Earn a Bachelor’s Degree
This career requires at least a bachelor’s degree in athletic training. This program generally includes coursework in human movement sciences, first aid and emergency care, anatomy and physiology and injury and illness prevention. Students also participate in hands-on clinical education under the direct supervision of an experienced athletic trainer.
Keep in mind that in order to obtain licensure and certification later, the degree program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education. Here’s a tip for success: obtain basic life support certification, which is generally required for licensure and certification as an athletic trainer. Basic life support certification preparation is often incorporated into a degree program’s curricula.
Although many employers will consider new graduates without previous experience, gaining experience while in school can help students become competitive candidates in the job market. Students can participate in summer internships, which provide hands-on training in how to develop treatment programs, conduct patient evaluations, document injuries and communicate with medical staff.
Obtain Certification and Licensure
Most states require athletic trainers to be certified by the Board of Certification for the athletic trainer or licensed by the state. Certification requirements include completion of an accredited athletic training program and passage of a certification exam. This exam covers topics such as clinical evaluation and diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation and emergency care. State licensing requirements are often fulfilled by passing the same certification exam. Certification and licensure must be maintained regularly by earning continuing education credits and maintaining basic life support certification
Consider a Master’s Degree
Although voluntary, a graduate degree in athletic training can be helpful for trainers who work at the collegiate level or those seeking career advancement. Such a program provides further study in exercise and sports medicine, exercise physiology and advanced athletic training. Most master’s programs can be completed in two years and combine laboratory experiences with clinical internships.
A career as an athletic trainer requires completion of an accredited athletic trainer degree program as well as licensure or certification. Some employers may prefer trainers with some hands-on experience and a graduate degree can lead to advancement opportunities.