Athletic trainers specialize in preventing, diagnosing, and treating muscle and bone injuries and illnesses.


Athletic trainers typically do the following:

  • Apply protective or injury-preventive devices, such as tape, bandages, and braces
  • Recognize and evaluate injuries
  • Provide first aid or emergency care
  • Develop and carry out rehabilitation programs for injured athletes
  • Plan and implement comprehensive programs to prevent injury and illness among athletes
  • Perform administrative tasks, such as keeping records and writing reports on injuries and treatment programs

Athletic trainers work with people of all ages and all skill levels, from young children to soldiers and professional athletes. Athletic trainers are usually one of the first healthcare providers on the scene when injuries occur on the field. They work under the direction of a licensed physician and with other healthcare providers, often discussing specific injuries and treatment options or evaluating and treating patients, as directed by a physician. Some athletic trainers meet with a team physician or consulting physician regularly.

An athletic trainer’s administrative responsibilities may include regular meetings with an athletic director or another administrative officer to deal with budgets, purchasing, policy implementation, and other business-related issues. Athletic trainers plan athletic programs that are compliant with federal and state regulations; for example, they may ensure a football program adheres to laws related to athlete concussions.

Athletic trainers should not be confused with fitness trainers and instructors, which include personal trainers.

Work Environment

Athletic trainers held about 29,400 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of athletic trainers were as follows:

Educational services; state, local, and private 42%
Hospitals; state, local, and private 20
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists      11
Fitness and recreational sports centers 6
Self-employed workers 2

Athletic trainers also may work with military, with law enforcement, with professional sports teams, or with performing artists.

Athletic trainers may spend their time working outdoors on sports fields in all types of weather.

Work Schedules

Most athletic trainers work full time. Athletic trainers who work with teams during sporting events may work evenings or weekends and travel often.

Education and Training

Athletic trainers typically need at least a bachelor's degree, and master’s degrees are common. Nearly all states require athletic trainers to have a license or certification; requirements vary by state.


To enter the occupation, athletic trainers typically need a degree from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE). Although some jobs are available for workers with a bachelor's degree, many athletic trainers have a master's degree.

Admission into athletic trainer master’s programs generally requires a bachelor's degree with completion of coursework in science and health. Master's degree programs have classroom and clinical components and include instruction in areas such as injury prevention, therapeutic modalities, and nutrition.

High school students interested in postsecondary athletic training programs should take courses in anatomy, physiology, and physics.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Nearly all states require athletic trainers to be licensed or certified; requirements vary by state. For specific requirements, contact the particular state’s licensing board.

The Board of Certification for the Athletic Trainer (BOC) offers the standard certification examination that most states use for licensing athletic trainers. Certification requires graduating from a CAATE-accredited program and passing the BOC exam. To maintain certification, athletic trainers must adhere to the BOC Standards of Professional Practice and take continuing education courses.


Assistant athletic trainers may become head athletic trainers, athletic directors, or physician, hospital, or clinic practice administrators. In any of these positions, they will assume a management role. Athletic trainers working in colleges and universities may pursue an advanced degree to increase their advancement opportunities.

Personality and Interests

Athletic trainers and exercise physiologists typically have an interest in the Building, Thinking and Helping interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Thinking interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws. The Helping interest area indicates a focus on assisting, serving, counseling, or teaching other people.

If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Thinking or Helping interest which might fit with a career as an athletic trainer and exercise physiologist, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Athletic trainers and exercise physiologists should also possess the following specific qualities:

Compassion. Athletic trainers and exercise physiologists work with athletes and patients who may be in considerable pain or discomfort. ATs and EPs must be sympathetic while providing treatments.

Decision-making skills. Athletic trainers and exercise physiologists must be able to make informed clinical de­cisions that could affect the health or livelihood of patients.

Detail oriented. Athletic trainers and exercise physiologists must be able to record detailed, accurate progress and ensure that patients are receiving the appropriate treatments or practicing the correct fitness regimen.

Interpersonal skills. Athletic trainers and exercise physiologists must have strong interpersonal skills and be able to manage difficult situations. They must be able to communicate well with others, including physicians, patients, athletes, coaches, and parents.


The median annual wage for athletic trainers was $48,420 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $36,960, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $76,180.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for athletic trainers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Educational services; state, local, and private $58,750
Fitness and recreational sports centers 54,710
Hospitals; state, local, and private 48,070
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists      47,210

Most athletic trainers work full time. Athletic trainers who work with teams during sporting events may work evenings or weekends and travel often.

Job Outlook

Employment of athletic trainers is projected to grow 17 percent from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations.

About 2,500 openings for athletic trainers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire. 


Some of the projected employment growth in this occupation is due to recovery from the COVID-19 recession of 2020.

Sports programs at all ages and for all experience levels will continue to create demand for athletic trainers. With high levels of participation by children and youth in individual and team sports, athletic trainers will be needed to manage emergency and non-emergency situations that arise. The popularity of college sports and continued participation by student athletes will increase demand for these workers to help athletes prevent and recover from injuries and perform at their highest level.

Meanwhile, growing numbers of middle-aged and older people are remaining physically active. Their continued activity will likely lead to an increase in athletic-related injuries, such as sprains. Athletic trainers will be needed to provide sophisticated treatments in injury prevention and detection.

For More Information

For more information about athletic trainers, visit

National Athletic Trainers’ Association

For more information about accredited athletic training programs, visit

Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education

For more information about certification and state regulatory requirements for athletic trainers, visit

Board of Certification for the Athletic Trainer




Where does this information come from?

The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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There are many excellent tools available that will allow you to measure your interests, profile your personality, and match these traits with appropriate careers. On this site, you can take the Career Personality Profiler assessment, the Holland Code assessment, or the Photo Career Quiz.

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