Discovering Career Paths in Athletic Training

The practice settings we are most familiar with are just the beginning – athletic trainers (ATs) can pursue many exciting pathways spanning many different industries. From preventing injuries and rehabilitating performers, musicians, and vocalists to keeping active military members healthy, in every setting, ATs care about the patients’ growth, development, and well-being. Learning about the different settings in which ATs work is the first step on the path to this rewarding career.

More than half of Athletic Trainers work in organized athletics, including secondary school settings (24% of all ATs), clinics/hospitals (18%), and universities/colleges/junior colleges (16%). The options don’t end there! We’ll look at tactical professions, performing arts, physician practice, industrial and corporate, education, and administration below.

Athletic Trainers & the Military 

Recruits and active-duty members often have musculoskeletal injuries, which is an Athletic Trainer’s specialty. In the field, being physically and mentally ready for challenges can mean the difference between life and death. In the military, ATs get to be creative and help tactical athletes return to their units faster while on active duty or training. A lot of ATs get to use cutting-edge, state-of-the-art equipment when they’re in military facilities.

You don’t have to join the military if you want to become an AT in the military. About 87% of ATs in the military aren’t current or former service members.

Where can I find jobs as an AT with the military?

Since these are primarily civilian military jobs, check out the job sites for the branch you’re interested in (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard). Check out…

  • AFATS, the Armed Forces Athletic Trainers’ Society

Athletic Trainers in The Performing Arts

Football and dance: what’s the connection? The two are among the most physically demanding activities, according to injury surveillance data. 80% of dancers get hurt at some point in their careers. The ATs take care of performing artists by reducing their risk of injuries and rehabilitating them after they hurt themselves. 

Where can I find jobs as an AT with performing artists?

Start your research if you want to get into performing arts. Try looking for jobs with bigger groups and dance troupes. There’s a lot of room for athletic trainers in this industry, and more and more performing arts groups are getting on board. Check out…

  • PAATS (The Performing Arts Athletic Trainers’ Society)

Athletic Trainers in the Physician Practice

Not all athletic trainers treat high-performance athletes. They help patients do things like walking the dog, garden, and play with the kids again using their skills. Medical practices can benefit greatly from having an athletic trainer on staff. A physician could see as many as 12 more patients a day if he or she has an AT.

It’s great for patients to see an athletic trainer. Patient instruction lowers injury rates, and 96% of patients are happier with their care when an athletic trainer is a part of the care team. It’s amazing how much an AT can change someone’s life. Helping an athlete get back in the action is one thing. Helping someone get back to their desired quality of life is another.

Where can I find AT jobs in a physician practice?

Positions can be found online through standard job posting platforms. Check out…

  • Athletic Trainers in the Physician Practice Society (ATPPS)

Athletic Trainers in The Industrial and Corporate Setting

Athletic trainers in this setting care for those who manufacture goods, warehouses, or offices. Industrial and corporate populations can benefit from ATs’ knowledge and skills. This setting focuses on risk reduction, acute injury care, and rehab. More than 25% of workers’ compensation claims relating to musculoskeletal issues have been reduced when athletic trainers are hired.

In order to work in an industrial or corporate setting, become familiar with OSHA standards as well as general business principles. As a result, you will become well-rounded in the corporate setting, learn common language, and appreciate the importance of athletic trainers in the workplace.

What companies hire ATs for industrial or corporate jobs?

Do your research and identify companies that hire ATs and check their websites. Traditional job boards are also a good place to start, but be creative with your keyword searches. You may need to search for keywords such as…

  • Injury prevention specialist
  • Environmental health specialist
  • Ergonomics specialist
  • Employee Health Specialist 

Athletic Trainers in Professional Sports

Athletes on a professional sports team devote all of their time and energy to a relatively small number of athletes. Besides working with high-profile athletes and their agents, you’ll also work with medical consultants and a huge healthcare network.

Only about 3% of ATs work in professional sports, so you’ll want to make sure you stand out. An internship might be a good place to start gaining experience and building your network.

Where can I find a professional sports job as an AT?

When looking for careers in professional sports, you can check out…

  • Career pages for each team’s website
  • Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society (PFATS) for NFL internship and job opportunities 

Athletic Trainers in Secondary Schools

Athletes in secondary schools need athletic trainers. Communication skills are key for secondary school ATs so they can engage with parents/guardians, pediatricians, student-athletes, and coaches. ATs in secondary schools are responsible for more than just injury prevention, evaluation, and treatment. They also implement emergency action plans and conduct preparticipation physicals.

 In US secondary schools, only 67% of students have access to athletic trainers, and the profession is trying to expand that.

Where can I find an AT job at a secondary school?

You can find secondary school positions on…

  • ATStudy Buddy Job Hub
  • Traditional job boards such as ZipRecruiter, Indeed, or LinkedIn
  • School district websites

Athletic Trainers in College/University

Colleges and universities that offer organized sports employ ATs as the third most common practice setting. Many larger institutions employ dozens or more ATs, providing an excellent environment for collaborative care. In this setting, ATs provide comprehensive programs to keep student-athletes safe and healthy. 

Where can I find an AT job at a college/university?

To look for job openings in this setting, check out…

  • NCAA career website
  • College Athletic Trainers’ Society career center
  • Traditional job boards such as ZipRecruiter, Indeed, and LinkedIn
  • ATStudy Buddy Job Hub

Educated outside the U.S.?

Certifications must meet professional standards across organizations thanks to the International Arrangement (IA). You can become credentialed by another organization within the IA as long as your BOC certification is good.

IA currently acknowledges ARTI (Athletic Rehabilitation Therapy Ireland), BOC (USA), and CATA (Canadian Athletic Therapists Association). IA has granted provisional acceptance to the British Association of Sport Rehabilitators (BASRaT).

Start the process of challenging the exam by following the steps on the BOC’s “How to Become Credentialed“. As an AT in the United States, there will be additional requirements such as state licensure, depending on where you’re going to work. To prepare for the exam, ATStudy Buddy is a great place to start! 

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