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Athletic Trainers are healthcare professionals—despite the somewhat misleading title, they don’t actually train athletes. The curriculum will focus on recognizing internal and external injuries to assess, treat, and teach prevention of athletic injuries. Available primarily at the baccalaureate and master levels, there are also options at the doctoral level.
Previously, all that was required to become certified by the Board of Certifications (BOC) was a baccalaureates degree. Recently, the AT Strategic Alliance decided that a master’s degree will be the minimum professional degree level, which will be implemented in 2022. Programs must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education, or CAATE, to sit for the certification exam, which is required to become an Athletic Trainer.
Most programs will include an even mix of academic courses and hands-on clinical experience under supervision. The curriculum will begin with human anatomy and recognition of an injury and lead into medical ethics, bandaging and strapping, acute care of injury and illness, and emergency response. Athletic Trainer programs often include classes on coaching in an effort to understand where injuries may stem from and why coaches have athletes do certain exercises or drills.
A Master in Athletic Training will likely delve deeper into the above-listed topics but will also cover psychosocial strategies and referrals, therapeutic interventions, and prevention and health promotion. On top of the academic and hands-on clinical experience, many master’s level programs will include a research component. Again, certification by CAATE is crucial to become certified.
The BOC licensure is accepted by all Athletic Trainer state regulatory agencies. Currently, 49 states and the District of Columbia require licensure. Only California does not regulate licenses for Athletic Trainers.
While the standard career path for graduates with a degree or degrees in athletic trainer is Athletic Trainer, there are a number of different environments that ATs can work in, including: intercollegiat athletics, hospital emergency room departments, law enforcement and military, occupational and industrial settings, performing arts centers, physician offices, professional sports, secondary schools, and sports medicine clinics.
The average salary for an Athletic Trainer falls between $40,869 and $50,371.
Doctoral degrees in Athletic Training are offered at a few institutions, though not many. They are primarily research based and are indicative of remaining in academia.