How to Become a High School Athletic Trainer: Career Roadmap

Oct 20, 2021

Learn how to become a high school athletic trainer. Research the education and career requirements, licensure, and experience required to start a career as a high school athletic trainer.

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High School Athletic Trainer

Athletic trainers work with athletes of all ages and skills levels to prevent and treat injuries suffered during practices or games. On the high school level, athletic trainers focus on students taking part in a range of school sports, such as football, basketball, and track. The duties of these trainers include evaluating injuries, providing first-aid, and developing rehabilitation plans. Trainers might need to work outdoors in all types of weather conditions and temperatures.

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Athletic training, exercise science or kinesiology
Certification/Licensure Certification is offered through the Board of Certification, Inc.; earning certification may be necessary for licensure
Key Skills In addition to medical and healthcare knowledge, athletic trainers must have good judgment, make quick decisions and possess strong communication skills
Mean Salary (2018) $59,360 (median for elementary and postsecondary school athletic trainers)

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

In addition to medical and healthcare knowledge, athletic trainers must have good judgment, make quick decisions, and possess strong communication skills. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that athletic trainers employed by elementary or secondary schools earned a mean annual salary of $59,360 as of May 2018.

Let's look at the steps required to become a high school athletic trainer.

Step 1: Obtain a Bachelor's Degree

The minimum educational requirement for becoming an athletic trainer is completion of an athletic training-related bachelor's degree program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE). Typical college and university degrees for this career include the Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology, Athletic Training or Exercise Science. Coursework in these programs include healthcare-related classes in biomechanics, human anatomy, nutrition, and physiology.

Step 2: Participate in an Internship

Students can often participate in an internship as part of their undergraduate program. This is an opportunity to apply what they've learned in a classroom into a practical setting. In addition to working with athletes, this is also a chance to network and gain employment opportunities with a high school athletic department.

Step 3: Get Certified

In some states, certification is necessary for licensure. The Board of Certification, Inc. (or BOC) is a national organization that certifies entry-level athletic trainers, conferring a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC) credential. Candidates for the BOC exam are required to submit their CAATE-accredited training qualifications, register for the exam, and pay the required fee. To maintain BOC endorsement, athletic trainers must pay an annual certification fee and meet continuing education requirements. They're also required to adhere to the BOC's professional practice standards.

Step 4: Acquire State Licensure

Many states require athletic trainers to obtain a healthcare practitioner license through the state's regulatory board prior to employment. Requirements may include submission of the trainer's BOC credentials, proof of education, additional coursework, and licensing fees.

Step 5: Consider a Master's Program

While not required to enter the field, a master's degree might be necessary to advance your career to a university athletic trainer position, or if you wish to move into a management, director, or sales role.

In summary, a high school athletic trainer needs a minimum of a bachelor's degree in a field like athletic training, exercise science, or kinesiology. Certification and state licensure also might be required, and a master's degree could lead to advanced positions in the field.

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