ent, and develop their balance. Some athletic trainers work with a medical doctor and other healthcare workers as part of a team. Athletic trainers meet with athletic directors, the physician practice manager, and other administrators to design budgets, make purchases, implement policies and the like.
Work environments for athletic trainers vary widely depending upon the employer. Indoor or outdoor jobs are both common. Many athletic trainers work with medical machines, and the job requires stamina as trainers spend hours on their feet walking, running, crouching, or crawling. Non-sports related athletic trainers are more likely to have a set 40 hour week. These trainers are rarely asked to work overtime or weekends. However, trainers employed by hospitals or clinics may offer outreach programs at schools, universities, and businesses. These trainers need to accommodate their schedule accordingly. Trainers working with professional athletes have very irregular schedules; they attend practices and games that occur in the evening or on weekends. National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I trainers usually work with a single team; during the season, they will put in much overtime. Trainers employed by smaller schools might work with a number of teams in addition to teaching.
Trainers must often work in stressful situations. There is a great deal of communication with athletes, medical personnel, coaches and others to confer about preventing injuries, injury diagnosis, treatments, and rehabilitation. There will be times when an athletic trainer must make an immediate decision that could greatly affect the client’s health or career.
Athletic trainers must, at the very least, have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school. However, many trainers have earned a higher degree in order to specialize or become more marketable. The National Athletic Trainers’ Association has noted 70% of all athletic trainers have achieved a master’s or doctoral degree. Roughly 350 undergraduate programs are accredited. Both classroom studies and clinical situations compose the curriculum. Coursework focuses on anatomy and physiology, biomechanics, nutrition, and physics. Those who are interested in teaching at the high school level in a teaching position may also need a teaching certificate.
Forty-seven states have requirements regarding licensing or registration by the Board of Certification, Inc. (BOC). For BOC certification, athletic trainers need not only a degree, but they must also pass an exam. Once licensed or certified, physical trainers must keep up to date with continuing education courses related to medicine and athletic training. In states which do not mandate certification, employers are likely to prefer candidates who have voluntarily become certified.
In addition to education, characteristics that will help athletic trainers in their careers include the ability to work under pressure and make almost instantaneous decisions, good communication skills, and the ability to handle and calm all involved when arguments occur between patients, coaches, clients or others in regard to treatment.
For many athletic trainers, advancement occurs with time and experience. Moving from a lesser to a better team, or to a more popular sport, could mean a salary increase, greater responsibility and greater respect. Other ways to advance include being promoted to head athletic trainer and then to athletic director. Some become clinic practice administrators or take a hospital administrative position. Some return to school to earn a medical degree. Others use their training, knowledge and connections to market or sell athletic and medical equipment.
The median annual salary for athletic trainers is around $40,000. Those in the mid-range earn between $33,000 and $50,000. Athletic trainers in the lowest 10% earn less than $25,000. Those in the top 10% earn over $60,000. While continuing education is required to keep licensing active, most employers pay for some or all of the cost.