Becoming a Certified Athletic Trainer: Requirements & Education

Oct 20, 2021

Athletic Trainer Overview

Athletic trainers are health care professionals who specialize in evaluating and treating muscle and bone injuries. They generally work with athletes to develop and implement programs to prevent injury and to rehabilitate from injury. Athletic trainers apply tape, bandages, or braces to protect injuries or to prevent injury. They may work with an athletic team, providing the first evaluation and treatment of injuries that occur during an athletic event. There are several requirements for those seeking to become an athletic trainer.

Degree Requirements Bachelor's degree in athletic training
Other Requirements License or certification
Job Growth (2018-2028) 19%*
Median Salary (2018) $47,510*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

How to Become an Athletic Trainer

In order to become an athletic trainer, individuals must have at least a bachelor's degree in athletic training. A master's degree is recommended and will be required starting in 2022, according to the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE). In most states, candidates must then pass a Board of Certification (BOC) exam to get certified.

How Long Does it Take to Become an Athletic Trainer?

Currently, it takes about 4-7 years to become an athletic trainer. The amount of time depends upon how long it takes the student to complete a bachelor's degree, if the student decides to complete a master's degree, and how long it takes the candidate to pass the BOC exam. Starting in 2022, it will most-likely take between 6-7 years, depending upon the athletic training program, to complete the additional master's requirements. Find out more about schooling and certification below.

Athletic Trainer Schooling

Athletic training programs involve both classroom and clinical work. Students will receive instruction in the areas which CAATE deems essential for professional practice, which includes: illness and injury prevention, health promotion, diagnosis, emergency care, rehabilitation, and health care administration. Some schools may offer online programs in athletic training.

Students can find both bachelor's and master's degree programs in athletic training, and according to the National Athletic Trainers Association, 70% of athletic trainers have a master's degree. Students can consider schools which offer the best athletic training graduate programs.

Athletic Trainer Certification

Most states require that athletic trainers become licensed or certified, and the BOC offers certification examination for athletic trainers. A minimum of a bachelor's degree in athletic training is required in order to qualify for the exam. The topics candidates will be evaluated on include: prevention, health promotion, diagnosis, emergency care, therapeutic intervention, and professional responsibility.

Upon passing the exam, candidates will earn the ATC® credential (Certified Athletic Trainer). In order to maintain their certification, athletic trainers will have to meet continuing education requirements set by the BOC.

Athletic Trainer Salary

In May 2018, the BLS reported that the median salary of athletic trainers was $47,510 per year. Colleges, universities, and professional schools employed the most athletic trainers that year followed by hospitals and offices of health practitioners. Athletic trainers working in the sports promotion industry made the highest annual mean wage in May of 2018; they earned $74,180. The BLS projects jobs to grow by 19% for athletic trainers between the 2018-2028 decade.

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