An athletic trainer career is an excellent option for people who want to combine their love of sports with healthcare. Not to be confused with a personal fitness trainer, an athletic trainer specializes in preventing and healing injuries that commonly occur in sports and athletic competitions. As medical careers go, this one is relatively new and is still growing quite rapidly. Growth projections for the next several decades indicate the need for many more professional athletic trainers. While currently heavily dominated by men, the field is open to anyone, and with the increasing numbers of girls and young women participating in organized athletics, there’s a tremendous need for women to enter the athletic trainer career field.
Athletic trainers work in a wide variety of settings, but always under the supervision of a medical doctor. Every professional sports team in America has at least one medical trainer, and many have several. These positions are coveted, but highly selective. A more common occupation would be working with the thousands of sports teams fielded by high schools, colleges, and universities across the country. There is also a growing number of physicians who specialize in sports medicine, along with medical clinics dedicated to it, and many people choose to build their athletic trainer careers in these settings. In addition, many medium-sized and large companies are hiring full-time athletic trainers as a benefit for their employees, many of whom are active in sports in their spare time. No matter what niche an athletic trainer chooses to pursue, the occupation will revolve around keeping healthy athletes free from injury, treating injuries as they occur, and helping injured athletes to recover and prevent future problems.
Salaries vary, depending on niche, location, supply and demand, etc. The low end of the salary spectrum is around $30,000 a year, which is mainly for entry-level positions. The high end is around $65,000 annually. Of course, it must be stressed that these are averages, with the vast majority of people engaged in an athletic trainer career making somewhere between the two figures. Some athletic trainers working for elite professional sports teams make over $100,000 a year. In addition, many trainers supplement their basic salaries by working at sporting events such as 10K races and marathons on an ad-hoc basis. With the projected job growth in the future, it’s likely that salaries for athletic trainers will keep increasing to meet the demand.
Anyone hoping to pursue an athletic trainer career will need a bachelor’s degree demonstrating a high level of knowledge of human anatomy and principles of health and physical fitness. Knowledge of how to prevent and treat injuries is also necessary. Just as important is a strong desire to work and empathize with people. While some colleges and universities offer specialized athletic trainer degrees, the most common educational background among trainers is a bachelor’s degree in physical education. A college degree alone isn’t sufficient, however. In order to work as a trainer, a person must first pass the athletic trainer certification test given by the Board of Certification. This exam is quite demanding and ensures that only highly qualified applicants enter the athletic trainer career field. Once a person passes the exam and is certified, there will also be requirements for continuing education and re-certification on an occasional basis to make sure that trainers are always familiar with the latest standards and best practices.
All in all, the outlook is excellent for anyone who seeks a career as an athletic trainer. Job openings are increasing every year and projected to keep doing so. Trainers provide a vitally important service and command good salaries, while enjoying the prestige and respect that come from working in health care. Unlike a career as a physician, it doesn’t require spending four more years in medical school and then another two or three in a residency. For those who want to combine their love of sports with a lucrative job in the medical profession, an athletic trainer career is the perfect option.