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Sports Medicine - Athletic Trainer: Career Education Overview

Athletic trainers work in the field of sports medicine treating athletic injuries. They assist in the prevention and care of injuries related to athletic and fitness performance. Formal education and licensing is required in order to enter the career field. This article includes information about these requirements.

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Career Education Overview

To become an athletic trainer who works in sports medicine, students need to earn a minimum of a bachelor's degree. Any prospective program needs to be accredited through the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE). Students in a bachelor's degree program related to athletic training will take courses in anatomy, physiology and kinesiology. In addition to classroom work, students will also complete clinical experience education.

According to the National Athletic Trainers' Association, nearly 70% of all athletic trainers have completed at least a master's degree (www.nata.org). Completing a master's degree in athletic training can assist students who hope to gain employment directly after graduation. These degree programs can be completed in two years time, and students will complete courses in human movement, physical motor functions, biomechanics and training administration

Completing a Ph.D. is voluntary for most athletic trainers, but some may need to earn a doctoral degree in order to curry favor with employers, such as professional sports teams. Trainers who complete a Doctor of Philosophy degree program may also want to enter research-related careers, where they can focus on the science of movement and injury prevention. The time it takes to complete these programs varies as doctoral degree programs are often designed to allow students to complete the education at their pace. Common courses include athletic psychology, performance-based nutrition and advanced kinesiology.

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, athletic trainers' median yearly salary was $42,090 in 2012. The number of jobs for these professionals was expected to grow 30% between 2010 and 2020, which is faster than the projected job growth rate for all U.S. professions over the same time period.

Licensing Requirements

Students need to obtain licensing in order to run a training business or legally gain employment in the U.S. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that 47 of 50 states require athletic trainers to obtain licensing from the National Athletic Trainers' Association Board of Certification, Inc. (NATABOC) (www.bls.gov). The NATABOC requires trainers to have achieved minimum education requirements and pass an exam in order to obtain licensure. Continued education and periodic testing are also required in order to maintain professional licensure. Common areas of continuing education include:

  • Injury prevention
  • Injury evaluation and care
  • Injury rehabilitation
  • Professional ethics
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