As versatile, highly skilled specialists, athletic trainers are an integral part of the healthcare industry. Despite the name, athletic trainers may work in a wide range of areas well beyond athletics. The responsibilities of an athletic trainer range from education and injury prevention to rehabilitation services and emergency treatment. It focuses particularly on preventing, diagnosing and treating bone and soft tissue injuries. If the dynamic, rewarding occupation of an athletic trainer sounds appealing to you, check out the step-by-step guide below to discover a path to your new career!

5 Surefire Tips to Succeed as an Athletic Trainer

a woman having physiotherapy

Step 1: Understand the Job

Becoming an athletic trainer requires hard work. Moreover, it’s important to understand what the job entails before you embark on the journey. An athletic trainer often serves on the front lines of the medical profession, whether it’s recognizing and diagnosing injuries during athletic competitions or working to create a safer workplace in an industrial setting. Trainers may work at high schools or universities, sports medicine or rehabilitation clinics, hospitals, industrial workplaces, military settings or virtually anywhere else healthcare services are needed.

Athletic trainers must possess excellent interpersonal skills as well as training abilities. This is due to the fact that they perform such a wide range of roles. Moreover, often work directly with both patients and physicians. The ability to work in and adapt to an often dynamic, fast-paced environment is also useful. Depending on the specific role of the trainer, the job may also involve a great deal of travel, particularly for those who work in conjunction with sports teams.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

Any athletic trainer career begins with the pursuit of a bachelor’s degree, which is a minimum requirement. The degree must be obtained from an accredited professional athletic training education program. Therefore, make sure to do your research and choose an appropriate program. When you attend a bachelor’s program, you’ll receive both classroom instruction and hands-on experience.

An accredited bachelor’s program includes a particular focus on such topics as anatomy, kinesiology, biomechanics, exercise physiology, and nutrition, as well as other subjects about science and health. Typical programs also include an internship and hands-on experience in a clinic or other setting under direct supervision. Be aware, however, that each program may have its own unique set of prerequisites before allowing entry.

Step 3: Get Certified and Licensed

After you’ve completed a bachelor’s program but before you can begin your athletic trainer career in earnest, you’ll need to become properly certified and licensed. This means successfully passing the Board of Certification Exam. This exam is intended to test an applicant’s knowledge of emergency care, clinical evaluation, treatment and rehabilitation and to assess their readiness to perform the many duties of a trainer.

Once you’ve passed the exam, you’ll be required to abide by the BOC Standards of Practice and take continuing education courses in order to maintain your certification. This includes maintaining an Emergency Cardiac Care Certification at the Basic Life Support level or higher, paying yearly certification maintenance fees and accomplishing a prescribed number of continuing education units. Finally, nearly every state requires athletic trainers to become licensed. The licensing procedures vary from state to state. So, be sure to research all relevant rules and procedures for the state in which you plan to practice.

Step 4: Build Your Career

If you’ve reached this step, congratulations! You’re now an athletic trainer, and it’s time to begin building your career. Your first decision should be to set goals for yourself. Do you aspire to work in professional sports? Is a clinical setting more your speed? By setting a broad course for your career, you can start to work toward accumulating the experience and achieving the educational requirements you’ll need to be successful for many years to come.

Many newly-minted trainers opt to begin at a local high school or clinic. There is where they can gain experience in a less stressful and demanding environment. This isn’t a necessity, however, as athletic training is a rapidly growing field that offers abundant employment opportunities. Experience is highly preferred for many positions, so even entry-level trainer jobs may prove valuable. However, there’s one final step to consider if you wish to advance toward the top of your field.

Step 5: Consider Graduate School

While it’s not strictly a requirement for certification, the majority of actively employed athletic trainers – about 70 percent – have a master’s degree. If you already have your Athletic Trainer Certification, you can undertake an advanced master’s program at a graduate school. Such courses often include advanced training and instruction in therapeutic practices, administration and management, education and orthopedic evaluation and care.

Graduate degrees have become increasingly more common among athletic trainers. This happens because institutions often require them. For example, professional and collegiate sports teams and large hospitals can solicit these degrees. A master’s degree is also a prerequisite for most administrative and managerial positions. So, it’s an important consideration for career advancement. Post-professional athletic training residency programs offer another avenue for expanding your skill set, gaining experience and improving your candidacy for advancement.

Becoming an athletic trainer is no easy task. However, it offers a tremendously rewarding career for those who have the desire and aptitude. If you’re a compassionate, service-oriented person who enjoys taking on challenges and helping people in need, a career as an athletic trainer may be just the thing for you. Are you ready to follow the steps above and follow your dreams? Have you already become certified and found your career path? No matter where you are on your journey, we’d love for you to drop us a line and share your questions or experiences!

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