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Athletic Trainers - What They Do

How to Advance (Advancement)
There are a few ways for athletic trainers to advance. Some athletic trainers advance by switching teams or sports to gain additional responsibility or pay. Assistant athletic trainers may become head athletic trainers and, eventually, athletic directors or physician, hospital or clinic practice administrators where they assume a management role. Some athletic trainers move into sales and marketing positions, using their expertise to sell medical and athletic equipment.

Athletic trainers held about 16,300 jobs in 2008 and are found in every part of the country. Most athletic trainer jobs are related to sports, although an increasing number also work in nonsports settings. About 39 percent were found in public and private educational services, primarily in colleges, universities, and high schools. Another 38 percent of athletic trainers worked in healthcare, including jobs in hospitals, offices of physicians, and offices of other health practitioners. About 13 percent worked in fitness and recreational sports centers. Around 5 percent work in spectator sports.

Job Outlook
Employment is projected to grow much faster than average. Job prospects should be good in the healthcare industry and in high schools, but competition is expected for positions with professional and college sports teams.

Job Growth
Employment of athletic trainers is projected to grow 37 percent from 2008 to 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations, because of their role in preventing injuries and reducing healthcare costs. Job growth will be concentrated in the healthcare industry, including hospitals and offices of health practitioners. Fitness and recreation sports centers also will provide new jobs, as these establishments grow and continue to need additional athletic trainers to provide support for their clients. Growth in positions with sports teams will be somewhat slower, however, as most professional sports clubs and colleges and universities already have complete athletic training staffs.

The demand for healthcare, with an emphasis on preventive care, should grow as the population ages and as a way to reduce healthcare costs. Increased licensure requirements and regulation has led to a greater acceptance of athletic trainers as qualified healthcare providers. As a result, third-party reimbursement is expected to continue to grow for athletic training services. Athletic trainers will benefit from this expansion because they provide a cost-effective way to increase the number of health professionals in an office or other setting.

In some States, there are efforts underway to have an athletic trainer in every high school to work with student-athletes, which may lead to growth in the number of athletic trainers employed in high schools. In addition, as more young athletes specialize in certain sports, there is increasing demand for athletic trainers to deal with repetitive stress injuries.

As athletic trainers continue to expand their services, more employers are expected to use these workers to reduce healthcare costs by preventing work-related injuries. Athletic trainers can help prevent injuries and provide immediate treatment for many injuries that do occur. For example, some athletic trainers may be hired to increase the fitness and performance of police and firefighters.

Job prospects should be good for athletic trainers in the healthcare industry and in high schools. Those looking for a position with a professional or college sports team may face competition.

Because of relatively low turnover, the settings with the best job prospects will be the ones that are expected to have the most job growth, primarily positions in the healthcare and fitness and recreational sports centers industries. Additional job opportunities may arise in elementary and secondary schools as more positions are created. Some of these positions also will require teaching responsibilities.

There are relatively few positions for professional and collegiate sports teams in comparison to the number of applicants. Turnover among professional sports team athletic trainers is also limited. Many athletic trainers prefer to continue to work with the same coaches, administrators, and players when a good working relationship already exists.

There also are opportunities for athletic trainers to join the military, although they would not be classified as an athletic trainer. Enlisted soldiers and officers who are athletic trainers are usually placed in another program, such as health educator or training specialist, in which their skills are useful.

This occupation is expected to continue to change over the next decade, including more administrative responsibilities, adapting to new technology, and working with larger populations, and jobseekers must be prepared to adapt to these changes.

Most athletic trainers work in full-time positions, and typically receive benefits. The salary of an athletic trainer depends on experience and job responsibilities, and varies by job setting. Median annual wages for athletic trainers were $39,640 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $32,070 and $49,250. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $23,450, while the top 10 percent earned more than $60,960.

Many employers pay for some of the continuing education required for athletic trainers to remain certified, although the amount covered varies from employer to employer.

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