having a wide range of skill levels. Some work with pro athletes, others might work with the military. The trainer is commonly a first responder on the scene if an athlete is injured. The trainer will likely work with healthcare professionals or a licensed doctor and will talk about the specifics in relation to treatment options and the severity of the injury in question. On occasion, athletic trainers will meet with a consulting physician or team doctor on a regular basis. The trainer will have some responsibilities in an administrative capacity, including implementing necessary policies, handling budgets, making equipment purchases, and the trainer needs to make sure they develop programs for athletes that are compliant with both state and federal regulations, particularly those related to the athlete and concussions.

The athletic trainer will be responsible for creating conditioning and exercise plans, and is trained on how to use therapeutic and diagnostic medical equipment and instruments. The individual can expect to be responsible for creating reports on the athlete’s diagnosis and the ongoing care the individual receives. He is educated about techniques involving physical therapy. The professional also advises other trainers, coaches, and athletes about equipment, nutrition, and exercise regimens.

Athletic Trainer Duties and Tasks

  • Recommends what equipment to use
  • Makes dietary recommendations
  • Following an injury, the trainer helps the athlete during recovery and the rehabilitation process.
  • Handles small sprains, muscle strains and minor injuries at competitions and sporting events
  • Offers assistance to help prevent injuries during athletic events
  • Attends the meetings between the athletic director and the athlete
  • Applies injury preventative and protective items like braces, bandages, and tape
  • Evaluates the extent of an injury
  • Offers first responder first aid treatment on the scene
  • Creates rehabilitation programs and, in turn, helps see to the implementation of it
  • Responsible for participation clearances after assessing an athlete’s readiness to play

Skills Required

  • Sports Nutrition
  • Rehabilitation
  • Injury Prevention
  • Injury Evaluation
  • Orthopedics
  • Emergency First Responder Response
  • Injury Diagnostics
  • Injury Treatment
  • Treatment Planning
  • Acute Care
  • Physical Therapy
  • Medical Equipment Knowledge
  • Fitness Equipment Knowledge
  • Scheduling and Calendar Software
  • Digital Coach AthleticTrainer Software
  • Premier Software Simtrak Mobility
  • Keffer Development Services Athletic Trainer System ATS
  • ImPACT Medical Software
  • BioEx Systems Exercise Pro Software

Working Conditions


The athletic trainer is likely to work in a university or a high school setting, but they also work in the field of professional sports. The trainer might work with a performing arts company and some work as special developers for athletic training educational programs. Alternatively, some athletic trainers work on military bases, some in a hospital setting, and some might work right in a doctor’s office. There are also trainers working in sports medicine clinics. A trainer might work in an emergency department in a hospital setting, in secondary schools, or with law enforcement.

The athletic trainer can expect a lot of hands-on work and having to deal with patients or athletes on a regular basis. Some situations are high pressure, especially when behaving in a first responder capacity when one has to assess the degree of an injury and the necessary treatment it requires. The individual will sometimes work one-on-one with a patient. Other times, they will work with a team of medical professionals to discuss health-related concerns, injury preventative measures, rehabilitation efforts, and to decide how to administer treatment for maximum effectiveness.

Athletic trainers often work indoors, but when attending games and events, outdoor work can be involved. The job sometimes requires travel. The individual will have to do a lot of standing, and undergo training for mastering the use of medical equipment. The individual will need to be physically fit enough to crawl, stoop, crouch, kneel, run, and walk. The workweek can be as much as 50 hours, and the schedule will vary depending upon specialty or workplace.

Athletic Trainer Salary


To answer the question “how much does an athletic trainer make,” it becomes necessary to examine the factors that might otherwise influence athletic trainer salary. The salary one can expect when pursuing this career is modest, with the national average right around $39,000 each year. Geography influences how much one might make, as does longevity in the position. Some athletic trainers move on to other specialties where more money is involved, with many becoming a Physician Assistant with a salary of about $83,000 yearly. If transitioning into the role of Physical Therapist, one can anticipate an increase in salary of nearly $26,000. If the individual becomes a Physical Therapy Assistant, the anticipated yearly increase is about $8,000.

How much does an Athletic Trainer Make?

While the national average hovers around $39,000, the entry-level athletic trainer will make about $2,000 a year less than that with a salary of $37,000. When reaching a mid-career position, it leads to an increase that is just over the national average by about $2,000: This means the trainer will be bringing home around $41,000 annually. When the trainer reaches the mid-career stage with between 5 and 15 years of experience the salary increases to $46,000. The experienced level for the athletic trainer demonstrates the modest yearly salary of $40,000. Finally, those in the advanced stages of the career, with some 20 years or more on the job, bring home about $52,000 a year. Bear in mind that there are additional factors influencing salary: Two of the most important influential factors include experience level and geography, both of which result in some wage increases in all of the career stages.


Entering the job with some experience in certain areas can result in a set percentage of pay. If the individual already has experience as an athletic trainer and then enters into an entry-level position at an alternative job, the trainer can see an increase in annual pay equal to about five percent. Experience before entering into an entry-level position as an athletic trainer increases results in a yearly salary of $38,850. Experience before getting into a mid-level position suggests that the candidate might get an additional three percent over the yearly salary of $41,000, resulting in a possible salary of $42,350. If experienced in athletic training with more than 10 to 15 twenty years under one’s belt and one takes on a new job in the same field, it might lead to an increase one’s yearly salary by as much as 17%, resulting in a salary of $50,820 per year.

In this field, about 81% of all workers have medical coverage. When it comes to dental coverage, about 66% of those working as athletic trainers have such insurance. Just about 50% of all athletic trainers have vision insurance, and 17% of people working in an athletic trainer position do not have insurance through the job.

Geography will play a role in how much one can make while working as an athletic trainer. There are five states presently offer some of the highest annual salaries for athletic trainer positions. The District of Columbia offers the most out of the five leading states with an annual mean wage of $63,020. Nevada comes in second in the top five states with the highest salaries for the athletic trainer with an annual mean wage of $62,230. In third place with the highest rate of pay for the athletic trainer is New Jersey, with an annual mean wage of $60,010. Texas and Massachusetts nearly offer identical annual mean wages with the salaries being $52,510 and $52,310 respectively.

Athletic Trainer Employment


The top industries in which athletic trainers worked in the year 2015 include recreational private, local, state, and educational services. The industry ranking as second highest for athletic trainers includes private, local, and state hospitals. The third most popular industry for trainers to work is those involving spectator sports. Additional positions where you will find athletic trainers working include recreational sports centers, fitness centers, and ambulatory healthcare services.

A survey of those who are presently working in the athletic trainer position reveals approximately 7% of trainers have one year of experience or less. The same survey reveals 47% of trainers have between one and four years of experience in the industry, and this is the largest group out of all who participated in the survey. About 25% of current athletic trainers have between five and nine years work experience; another 15% have between 10 and 19 years of experience, and six percent of athletic trainers presently working have 20 years of experience or more.


In 2010, there were 16,290 athletic trainer positions filled by qualified individuals. There was an increase in the demand for trainers in 2011, resulting in 1,950 additional jobs for a total of 18,240 people working as trainers. A year later, another increase occurs, making way for an additional 2,540 positions and a total of 20,780 athletic trainer jobs in 2012. The year after that another increase is noted, adding 1,560 additional jobs in the sector and resulting in 22,340 jobs of the year. Finally, in 2014, there is a small increase in job positions 60 additional positions and 22,400 jobs filled by qualified athletic trainers.

Gender Distribution

The gender distribution of people working in the athletic training sector shows an imbalance between men and women, with men filling as much as 54% of available positions, and women, filling the remaining 46 percent. In 1950, when the National Athletic Trainers’ Association was first established, the association had no female members because there were no women who pursued the career path. It would be another 22 years before the association gave a certification exam to a woman for the first time: That woman is Sherry Bagagian. Today, the association has anywhere between 47 and 50% of its members who are female: This, however, has not hindered some of the biases that still exist in this sector. There are not only employers but also schools that tend to segregate the females from males by assigning male athletic trainers to male teams and only female athletic trainers to all female teams. This attitude is slowly shifting, but such gender biases still exist.


How to Become an Athletic Trainer?


The athletic trainer requires a college education and every state defines what is required of the student to prepare the individual for the position of trainer. The ideal candidate to fulfill the role of the athletic trainer is a compassionate person and who can empathize with others; the trainer will often be dealing with athletes who suffer an injury and who will require, not just treatment, but some comforting as well. Since the trainer works as a first responder when injuries first occur at events, games, or practices, excellent decision-making skills are required and the trainer will need to be detail oriented. Interpersonal skills are also required of the trainer, who will have to communicate with parents, coaches, athletes, patients, and physicians.

Athletic Trainer Education Requirements

The first thing to consider when answering the question of how to become an athletic trainer is the extensive education the student will have to complete in order to be able to handle the responsibilities of the trainer position. There is specific athletic trainer education requirements that the student will have to complete in order to pursue the career of a trainer. First, the student must attend an accredited university or college to obtain a bachelor’s degree. Please note while at this immediate moment an athletic trainer can proceed with a bachelor’s degree in hand, the AT Strategic Alliance has made the decision to up the minimum degree required to a Master’s degree, and this will be implemented over the course of the next few years.

As of right now, the student can then pursue a Master’s degree if looking to get into a sub-specialty, but the student does not have to go beyond the bachelor’s degree program just yet. The programs will have clinical and classroom components. The schools accredited to offer athletic trainer coursework and degrees get their accreditation from the (CAATE) – Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education. The same organization accredits residency programs and post-professional athletic trainer programs.

The majority of the states in the nation require the student to earn a license and/or certification, and the regulation governing this subject varies according to each state. You will have to get in touch with the athletic trainer association or the credentialing, licensing board in the state where you reside for more information on certification and licensing requirements.

The BOC – Board of Certification for the Athletic Trainer is the certification exam you will find in many states and the student must take it to be approved for a license as an athletic trainer. In order for a student to qualify for certification as a trainer, the student has graduated from a program accredited by the CAATE. Continuing education courses are required and the student must follow the standards as they are set forth in the BOC Standards of Practice and Disciplinary Process.

Some students choose to pursue an advanced degree to gain an edge in the industry. Some students, after being an athletic trainer for a while, advance in career and become athletic directors, head athletic trainers, or physicians in a clinic practice or a hospital setting.

Athletic Trainer Colleges

When it comes time to choose one of several athletic trainer colleges, the candidate looking to become an athletic trainer has many opportunities to choose from in terms of accredited schools. Below is list of the top ten colleges to consider:

  1. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  2. University of Florida, Gainesville
  3. University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  4. The University of Texas at Austin
  5. Boston University, Boston Massachusetts
  6. Brigham Young University-Provo, Utah
  7. George Washington University, Washington, District of Columbia
  8. University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia
  9. Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
  10. University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut

Major Subjects

High school students looking forward and planning to go to college in order to pursue the career path of the athletic trainer would do well to study anatomy, physiology, physics, science, and health-related subjects. In postsecondary school, the hopeful student will study both dentistry and medicine in order to learn how to diagnose and treat an injury or illness. The student will study health-care measures, drug components and potential interactions, diseases, injuries, and deformities. Likewise, counseling and therapy will be part of the trainer’s education; the student must learn about mental and physical dysfunctions, the process of diagnosis, and the various treatments and rehabilitative measures available.

The athletic trainer is also responsible for developing curriculums and training programs, so class work will include learning how to create such programs for groups and individuals. Additional coursework during college will involve management, administration, psychology and the study of human behavior, biology, clerical procedures, and public safety and security.

Athletic Trainer Specializations


There are a number of specialties students can focus on as they work through college and look to enter the athletic training industry. The certifications below are just some of the specialties students can consider. The certifications are made available by a variety of governing bodies, included by not limited to National Strength Professionals Association

Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist – This certification program will make the athletic trainer eligible to work within military specialties and to help athletes improve their overall general performance, and requires renewal every three years and it involves continued education. The National Strength and Conditioning Association – Certification Commission offers the certification for this specialty.

Sports Nutrition Certification – This specialty allows the trainer to specialize in athletic objectives, macronutrient ratios, meal frequency, and caloric intake. The International Sports Sciences Association is the organization that certifies the student. The student must take a written or oral exam and renew the certification every two years. Continuing education is required.

Orthopedic Exercise Specialty Certification: To obtain this title the individual earns certification through the American Council on Exercise. This specialty allows the trainer to work closely with doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists, occupation therapists, and athletes. The coursework allows the trainer to learn more about musculoskeletal conditions, major joints and the types of treatments supplied by orthopaedic specialists. A written exam is required, and the certification demands renewal every two years and continual education.

Additional specialties the athletic therapist can consider include becoming a Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist, Medical Exercise Program Director, Conditioning Specialist, Certified Workers Compensation Healthcare Provider, Certified Athletic Trainer, or Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist.

Professional Associations of Athletic Trainers

There are several associations of athletic trainers, with the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) being established 66 years ago in 1950. When first established, all of the members of the organization were males, but since 1972 when the first female became part of the organization, that has changed and more women than ever are members of the association. Today the organization now has well over 43,000 active members. NATA offers the members of the group a chance to gain the advantage of global recognition, and NATA offers a career database for athletic trainers seeking work, opportunities for trainers to continue their education and to gain certifications, networking opportunities, and volunteer opportunities to take advantage of as well.

Famous Athletic Trainers

Among the famous athletic trainers is C. Roland Bavan (1888-1957), who was a trainer who took care of the professional athletes at West Point and Dartmouth University. During his career he earned the identity of being the leading football coach in the nation, and he was known as “Muscle Man of the Maumee.” In 1942, the New York Touchdown Club awarded him with the College Football Man of the Year award. He is a trainer that is an early pioneer of the industry and he is in the NATA Hall of Fame.

Samuel Bilik (1893-1962) – Samuel was sometimes called “Doc,” and is one of the earliest physicians to commit himself to dealing with the injuries sustained by athletes. He also wrote “The Trainer’s Bible,” at the early age of 21: A body of work that ended up serving as one of the very first books with a focus on training athletes. During his career, he was awarded the Citation Award by the American College of Sports Medicine, and he created his own training supplies line for athletes.

Athletic Trainers FAQ

 What is the job outlook for athletic trainers?

The industry for athletic trainers is competitive but expected to demonstrate a growth rate of 21% between 2014 and 2024. This is a growth rate that is quite a bit faster than the growth rate average for all other jobs, which is about seven percent. The more people learn about injuries and sports, the higher the demand for athletic trainers will become.

 What gives an individual a competitive edge in the industry?

Students who start studies early, by taking related classes in high school and those who choose special certifications will make more money. Volunteering can look good on a resume and will present the individual with some much-needed experience, which can also influence salary.

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  • An Athletic trainer is a big factor to an athlete’s success. They are the source of the great performance of athletes and the reason why they are on track all the time especially when engaging themselves into sports.

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