Athletic trainers provide medical services to all types of patients, not just athletes participating in sports, and can work in a variety of job settings. Athletic trainers relieve widespread and future workforce shortages in primary care support and outpatient rehab professions and provide an unparalleled continuum of care for the patients.
Athletic trainers improve functional outcomes and specialize in patient education to prevent injury and re-injury. Preventative care provided by an athletic trainer has a positive return on investment for employers. ATs are able to reduce injury and shorten rehabilitation time for their patients, which translates to lower absenteeism from work or school and reduced health care costs.
Athletic training encompasses the prevention, examination, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of emergent, acute or chronic injuries and medical conditions. Athletic training is recognized by the American Medical Association (AMA), Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as an allied health care profession.
Athletic trainers (ATs) are highly qualified, multi-skilled health care professionals who collaborate with physicians to provide preventative services, emergency care, clinical diagnosis, therapeutic intervention and rehabilitation of injuries and medical conditions. Athletic trainers work under the direction of a physician as prescribed by state licensure statutes. The NATA Code of Ethics states the principles of ethical behavior that should be followed in the practice of athletic training.
Athletic trainers are sometimes confused with personal trainers. There is, however, a large difference in the education, skillset, job duties and patients of an athletic trainer and a personal trainer. The athletic training academic curriculum and clinical training follows the medical model. Athletic trainers must graduate from an accredited baccalaureate or master’s program, and 70% of ATs have a master’s degree. Learn more about the education of athletic trainers.
The Guide to Athletic Training Services (pdf) describes the qualifications of athletic trainers and the clinical tasks they routinely perform in the delivery of quality health care.
If you are a current high school student and interested in athletic training, you can learn more about the profession by reading the Becoming an AT (pdf), Profile of Athletic Trainers (pdf) and Who is Taking Care of Your Athletes? (pdf) infographics.
- Athletic trainers are licensed or otherwise regulated in 49 states and the District of Columbia. Efforts continue to add licensure in California.
- NATA has ongoing efforts to update obsolete state practice acts that do not reflect current qualifications and practice of ATs under health care reform.
- 48 states and the District of Columbia require ATs to hold the Board of Certification credential of “Athletic Trainer Certified” (ATC). Learn more about the certification of athletic trainers.
- Athletic trainers are qualified to apply for a National Provider Identifier (NPI) as mid-level health care professionals. The taxonomy code for athletic trainers is 2255A2300X.
Athletic training is an academic major or graduate equivalent major program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE). The current minimum entry point into the profession of athletic training is the baccalaureate level, however it was recently decided by the AT Strategic Alliance that the minimum professional degree level will be a master's, a change to be implemented within the next several years. More than 70 percent of athletic trainers hold at least a master’s degree. Upon completion of a CAATE-accredited athletic training education program, students become eligible for national certification by successfully completing the Board of Certification, Inc. (BOC)examination.
Professional training education uses a competency-based approach in both the classroom and clinical settings. Using a medical-based education model, athletic training students are educated to provide comprehensive patient care in five domains of clinical practice: prevention; clinical evaluation and diagnosis; immediate and emergency care; treatment and rehabilitation; and organization and professional health and well-being. The educational requirements for CAATE-accredited athletic training education programs include acquisition of knowledge, skills and clinical abilities along with a broad scope of foundational behaviors of professional practice. Students complete an extensive clinical learning requirement that is embodied in the clinical integration proficiencies (professional, practice oriented outcomes) as identified in the Athletic Training Education Competencies (PDF).
Students must receive formal instruction in the following specific subject matter areas identified in the Competencies:
- Evidence-based practice
- Prevention and health promotion
- Clinical examination and diagnosis
- Acute care of injury and illness
- Therapeutic interventions
- Psychosocial strategies and referral
- Health care administration
- Professional development and responsibility
Continuing education requirements are intended to promote continued competence, development of current knowledge and skills and enhancement of professional skills and judgement. These activities must focus on increasing knowledge, skills and abilities related to the practice of athletic training.
As information continually changes, it is important for professionals to learn the latest about athletic training. Continuing education requirements are meant to ensure ATs continue to:
- Stay on the cutting edge in the field of athletic training.
- Obtain current professional development information.
- Explore new knowledge in specific content areas.
- Master new athletic training-related skills and techniques.
- Expand approaches to effective athletic training.
- Further develop professional judgment.
- Conduct professional practice in an ethical and appropriate manner.
NATA provides athletic trainers with a range of continuing education opportunities through workshops, webinars, home study courses and the Clinical Symposia & AT Expo.