How To Become an Athletic Trainer

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: December 1, 2021  •  8 min read  •  Health
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If you love athletics and you want to help others become better athletes, this might be the career for you. Learning how to become an athletic trainer can open up many opportunities for you.

Maybe you’re an athlete that knows you cannot go professional. Maybe you just prefer to train other athletes. There are many reasons to become an athletic trainer.

Before you enter this career or any career, it’s important to know what you’re getting into. Let’s look at the job duties of an athletic trainer, along with how to become an athletic trainer.

Become an Athletic Trainer

Job Duties of an Athletic Trainer

As an athletic trainer, you will be a healthcare professional. It’s important to understand this as you will be working with athletes when it comes to the prevention of injuries. It’s common to work with people of all ages and all backgrounds. Many athletic trainers will work with athletes in multiple types of sports.

Along with working with people to help them avoid injury, you will also treat athletes that become injured. Your goal will be to help athletes regain the strength and range of motion they need to complete. Some of the common job duties include:

There are many other job duties you will likely take on with this position. It may depend on the facility you work at and it will also depend on the type of athletes you work with.

How To Become an Athletic Trainer in 5 Steps

Step #1 – Complete High School or get a GED

You will need to have a high school education to become an athletic trainer. This is important as you will need a high school education to get your degree. Make sure you learn about this career during high school so you make the right decision about college.

Step #2 – Get Your Bachelor’s Degree

You will need a bachelor’s degree in athletic training from a college or university accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education. This degree will take about four years to complete if you go to school full time.

As you go through your degree program, you will take courses on anatomy, sports science, nutrition, kinesiology, and other courses. You will gain classroom instruction and hands-on experience when you go through your degree program.

Step #3 – Get Your Master’s or Doctoral Degree (optional)

You don’t need a master’s degree or a doctoral degree to become an athletic trainer. However, it can open up many doors and help you specialize in a specific area. If you go this route, it will take another two to four years to complete your education.

Step #4 – Complete Your Clinical Training Hours

Along with a degree, you will need to complete clinical training hours. This will include hands-on training working with people in rehabilitation centers, outpatient clinics, doctor’s offices, and other facilities.

You will learn how to evaluate patients and treat them properly throughout this training. It’s also possible to gain mentoring from an athletic trainer throughout this training.

Step #5 – Pass Your Certification Exam

You will also need to pass a certification exam from the Board of Certification for the Athletic Trainer. This is the industry standard certification and necessary in 49 out of 50 states, along with Washington D.C. The exam will take about four hours and it will take a few weeks to get your results.

The test you will need to take costs $200 and you will need to submit an application. This application will include a criminal conviction affidavit and you will also need to provide proof of a current CPR certification.

Common Skills for Athletic Trainers

If you want to become an athletic trainer, you will need specific skills. Some of the common skills you need include:

Along with these skills, it can be helpful to be very innovative. You will be working with athletes and coming up with new ways to help them recover faster is always welcome.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming an Athletic Trainer

How much can I make as an athletic trainer?

When you decide to become an athletic trainer, you will make about $36K per year, according to This is just the average salary, however. Many top employers pay far more or even double for athletic trainers.

The location where you work will make a difference in your salary, too. Working in New York or California will likely mean a higher salary. You can also gain a higher salary with experience in the industry.

If you’re at the top of this field, you will likely earn an average salary closer to $73K. The top 10% earn this type of salary, while the bottom 10% will earn closer to $31K per year. Usually, experience will help you move up in this field and gain a higher salary.

Working for a sports team can earn you a higher salary, too. Those working for professional athletes tend to make the most as athletic trainers.

What type of benefits will I get as an athletic trainer?

When you work for an employer as an athletic trainer, you will gain access to many benefits. Most athletic trainers get health insurance with vision and dental insurance options. You will also get paid time off, in most cases. Some employers will give you a free gym membership, a flexible schedule, and a 401(k). You might also be able to work from home, in some cases.

What is the environment like for an athletic trainer?

Athletic trainers often work in gyms, fitness centers, rehabilitation centers, and other medical facilities. You will likely work with exercise equipment often.

How long will it take me to become an athletic trainer?

You will need at least a bachelor’s degree for this career. Your degree will take four years to complete. If you decide to get a graduate degree, you will need another two or four years. Most athletic trainers can start working in this career in three to six years.

Do I need a Master’s Degree to become an athletic trainer?

No, but it can be helpful. In fact, a large number of athletic trainers get a master’s degree to help open up more doors. About three out of four athletic trainers have a master’s degree.

Is this career growing?

Athletic trainers are in pretty high demand. This career is expected to grow by about 23% over the next ten years. With an aging population and many athletes getting older, athletic trainers are necessary. The growth also comes as lower-level athletics grow in schools.

What is the cost to become an athletic trainer?

If you want to become an athletic trainer, you will likely spend between $35K and $100K for your bachelor’s degree. You may also need to pay for a master’s degree. It’s not the cheapest degree out there, but it can lead to a very rewarding career.

Do athletic trainers work in an occupational setting?

Yes. While you might only think of an athletic trainer working with athletes, they can also work in an occupational setting. They may perform duties, such as:

These duties and more can be a part of your job if you work in an occupational setting. If you don’t want to work with athletes or you want to help workers with fitness, this is a unique way to go as an athletic trainer.

There are many reasons why you might want to become an athletic trainer. As an athletic trainer, you will be able to work with a sports team or with athletes in a medical facility. If this is something that seems like a passion for you, this might be a great career option.

Finding the career that is right for you isn’t always easy. As an athletic trainer, you can enjoy a very rewarding career. You now know how to become an athletic trainer. Use the steps above to help ensure you can enjoy the right career for yourself.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path.