Athletic trainer?

Oh, you mean a fitness trainer who works with athletes?

female coach watching male athlete workout Photo by Bastien Plu on Unsplash

While both can work with athletes, there is a big difference in education, skillset, and job duties.

Where a fitness trainer needs only a certification, the athletic trainer is recognized as an allied health care professional with education and clinical training following the medical model.

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So, they're a physical therapist?

Not quite! Athletic trainers work with athletes on a regular basis. A physical therapist only diagnoses and treats patients who are injured and often works regular hours in a hospital or clinical setting. Male tapping his finger to his temple on his head

The Actual Job

An athletic trainer (aka "AT") is a highly qualified, multi-skilled health care professional providing services to patients and athletes in collaboration with a physician.

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They're responsible for:

  • Injury and illness prevention

  • Examination, assessment, and diagnosis

  • Immediate and emergency care

  • Therapeutic intervention (i.e., rehabilitation reconditioning)

  • Health care administration and professional responsibility

  • Leadership, strategic planning, goal setting, and human resources


Athletic trainers can only provide treatments such as ankle taping to athletes.

Where Can You Work As An Athletic Trainer?

  • Educational settings (e.g., colleges, universities, elementary, and secondary schools)

  • Hospitals, clinics, and physician's offices

  • Fitness centers

  • Professional sports teams

  • Youth leagues (e.g., municipal and independently owned)

  • Occupational health departments in commercial settings (e.g., manufacturing, distribution, etc.)

  • Police and fire departments

  • Performing arts (e.g., professional and collegiate level dance and music)

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Which location(s) would hire an AT?

Let's Talk Money...

The average salary is...

Flaticon Icon In the US about $48,420 or $23.28/hour.

Flaticon Icon In Canada about $43,177 or $20.76/hour.

You'll Love It If You...

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  • Enjoy a different day-to-day routine.

  • Have a positive attitude towards changes in your environment.

  • Are confident and compassionate in speaking with coaches, parents, and athletes.

  • Not afraid of conflict in decision-making skills.

The Bottom Line?

You'll do well as an athletic trainer if you're willing to be all in and do what it takes for your athletes and patients.

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Look For Another Career Path If...

You may struggle as an AT if:

  • Straightforward communication isn't your strong point.

  • You're uncomfortable being a mentor and advisor to athletes.

  • You can be bossy or arrogant.

  • Working long hours and traveling for work isn't for you.

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How Do I Become An Athletic Trainer?

  • Earn an undergraduate degree in athletic training or exercise science.

  • Graduate with a master’s degree from an accredited athletic training education program.

  • Pass a comprehensive test administered by the Board of Certification (BOC).

  • After certification, meet ongoing continuing education requirements to stay certified.

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Take Action

Does it sound like becoming an AT could be a good path for you?

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If it does, then:


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