How to Become an Athletic Trainer

Athletic trainers' help athletes prevent and treat injuries. The minimum education requirement to become an athletic trainer is a four year undergraduate degree. An athletic trainer usually completes an undergraduate degree in athletic training, kinesiology or physical therapy.


According to College Navigator, there are over three hundred and fifty schools in the US that offer this program, and three hundred and seventeen of these programs are four year programs. For certification and licensing purposes, the program that the potential athletic trainer selects should be an accredited program, and accredited programs in this field are listed on the database for Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE). Though the minimum requirement for athletic trainers is a four year undergraduate degree, many athletic trainers, especially in prestigious posts, will have graduate degrees in this field.


Forty-seven states required athletic trainers to have a license and the first step is to attain certification from the Board of Certification. Athletic trainers will pay an annual certification fee, either to the Board of Certification, or by paying their National Athletic Trainer's Association (NATA) fees. To be eligible, the athletic trainer must graduate from a program recognized by NATA, complete and pass an examination and be certified in emergency cardiac care. There is a list of providers for the ECC course on the Board of Certification website.

Tips and Advice

If you are currently in high school, take classes in biology, physics and physical education, as well as complete the prerequisites for entrance into the college program of your choice. Biology is the preparation for the courses in anatomy and physiology that you will complete in college. Physics is the study of forces applied to objects, a significant component of any sport, and there are many books and projects that you can explore that study the physics of the human body and different sports while in high school and in college. Physical education will introduce you to many different types of sports and the principles of physical fitness.

While in school, you should join a team sport, such as football or field hockey, or an individual sport, such as swimming or long distance running. Many high schools and colleges will offer a wide range of organized team sports or clubs that you can join. Many clubs will not require a try out, just an interest and love of the sport. There are also plenty of volunteer, and some paid, positions with clubs and teams, which will put you close to coaches and athletes, the main clients of athletic trainers.


Athletic trainers can work for professional and amateur sports teams, such as for a professional football team or for the Olympic swim team. Sports teams are the high status positions, though there are many other fulfilling positions working for college and high school athletes, especially if the trainer would like to assist in the growth and development to excellence in the sport over time. There are opportunities to work independently or with a team of athletic trainers, in sports medicine clinics and in physical therapy clinics.