Athletic Trainer

Job Description

Athletic trainers are health professionals that can help patients avoid unnecessary medical treatment and the disruption it can cause in normal daily life.

A certified athletic trainer is a highly qualified health care provider that is trained in recognizing, preventing, managing and rehabilitating injuries that result from various forms of physical activity. As an Athletic Trainer, you might be tasked with identifying, diagnosing, and then tracking out the course of treatment for various injuries or chronic medical conditions.

If you are injured, an athletic trainer is qualified to work with you and your primary health care provider to get you back on your feet and return you to the activities of your normal daily life.

Athletic Trainers frequently work with other healthcare professionals to help provide the best care possible to patients. This collaboration with other healthcare professionals is essential to providing injury prevention and educate about proper wellness lifestyles. In some cases, Athletic Trainers might be asked to provide emergency care to patients who experience critical symptoms or situations.

Athletic Trainers sometimes get confused with Personal Trainers, but there are several key differences between them. For instance, the level of education needed is much higher for Athletic Trainers than Personal Trainers. Athletic Trainers have obtained a four-year or five-year degree from an institution, whereas Personal Trainers obtain a certification and some advanced training through continuing education credits.

Another thing that separates the two is the fact that Athletic Trainers are slowly being considered as an important type of allied healthcare professional. Because Athletic Trainers are slowly being considered as more important allied healthcare professionals the level of education that Athletic Trainers have to obtain is increasing each year. Soon all of the Athletic Trainer graduates will be forced to obtain a Master’s Degree.

Becoming an Athletic Trainer is a great option for those individuals who want to work in a fast-paced environment. Athletic Trainers have to stay on their toes in the ever-changing and dynamic medical environment because this challenging career forces these allied healthcare professionals to come up with unique care plans or treatment methods for each patient.

Each patient is going to present different challenges, which is one of the reasons that becoming an Athletic Trainer is so exciting to a host of individuals.

The role of an Athletic Trainer isn’t just related to sports or other sports-related activities. Athletic Trainers are being used in a variety of settings to ensure everyone practices safe. The roles of Athletic Trainers is to work with a variety of patients who need to improve their current health and well-being through physical activity or sports-related activities.

Since there is such a large push with occupational wellness and corporate wellness, Athletic Trainers can find employment in a variety of places and aren’t strictly confined to working in a hospital or wellness clinic.

  • Professional Sports

  • Youth Sports Programs

  • High Schools, Public, and Private High Schools

  • Hospitals

  • Performing Arts Companies

  • Government

  • Hospital Emergency Rooms

  • Hospital Emergency Departments

  • Occupational Settings

  • Industrial Settings

  • Physician Offices

  • Private Practice Offices

  • Secondary Schools

  • Medical Clinics

  • Sports Clinics



Athletic trainers have been recognized as allied health care professionals by the American Medical Association since 1990. Athletic Trainers work with a variety of patients ranging from any age. As we mentioned, Athletic Trainers work with other healthcare professionals to determine the best course of action to prevent injuries.

One way Athletic Trainers differ from other healthcare professionals is that they can provide more elaborate info about how to efficiently use a brace or stabilizer for an injury, while still being able to perform each exercise to the best of their ability.

Athletic trainers diagnose and treat bone and muscle injuries under the supervision of healthcare professionals.

Their patients typically consist of anyone who participates in athletic activities, and those of all ages. They're responsible for preventing further injuries by fixing their patients with devices like braces, tape, and compression apparel.

Athletic trainers are responsible for rehabilitating athletes from injuries and creating programs or regimes to follow in order to prevent any further difficulties.

Other responsibilities include record-keeping, coordinating with professional care teams, and minor budgeting.



While Athletic Trainers must obviously maintain physical fitness, there are a litany of other skills that go into a successful candidate. These skills ensure that they can accurately diagnose patients and then help get them on the pathway to recovery.

One skill that ATs must have is that they should be able to assess and understand the daily tasks that a patient must overcome and be able to create short and long-term goals to help them continue their daily lives.

This involves high levels of communication skills as patients they see come from all walks of life and will have unique short-term goals and long-term goals. Understanding what a patient needs based on what injuries they are dealing with will determine what short-term goals and long-term goals are established.

Once they understand what the patient needs, they must be able to determine which short-term goals or which long-term goals are going to accurately place them on the correct path to improving their physical well-being and improve their overall athletic prowess.

Equally important are the technical skills necessary to understand exactly how to approach each unique situation. Even though there is a typical way of rehabilitating patients from certain injuries or chronic conditions, it’s important to remember that each patient will present you with their own unique challenges that make them different. You won’t be able to only follow a certain guideline on what to do when crafting their treatment plans and rehabilitation goals.

Different patients with different ailments require different care plans for any health professional, and Athletic Trainers are no different. For instance, you might have two patients that have similar injuries at the same time. You might direct them on how to improve their condition and set in place the same goals, but the treatment response will be different for each one.

One might respond well, while the other’s recovery is much slower. This is one aspect of the job that makes each day challenging and unique, and also provides excitement in trying to figure out what to do with each patient on the path to their well-being.

This is the part of the job that is exciting each day. No two patients are going to be the same, which means that you get to come up with a new challenge each day. If you’re looking for a healthcare profession where you can directly work with patients but don’t have to deal with some of the nitty gritty details that are particularly gross, then your skills in care management will come in handy in your career as an Athletic Trainer.

Another skill that Athletic Trainer must possess is the ability to apply their knowledge. ATs must apply their knowledge regarding applying and removing extremity casts, following the proper sterilization procedures, and collecting and maintaining an updates patient history. Oftentimes these techniques and tricks change as new technology is developed and new tools are used to make the process easier on both the patients and caregivers.

As an Athletic Trainer, you will need to stay up to date on the techniques used, and always look to increase your skill set through continuing education credits. Because you will have to stay up to date on the new techniques and tactics, one of the skills you will need will involve learning and applying that knowledge that you obtain. As an Athletic Trainer, you will need to be able to separate all the knowledge that you have obtained and know when to use what techniques to use.

Another skill that Athletic Trainer must possess is the ability to work with others. The healthcare industry is one of the most collaborative and team-oriented industries. As an Athletic Trainer, you will have to frequently work with other healthcare professionals on figuring out the best course of action for patients under your care.

The injuries that a patient sustains might mean that they require consideration from another professional or seek additional consultation once preliminary care has commenced.

In these situations, you have to be willing and able to work with other professionals and communicate effectively with them about your reasoning behind the care that you believe should be given, and also accept what advice they provide.

They must also be able to apply their skills and knowledge in collaboration with a team of professionals, meaning working as an integral part of a team is key to success.

Another skill that Athletic Trainers must possess is attention to detail. As an Athletic Trainer, you will have to take extensive notes to avoid accidentally providing the wrong care or rehashing care that was already provided.

For instance, if you recommend a course of action for a patient, and then a couple months later recommend it again because you didn’t take adequate notes. As one can see, this is only going to set the patient back because you are rehashing old recommendations or old techniques that were used unsuccessfully.

As an Athletic Trainer, you’re also not the only one who might use those notes. Part of the collaboration with other healthcare professionals might also include providing them with the notes you’ve taken. This means that you need to be able to express and explain your reasoning behind certain recommendations or the care you provide to other professionals through efficient note taking and communication skills. If you’re the only one who can read the notes, then they aren’t very effective notes.

Another skill that Athletic Trainers must possess is the ability to keep records or maintain other administrative tasks. Some of the administrative tasks that an Athletic Trainer might be tasked with include meeting with administrative officials or other directors.

As an Athletic Trainer, your career might evolve to you eventually managing the care under the Athletic Training department or overseeing a host of other Athletic Trainers. In the event that happens, you will be tasked with coordinating care in the entire department and will have to explain to the administrative officials why you feel you need resources or materials to provide the care.

Part of this skill also involves you understanding how to read and deal with budgets. You will have to adequately discuss and explain your reasoning behind purchases for the Athletic Trainers you work with, and the equipment you use. Part of this skill involves the communication skill we outlined earlier, but your communication will ultimately improve if you can understand and read those budgets.


Common Activities On The Job

As an Athletic Trainer, you will find that your routine is often similar each day. We have outlined some of the most common activities that you will be doing each day.

• Working Indoors and Outdoors

As an Athletic Trainer, you might be tasked with taking your care wherever the patient needs. This might include working indoors, as well as outdoors. As an Athletic Trainer, you might not exclusively work indoors, as you will often find employment in sporting events that take place outside. If you’re looking for a career where you can work both indoors and outdoors, then this might be the career for you.

• Traveling

You might be required to travel to a host of events or activities. These events might be sporting activities, or be the continuing education training requirements we mentioned.

• Work With Equipment or Machines

During your daily routine, you will often use equipment or machines that can help assist you in caring for a patient. Whether it’s educating the patient on how to use a piece of workout equipment, or using it to assist them with the injury they are attempting to recover from — you can expect to use some equipment each day. In addition, you should know how to evaluate the equipment and machines to ensure that they are safe for patients to use.

• Reviewing Patient Information and Medical Records

As an Athletic Trainer, you will have to review the patient information and the medical records to evaluate prior care, recommended treatment, and then figure out the next course of action.

• Coordinate Care with Other Healthcare Professionals

You will have to coordinate with other healthcare professionals on a daily basis to keep them apprised of what’s going on with each individual patient, and also evaluate whether or not the course of action needs to change slightly.

• Be Active and Stand For Long Periods of Time

As an Athletic Trainer, you will be standing for long periods of time, and be active for long periods of time. If you’re looking for a desk job as a healthcare professional, then this isn’t the job for you. You will frequently be active and be standing on your feet for hours a day while you work with patients or interact with other healthcare professionals.

• Work Long Hours

While you’re an Athletic Trainer, you will find that you have the potential to work long hours. Because you will be asked to travel with certain teams or work with patients on their own schedule, you will find that you tend to work long hours each week.

This means that you should expect anywhere from 50 to 70 hours a week professionally. If you’re working individually with patients, and then have to educate others in a classroom setting or group setting, that might extend your hours more based on what you have to do outside the normal workday.

• Make Decisions Quickly

As an Athletic Trainer, you will be tasked with making decisions quickly. In many cases, this will happen during critical care scenarios where emergency care or urgent care is required until more advanced healthcare professionals can come to the aid of the patient.

• Work Collectively With Other healthcare Professionals

As a healthcare professional, you will be working in a team setting with others, and should be comfortable working towards the common goal of a healthy patient. This might involve team meetings and strategy meetings to evaluate weekly goals, quarterly goals, and more.

• Apply Knowledge

One critical activity you will have each day will be to actually apply the knowledge you’ve learned in your studies and experience to the patients you interact with on a daily basis. Applying the knowledge gets easier with practice, as you might be tentative at first, but the techniques and training you provide the patients with gets easier each time.

• Maintain a Positive Attitude

One of the most common activities you will be forced to do is to maintain a positive attitude. Some of the patients that you will be forced to deal with might be difficult when you’re trying to educate them on some of the training that you’re providing or educate them on how to use certain machines or equipment. In the event that happens, you will have to keep a positive attitude and be sympathetic to their position.

• Educate Patients or Provide Counseling

As an Athletic Trainer, you will also be tasked with educating the patients you interact with and provide counseling to them when they have questions. Part of your role as an Athletic Trainer isn’t just to run through the exercises or explain the stretches to them. The role will also entail that you educate them on why they’re doing it, and how the action will ultimately benefit them in the long run.

In some cases, the patient will also be upset about the particular injury they have, or the treatment that they have to undergo to get healthy once again. In those situations, you have to be comfortable educating them about their condition, injury, and motivate them to continue on the path to recovery.


Working Conditions

A certified Athletic Trainer works as a member of a complete health care team and works under the direction of a physician.

As a part of the health care team, the athletic trainer works closely with other health care professionals as well as athletics administrators, coaches and parents.

Part of working as an Athletic Trainer means that you will be working in a fast-paced medical environment and interacting with a variety of individuals.

A certified athletic trainer has the opportunity to become well acquainted with each of his or her patients/clients individually. This makes it possible to more effectively treat their injuries.

As we mentioned earlier, Athletic Trainers don’t always have a set schedule and might be asked to work irregular schedules. This means that you should expect to have variable days when you’re working as an Athletic Trainer and is one of the most stressful working conditions of the career. You could find yourself working mornings for a couple days, and then find that you’re working evenings for the next couple shifts.

There will be days where you have to work a full day, and then a couple days where you only work a couple hours.

Professional settings where athletic trainers are in demand include:

  • Sports medicine clinics

  • Collegiate and professional sports

  • Secondary and intermediate schools

  • Rehabilitation clinics

  • Emergency rooms in hospitals

  • Occupational settings

  • Performing arts centers

  • Law enforcement and military training centers

  • Physicians’ offices


Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private


Offices of other health practitioners 15%
Hospitals; state, local, and private


Fitness and recreational sports centers


If you're interested in learning what it takes to become an Athletic Trainer, take the time to review our extensive career path guide on How To Become an Athletic Trainer.



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