Athletic Trainers

Career, Salary and Education Information

What They 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 One: 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.

Salary: The median annual wage for athletic trainers is $49,860.

Job Outlook: Employment of athletic trainers is projected to grow 23 percent over the next ten years, much faster than the average for all occupations.

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

Following is everything you need to know about a career as an athletic trainer with lots of details. As a first step, take a look at some of the following jobs, which are real jobs with real employers. You will be able to see the very real job career requirements for employers who are actively hiring. The link will open in a new tab so that you can come back to this page to continue reading about the career:

Top 3 Athletic Trainer Jobs

  • Certified Athletic Trainer - Northwest Physical Therapy - Mount Vernon, WA

    Northwest Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation , part of RET Physical Therapy & Healthcare Specialists, seeks an Athletic Trainer to workwith college level athletes at Skagit Valley College

  • Athletic Trainer - Cognito Systems, LLC - Lakewood, WA

    As a civilian contractor working for Cognito Systems, you will utilize your abilities as an Athletic Trainer to support the Army's Holistic Health and Fitness (H2F) System and optimize soldier ...

  • Athletic Trainer-HS Setting in Pierce County-$5k Sign-on Bonus - Seattle Children's - Seattle, WA

    Athletic Trainer - High School Setting. 95 FTE Location-Tacoma, WA The primary responsibilities of the Athletic Trainer are to provide superior rehabilitative care to injured athletes and to educate ...

See all Athletic Trainer jobs

What Athletic Trainers Do[About this section] [To Top]

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

Duties of Athletic Trainers

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 for Athletic Trainers[About this section] [To Top]

Athletic trainers hold about 30,000 jobs. The largest employers of athletic trainers are 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.

Athletic Trainer 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[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Athletic Trainers near you!

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 for Athletic Trainers

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 for Athletic Trainers

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 for Athletic Trainers

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 for Athletic Trainers

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.

Athletic Trainer Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for athletic trainers is $49,860. 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.

The median annual wages for athletic trainers in the top industries in which they work are 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 for Athletic Trainers[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of athletic trainers is projected to grow 23 percent over the next ten years, 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 of Athletic Trainers

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
Occupational Title Employment, 2020 Projected Employment, 2030 Change, 2020-30
Percent Numeric
Athletic trainers 30,000 37,000 23 7,000


A portion of the information on this page is used by permission of the U.S. Department of Labor.


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