Education and Training: Bachelor's degree plus training; National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) certification
Salary: Median—$33,940 per year
Employment Outlook: Very good
Definition and Nature of the Work
Athletic trainers prevent, examine, and treat athletes' injuries. They also work with team doctors to provide physical therapy for athletes who are recovering from injuries and to show athletes how to build their strength and avoid further injury. Other duties may include recommending special diets and exercises, ordering equipment and supplies, and keeping records on the athletes with whom they work.
After athletes compete, trainers treat the minor injuries and sore muscles that follow play. For example, they may wrap an ice pack around a player's sore arm or shoulder, apply a moist hot pack to relieve a player's muscle spasms, spray antiseptic on scraped knees and elbows, or wrap bandages around sprained wrists and ankles.
Athletic trainers are employed by schools, colleges, and universities that have athletic programs and sports teams. They also work for professional teams in baseball, football, basketball, ice hockey, and other sports. Some athletic trainers work for health clubs and summer camps.
Education and Training Requirements
Athletic trainers should have a degree from a four-year college and National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) certification. Prospective athletic trainers can gain experience by volunteering to help the trainers and coaches at their high school. They also need to take first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) courses offered by the local Red Cross, fire department, or rescue squad. Candidates must be certified in first aid and CPR before they can be certified as athletic trainers by NATA.
To become certified, interested individuals must complete an approved college program in athletic training and have two years of experience working under the supervision of NATA-approved trainers. NATA will also certify people who have a college degree in any subject plus 1,800 hours of on-the-job training under a NATA member.
Getting the Job
Certified athletic trainers can apply for jobs in high schools, colleges, and universities that have sports programs. Health clubs and camps also hire trainers. Job leads can be obtained through newspaper want ads, Internet job banks, the NATA Web site, the local board of education office, college personnel offices, and the state employment office. Job openings are also advertised in National College Athletic Association (NCAA) magazines.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Most college and professional sports teams employ more than one trainer. Experienced athletic trainers may transfer from one team to another in order to get a training position with greater responsibilities or a promotion to head trainer. Athletic trainers can also move from a high school to a college or university, where they may enjoy greater opportunities and higher income. Trainers who have experience with a college team may be hired by a professional team. A few trainers who are at the top of their profession open their own recreation centers and training facilities.
The number of job openings for athletic trainers is expected to grow faster than the average through the year 2014. More and more states are requiring high schools to have at least one certified trainer on staff. Many professional sports teams that had only one trainer now have several. Some of these trainers are experts in different areas of athletic training. Competition for openings is expected to remain high, especially in professional sports.
Athletic trainers work both indoors and outdoors in all types of weather. Part of their job is done in the team clubhouse and training room, but while the team is playing the trainers must be in the dugout or on the sidelines of the field, gymnasium, or arena. Trainers can expect to do extensive traveling with the team and put in many night and weekend hours. Those who specialize in a particular sport work seasonally. Athletic trainers who are employed by schools and colleges usually work only during the school year.
Athletic trainers work with a variety of athletes, so they must be able to get along well with different types of people. Trainers should be able to make decisions using their own judgment and observations, especially when it comes to recognizing injuries that require a doctor's care. They should know how to motivate athletes to stick to a training program—a task that requires a great deal of dedication and a true love of sports. Athletic trainers receive job satisfaction by helping athletes perform better.
Earnings and Benefits
Earnings of athletic trainers vary widely, depending on the geographic location, the employer, and the trainer's experience. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage for athletic trainers in 2004 was $33,940 per year. Trainers working for professional teams earned $75,000 or more per year. Athletic trainers usually receive standard benefits such as paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and retirement benefits. Many employers also pay for continuing education credits.
Where to Go for More Information
National Athletic Trainers Association
2952 Stemmons Fwy.
Dallas, TX 75247