The field of athletic training is not to be confused with personal training or fitness instruction. Athletic trainers are allied health professionals who work with athletes to prevent, diagnose, assess, treat and rehabilitate athletic injuries to the muscles, bones and joints. If you are interested in a health-related career and you've always wanted to work with athletes, the growing field of athletic training just might be the perfect fit.
Athletic Training Education
Most colleges and universities offer athletic training as a special degree program within their kinesiology or exercise and sport science departments. This ensures that graduates obtain education in exercise physiology, anatomy, conditioning and nutrition while also receiving additional education on sports injuries and treatment. Athletic training programs at most universities are intensive. In addition to classroom instruction, most universities require that their students work as student trainers for the athletic teams at the school. This means that you will be expected to work in the training room, helping provide treatment to athletes early in the morning and late in the evening. You may also be required to attend athletic practices and games, traveling with the team when necessary. While this may seem excessive, hands-on learning is one of the best ways to gain experience.
Additional Education and Licensure
Athletic trainer positions are most often available at middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities, professional sports organizations or hospital rehabilitation centers. Individuals who want to work with athletes in college or professional settings are almost always required to hold a master's degree within the field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 70 percent of all athletic trainers have a master's degree.
If you're interested in pursuing athletic training at a middle school or high school, you may also be required to teach. Choosing and pursuing a teaching license in a secondary field may help you obtain these types of positions.
After receiving a bachelor's or master's degree in athletic training, you will almost definitely be required to obtain state licensure or registration before being allowed to practice. As of 2009, 47 of the 50 states required athletic trainers to hold a certification from the Board of Certification (BOC) and adhere to BOC standards after passing the licensure exam.
Athletic Training Job Description
Athletic trainers typically work long hours in a wide variety of settings. Because athletes need to receive treatment for injuries before and after practice, athletic trainers must provide care early in the morning and late at night, depending on the practice schedule of the team. Athletic trainers often work from a training room, where they tape ankles, wrists and knees, set up ice baths and provide stim treatments, just to name a few. Trainers also are available during outdoor practices and games to help prevent, diagnose and treat injuries that take place. Even basic tasks, like ensuring athletes stay properly hydrated during practice, are a key component of the athletic trainer's job. If you're unwilling to spend long days standing on the sidelines of a football, baseball or soccer field, athletic training may not be the right job for you.
While most athletic trainers do work closely with athletic teams, there are some positions that are "away from the game," so to speak. These are positions in medical offices and hospitals where athletic trainers work alongside doctors to provide treatment for individuals who have suffered bone, joint or muscle injuries. The work schedule for these positions tends to be more traditional with nights and weekends off.
Trainers who have received a doctoral degree can also work at universities to help train the next generation of athletic trainers. Again, hours may be long and varied, but there will generally be less hands-on involvement with athletic teams and more involvement teaching, training and evaluating students.
If you know the city, state or organization where you would like to work, start your job search using local searches or by searching the organization's website for current job postings. School districts, universities and large health organizations are a great place to start. You can also search national listings on the following sites:
Choosing the Field
Most people who choose to pursue athletic training do it because they have a deep love for sports and injury prevention and treatment. You will want to look closely at the field to make sure that you're willing to invest the time and energy required to make it your long-term career. If you don't have a true passion for the career, it is unlikely to be a good fit.