How to become an athletic trainer, explained.

Step #1 – Decide If Athletic Training Is Right For You

Does this step seem too obvious? Education for athletic trainers is a strenuous one, and it’s a big commitment. There’s no harm in starting your educational journey and moving over to something else if it isn’t right for you, of course. But changing majors can represent a large amount of time and cost spent in the process. You don’t want to waste time pursing a career that turns out to be the wrong fit. Athletic training jobs are growing at the moment, so there is good career demand. It’s also a highly rewarding career if you’re the right person for it, and presents challenges to keep you active and engaged. There’s a wealth of potential settings open to you, including in schools, professional teams and industrial settings. However, it is also a highly specialized educational process, and the role requires long hours more often than not. Make sure that the job feels like the right fit before you commit to it as a path.

Step #2 – Satisfy Educational Requirements

If you feel that the work for athletic trainers is something you would enjoy, then it’s time to get busy planning. If you think the job may be of interest to you, then it’s never too early to start!

High School

Make sure to keep a biology focus as you go through your later academic career, and focus on your GPA requirements for any post-secondary education institutions that you have in mind. English and speech-focused classes are also useful, as you will spend a lot of time talking and communicating. It’s always good to add a team-focused athletic activity to the roster, too, to get used to athletes and athletic norms.

Post-Secondary Education

Currently, you will begin your journey with a Bachelor’s degree and be offered a choice to continue to a Master’s. However, this is in the formal process of changing within the next year, and a streamlined Master’s track will be essential for anyone looking for jobs for athletic trainers. Be aware that this is a full 7 year program you are committing to before you can work. Make sure you have realistic plans in place for this. Start looking for colleges and universities who offer an accredited athletic training program, and consider applying early; make sure to match their entrance requirements. Keeping up a sports activity is a great idea, even if you’re busy with school, as it will look good on job applications in the future and you can start networking for useful contacts.

Step #3 – Satisfy Accreditation Requirements

Once you’ve graduate with your academic requirements, you will still need to obtain your athletic trainer certification, and sate licensure. For every state except California, state licensure is required, and obtained through applying to the specific NATA-district. You will first need to complete and pass your Board of Certification exams, again, in every state except California. Emergency care, treatment and diagnosis, clinical evaluation, and rehabilitation are all key parts of the exam. 

Step #4 – Apply for Internships and Residency

As requirements transfer to a streamlined Master’s program, graduate assistant positions will fall away. This used to provide a great way to gain experience and expand your skill set before the deep end of a brand new job. In today’s landscape, you can now apply for a residency or fellowship in place of former graduate assistant positions which served as an internship while continuing one’s education. Residencies and fellowships are often low-payed, high-demand positions; however they’re also important to get the experience you need. Educate yourself on the right position, and ask plenty of questions before accepting any residency or fellowship. The right per-diem position can also help you get some experience, and may be more open to a young, inexperienced athletic trainer. Per diem is a great way to make sure that everything is building towards the job skill set you need for your final working positions.

Step #5 – Build Experience

Want to know how to get hired as an athletic trainer? Some programs will take a raw recruit, but getting experience will give you an edge employers will notice. Summer internships bring hands-on experience that’s invaluable to you. A ton of per diem work is a great way to bolster your resume. You can also put things in place like a good Linkedin resume, and, as we mentioned, start networking with relevant industry professionals. Think youth sports organizations, companies, and professional teams. Try to skew these towards the setting you want to work in. Occupational health in an industrial setting is different from direct athlete programs in sports teams. The same goes for working with physical therapists, college, high school, and professional sports, and so on.

Step #6 – Use your Alumni Network

Now that you have your certifications, experience, and a sense of where you want to work, it is time to become an actively working athletic trainer! The best way to find the right position is to lean on the alumni base from your undergrad or master’s program. You’ve already put some good time into networking, and they know you more than a cold hire will, so you have some trust and rapport built in.

Try Go4 Today

Are you looking for per diem positions to help you get to work as an athletic trainer? The Go4 platforms makes finding per diem work easy–apply, work, and get paid via direct deposit. No more chasing down event operators for a paper check after the fact. You can sign up below and start browsing open positions today. Your career will thank you.

GET HIRED NOW! Go4 is a nationwide app/platform that connects teams and organizations with per diem Athletic Trainers for games, practices, camps, clinics, and tournaments.

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