How To Become An Athletic Trainer

Stan T.Career, Requirements

How Long Does It Take, What Degree Do You Need, and More

Athletic Trainers

Athletic Trainers evaluate and treat musculoskeletal injuries or illnesses. Provide preventive, therapeutic, emergency, and rehabilitative care.

Becoming One
Very Hard
Master's degree
Job Satisfaction
Job Growth

Interest Match

Table of contents
  1. Summary
  2. Steps to become one
  3. Popular degree levels
  4. How long does it take


Degree Master's degree
Degree field Athletic Training
License or certification Certification and licensure requirements vary state by state, with most states requiring Athletic Trainers to become licensed by the state or become certified by the Board of Certification (BOC)
Duration to become one 4 to 6 years
Difficulty to become one Very Hard

Athletic Trainers Requirements

Step 1: Start Preparing Early

You can start preparing to become an Athletic Trainer in high school by acquiring the foundational knowledge such as biology. Biology will teach you about the human body and how to treat injuries.

Additionally, pay attention to all science subjects in school, like chemistry, physics, and biology. These subjects can prepare you for the courses you need to take at university. Be attentive in English and speech classes because they are useful in helping you build your communication skills. As an Athletic Trainer, you will find yourself communicating with coaches, athletes, medical staff, and potential clients.

Join a sports team or club to gain experience working with a team and other athletes. If your high school employs an Athletic Trainer, ask them if you can shadow and observe them for a day. This will help you gain a better understanding of what the role of an Athletic Trainer entails.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

After high school, you need to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE). Ensure that the degree program is accredited by the CAATE. Otherwise, you will not be eligible for licensure and certification.

You can obtain the basic life support certification, which you usually need for licensure and certification. The certification may already be part of your degree program. Athletic training programs take place in a classroom setting and have clinical components.

The courses that are part of the program include therapeutic rehabilitation and reconditioning, kinesiology, sport psychology, clinical pharmacology, human anatomy, first-aid and emergency care, injury and prevention, and anatomy and physiology. You will also partake in hands-on clinical training supervised by an experienced Athletic Trainer.

Step 3: Get Work Experience

Even though most employers consider hiring fresh graduates without any prior experience, you should strive to gain experience while completing your Bachelor’s degree. Having job experience will help you compete in the job market.

You can take summer internships, which involve hands-on training and teach you how to create treatment programs, document injuries, perform patient evaluations, and communicate with the medical staff.

Step 4: Obtain Certification and Licensure

Certification and licensure requirements vary state by state, with most states requiring Athletic Trainers to become licensed by the state or become certified by the Board of Certification (BOC). Certification requirements involve completing a CAATE-accredited athletic training program and passing a certification exam.

The certification exam tests you on treatment and rehabilitation, clinical evaluation and diagnosis, and emergency care. Most states will give you a license to practice if you pass the certification exam. You need to update your certification and licensure regularly by continuing to obtain education credits and maintaining and updating your knowledge on basic life support. Moreover, you need to follow the BOC Standards of Practice and Disciplinary, along with continuing your education to retain your credentials.

Step 5: Obtain a Master’s Degree

The Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE) requires undergraduate Bachelor degree programs in Athletic Training to switch to a Master’s degree. The college needs to remove the programs by a specified year. The Commission is enforcing this because they want all institutions in the United States only to offer a Master’s in Athletic Training degree.

For you, it means that instead of obtaining a Bachelor’s in Athletic Training, you will be obtaining a Master’s in Athletic Training. As per the latest CAATE requirements, you need to have a Master’s in Athletic Training to be eligible for the BOC exam. A Master’s degree is a two-year program that involves gaining experience working in a laboratory setting alongside participation in clinical internships.

Once you graduate, you will have several opportunities to advance your career as an Athletic Trainer in a wide range of fields. According to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), you can find employment as an Athletic Trainer at a business, an organization, a school, and even in the healthcare industry. Other options include:

  • Private and public secondary educational institutions such as schools, colleges, and universities, including professional and Olympic sports.
  • Youth leagues and individually and locally operated youth sports facilities.
  • Physician practices.
  • Urban and rural hospitals, urgent and ambulatory care centers, and hospital emergency rooms.
  • Clinics specializing in cardiac rehabilitation, sports medicine, wellness, and physical therapy, and medical fitness.
  • Occupational health departments in commercial environments. This includes assisting distribution, manufacturing, and offices with ergonomics.
  • Fire and police departments, municipal departments, academics, and branches of the military.
  • Professional performing arts organization and collegiate-level music and dance programs.

Graduate degree programs will give you an opportunity to network. You will engage in clinical rotations with various groups, consisting of club sports, local high schools and colleges, and U intercollegiate athletics during your Master’s degree.

What degree do most Athletic Trainers have

Master’s degree

We did a survey to ask other Athletic Trainers what degree they had when they first became one. Here are the results.

Master’s degree

Bachelor’s degree

First Professional degree

How long does it take

4 to 6 years

If you obtain a Bachelor’s in Athletic Training, it will take you four years to complete it. If you plan to pursue higher studies and want to obtain a Master’s in Athletic Training, it will take you an additional two years to complete.

However, some schools may give you the option to complete your Bachelor’s in Athletic Training sooner by offering you additional courses to complete or enrolling in summer courses. If you want to receive BOC licensing from NATA, you will need to take academic clinical education, which takes two years to complete.

You might be able to receive clinical education as part of your program. Otherwise, you may need to complete it outside of your program, such as in the summer or as an extracurricular subject. For an Athletic Trainer, education does not stop but continues throughout their career, as they need to brush up and update their knowledge of the profession. Not doing so can result in them losing their license to practice as an Athletic Trainer.

Learn more about Athletic Trainers

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