Athletic Trainer: Education Requirements & Career Summary

Prospective athletic trainers may need a bachelor's and a master's degree. Their training will involve extensive medical and scientific coursework plus practical experience.

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Educational Requirements for Athletic Trainers

The minimum requirement for most athletic trainer positions is a bachelor's degree, but many of these professionals have a graduate degree. Athletic training bachelor's programs incorporate classroom and hands-on learning. The curricula include science and health-related subjects, such as nutrition, kinesiology, biomechanics and exercise physiology. Experience requirements include supervised time in clinics and internships, which may be with a college or local professional sports teams.

Athletic training programs cover many healthcare-related areas, including pharmacology, acute care and pathology. Because many trainers go on to earn a master's degree, some schools offer a five-year joint bachelor's and master's program. Other programs may require students to complete prerequisites before they are admitted.

According to the National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA), many certified athletic trainers hold a master's degree (www.nata.org). Master's programs include advanced coursework plus a capstone requirement, which may be a comprehensive exam, thesis or research project. These programs may prepare individuals to instruct at the university level.

Prospective students may consult the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE) for accredited programs. The CAATE has accredited athletic training programs, and it is sponsored by the NATA and several other major organizations that set professional practice guidelines. Graduating from an accredited program is a requirement for certification.

Licensing Requirements

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), several states require athletic trainers to be licensed or registered (www.bls.gov). Licensing and registration are given by the Board of Certification, Inc. (BOC), which requires that applicants have a degree from an accredited school and a passing score on a qualifying exam. The BOC sets practicing standards and continuing education requirements.

Career Summary of Athletic Trainers

The NATA defines athletic trainers as healthcare professionals who recognize, prevent and rehabilitate injuries that result from playing sports or other physical activities. They may be part of a complete health care team and work under a physician's supervision. Athletic trainers provide medical and allied health care services to individual athletes or entire sports teams. They may be employed by elementary or high schools, colleges and professional sports organizations as well as medical centers.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

The BLS reports that employment for athletic trainers was expected to increase 30% for the years 2010-2020. This job growth may be due to particular interest in sports for children and the elderly. In May 2012, the BLS reported that the median annual wage of an athletic trainer was $42,090.

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