What Is the Best Athletic Trainer Degree You Can Get for a Job?

An image of an athletic trainer for our FAQ on What Is the Best Athletic Trainer Degree You Can Get for a Job

An image of an athletic trainer for our FAQ on What Is the Best Degree Path for Becoming an Athletic Trainer A degree in athletic training can help you land many different healthcare jobs. Athletic training professionals work in every industry, from education to medicine. But how can a degree help launch your career as an athletic trainer? If you’re wondering what education is needed to be an athletic trainer or what kind of athletic trainer schooling you need to land a job, read on. In this article, we discuss different athletic training majors and the best athletic trainer degree. We talk about state requirements for athletic trainers and what athletic training degree will help you find a job.

What Do Athletic Trainers Do?

What athletic trainers do on the job depends on their role and where they work. Some athletic trainers get a degree in athletic training and become an athletic trainer in a rehab or training center. They work with athletes and people who want to improve their health. On a typical day, athletic trainers provide athletic training services. What are these services? They include:
  • Developing a rehab plan for injured athletes
  • Developing performance improvement plans
  • Evaluating injuries
  • Providing first aid or emergency care
  • Setting up injury prevention plans
  • Writing reports on athletic injuries
Most athletic trainers work with people of all ages and abilities. They work with high school students wanting to improve strength and endurance. They work with professional athletes looking to change their performance game. Some athletic trainers work under the supervision of a licensed physician or physical therapist. Others work with healthcare professionals in physician offices and rehabilitation centers. There are also athletic trainers that work in gyms. Their job is to provide an athletic training program to a client who wants to lose weight or improve strength and flexibility.

Job Duties of Athletic Trainers

Most athletic trainers work with:
  • Individual athletes
  • Performing artists
  • Sports teams
The job is hands-on. They meet with their clients on a regular basis to help them carry out an athletic training program. Many athletic trainers report to supervisors. They meet with coaches, other trainers, or an athletic director. While most of the duties involve working with clients, athletic trainers perform some administrative tasks. These involve writing reports and keeping records. Those working in gyms and other rehab facilities operate budgets and help with organizational policies.

Where Athletic Trainers Work

We picture athletic trainers in gyms, helping individuals improve their strength and endurance. We see them on TV motivating people to lose weight. But the truth is athletic trainers can work in many different industries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 42% of athletic trainers work in local, state, and private educational organizations such as:
  • Colleges
  • High schools
  • Universities
An athletic trainer in a high school works with athletic teams. They assist coaches and teach exercise science to student athletes. 20% of athletic trainers work in hospitals. The job involves rehab and injury prevention. Hospital athletic trainers work as part of a medical team. They provide patient care following surgery. They also offer educational athletic training programs. The BLS reports that 11% of athletic trainers work in occupational, physical, and speech therapy offices. In a professional practice, athletic trainers provide rehabilitation programs to patients with acute or ongoing conditions. They work with patients of all ages, from toddlers to the elderly. They also meet with professional athletes. About 6% of athletic trainers work for fitness and recreational sports clubs. They engage in fitness-related activities like personal training. They teach classes and help clients reach their fitness goals. About 2% of athletic trainers work for themselves. An image of an athletic trainer for our FAQ on What Is the Best Degree Path for Becoming an Athletic Trainer

How to Become an Athletic Trainer

There are different paths to become an athletic trainer. To enter the occupation, athletic training professionals need at least a four-year degree. A master’s degree is also common. Most states require athletic trainers to have a license or certification to perform athletic training. But requirements vary by state. So, what degree do you need to be an athletic trainer? Read on for information about athletic trainer education.

Best Sports Trainer Degree Programs

Athletic trainer education varies. But in today’s job market, most athletic trainers have a bachelor’s degree. Some athletic trainers enter the workforce after they earn a four-year degree, while others continue their athletic training education. Some aspiring athletic trainers earn a master’s degree. No matter which degree you choose, you need one from an accredited program. Degrees from non-accredited programs are not valued by employers. To work as an athletic trainer, you should earn a degree accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE).

Top Athletic Trainer Majors

Not all colleges offer an athletic training major. But there are other majors you can choose that will help you in your career. Common majors include:

Athletic training

Athletic training degrees are among the most popular programs for certified athletic trainers. Athletic training students combine their love of sports medicine with the science of exercise. You cover topics like:
  • General medical conditions and disabilities
  • Health care administration
  • Nutritional aspects of illness and injury
  • Sports medicine

Exercise Science

What degree do you need to be a athletic trainer? Exercise science is a popular choice. This major helps you gain fitness and health knowledge you can give to others. You learn how athletes can improve performance and endurance. You also learn how to maintain health habits.

Health and human services

This major teaches you how to provide health and human services to diverse populations. You learn how to enhance physical and mental health. You also learn how to meet the social needs of families and individuals. It is a useful major for athletic training professionals.

Health resources services administration

Thinking of going into athletic training leadership? Majoring in HRSA can help. This major teaches you how to manage the daily operations of a healthcare facility. The program covers business, medical, and managerial topics. It is useful for athletic training students wanting to work in sports medicine.


Another popular major for athletic training students is kinesiology. This major focuses on the study of physical activity and how the body’s movements impact health. The major also focuses on health science. It can lead to many different careers, though many athletic trainers studying kinesiology earn a master’s degree.

Sports medicine

A sports medicine major gives you knowledge in different areas of health science. The major teaches you about exercise physiology and biomechanics. You take courses in kinesiology and study therapeutic exercise. Because of the topics covered, it is a good major for aspiring certified athletic trainers. An image of an athletic trainer for our FAQ on What Is the Best Degree Path for Becoming an Athletic Trainer

Athletic Trainer Licenses and Certifications

Most states require athletic trainers have a license or certification to work. The Board of Certification for the Athletic Trainer (BOC) offers a standard certification exam that states use to license athletic trainers. To get certified as an athletic trainer you must graduate from accredited athletic training programs. The BOC requires aspiring athletic trainers receive a CAATE-accredited degree. Once you have your degree, you can take the BOC exam. And once you pass the exam, you can qualify for work as an athletic trainer working with professional sports teams and doing all things athletic training encompasses.

Skills and Qualities of Successful Athletic Trainers

The best athletic trainers have certain qualities and skills that help them succeed on the job. Read on to find out what makes a good athletic trainer.
  • Empathy – Athletic trainers work with people suffering from injuries that affect their overall health. An athletic trainer should have empathy and compassion for their patients. When a client or patient faces setbacks, it is the athletic trainer who can offer help.
  • Decision-making – Athletic trainers make informed decisions based on the best healthcare practices. Their decisions can have far-reaching impacts on those they care for.
  • Detail-oriented – Athletic trainers record and document medical records. They take notes on treatment plans. They adhere to the rules of sports teams and follow a medical based education model. To do these tasks, you need to be detailed.
  • Interpersonal skills – Athletic trainers manage tough tasks. They face difficult situations on the job. They must communicate well with coaches, professional sports teams, physicians, and other medical professionals.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about athletic training programs and more.

How Long Does it Take to Become an Athletic Trainer?

Becoming an athletic trainer takes time. It is not an overnight journey. Certified athletic training programs take four to six years. You need at least a bachelor’s degree, which means you will spend four years in college if you have no prior college experience. If you do have prior college credits, they may be transferable. Some students with an associate’s degree from a community college cut the time in school by transferring credits. Your credits should be from an accredited college. If your credits transfer, you can finish your bachelor’s degree in 18-24 months.

How Much Money Can an Athletic Trainer Earn?

According to data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, athletic trainers earn $48,420/year. The lowest 10% of athletic trainers earn $36,960. But the top 10% earn over $76,000/year. Where you work matters in terms of pay. Certain industries offer higher wages for athletic trainers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists four top industries for this profession. In these industries, athletic trainers earn the highest wages.
  • Educational services (state, local, and private): $58,750/year
  • Fitness and recreational sports centers: $54,710/year
  • Hospitals (state, local, and private): $48,070/year
  • Offices of physical, occupational, and speech therapists and audiologists: $47,210/year
The geographic location also impacts your earnings as an athletic trainer. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists five top states where athletic trainers can earn above-average wages. These states and average earnings for athletic trainers is as follows:
  • District of Columbia: $77,100/year
  • Illinois: $70,260/year
  • New Jersey: $69,300/year
  • Massachusetts: $68,790/year
  • California: $66,340/year

What is the Job Outlook for an Athletic Trainer Career?

The job outlook for athletic trainers is favorable The BLS projects a 17% growth in jobs between now and 2031. Since the average growth rate for all jobs is 8%, the future looks bright for aspiring athletic trainers. What will drive job growth for this profession? There are many factors. The economy continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of this, we can expect job openings to increase. More people are heading back to the gym, participating in fitness efforts, and increasing activity. The result is that there is a demand for athletic training services. As the pandemic wanes, fitness is on the rise. Certain populations, such as middle-aged and older individuals have increased their activity level. Because of this, there is a growing number of injuries. This drives demand for athletic trainers and athletic training services. Businesses and government agencies are also using athletic trainers to help injured workers rehabilitate and prevent injuries. This creates a need for more athletic trainers and their services. For the best job prospects, you need a master’s degree and continued athletic training education. Memberships in professional associations also help. Consider becoming a member of the National Athletic Trainers Association. An image of an Athletic Trainer for our FAQ on What Is the Best Degree Path for Becoming an Athletic Trainer

Do You Need an Internship for Athletic Trainer Jobs?

As with other healthcare professions, internships offer experience for students. Internships help because the role of an athletic trainers is to provide patient care. It is a hands-on career where you spend hundreds of hours working with clients and patients. Some athletic training programs offer internships as part of the curriculum. While earning your master’s degree, a program can place you in a setting where you get supervised by an athletic trainer. You can pick up hours of training working on the treatment and prevention of injuries. In a bachelor’s degree program, you can also participate in an internship within the allied health care profession or sports industry. You can land internships with professional sports teams where you shadow coaches and physical therapists. Internships also take place in:
  • Exercise science facilities
  • Fitness centers
  • With personal trainers and coaches

Do You Need Athletic Trainer Certification?

States demand athletic trainers receive certification before going to work. To become a certified athletic trainer, you need to pass the certification exam. You take the exam through the Board of Certification for the Athletic Trainer (BOC). This is the standard exam for a certified athletic trainer. Without certification, most employers won’t consider you for a job candidate. If you want to work as a certified athletic trainer, you must get certified. Certification requires that you graduate with a Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education CAATE-accredited bachelor’s degree. Some employers prefer a master’s degree. BDP Staff May 2023 Related articles:

This concludes our article on what is the best degree path for becoming an athletic trainer.

Brenda Rufener

Julie McCaulley

Carrie Sealey-Morris