Certified Athletic Trainers

Certified athletic trainers are unique health care providers who specialize in the prevention, assessment, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries and illnesses.

As part of a complete health care team, the athletic trainer works under the direction of a licensed physician, and in cooperation with other health care professionals.

Practice settings

Certified athletic trainers can be found almost anywhere people are physically active. Whether it be on the playing field or in an industrial work setting, they are in place to help active people prevent injuries and stay healthy. Here are some of the places you will find them:

  • Secondary Schools: Working closely with athletes for multiple team sports, as well as cheerleading and other spirit groups. Many also teach classes at the high school level.
  • Colleges and universities: Working as part of the university's athletic department, campus recreation department or health center. Athletic trainers as classroom and/or clinical instructors prepare students for careers in athletic training.
  • Professional sports: Athletic trainers who work with professional teams specialize in only one sport (e.g., football, NASCAR, baseball, basketball, hockey or soccer).
  • Sports medicine clinics and hospitals: Working with various health care professionals and a diverse population. Many clinics and hospitals also outsource athletic training services to secondary schools, colleges and universities, and professional teams.
  • Physicians' offices: Many certified athletic trainers work in private physician practices, including orthopaedics, family practice, pediatrics and physiatry. Physicians in private practice hire athletic trainers because of their skills in triage, exercise routine, rehabilitation, patient education and sometimes office administration and research.
  • Military branches: Certified athletic trainers can be found in every branch of the U.S. military. They serve as part of the health care team for: injured and non-injured services people, on-and-off-base fitness and wellness centers, new-recruit readiness programs and pre-enlistment readiness programs. ATCs' expertise has proven extremely valuable in helping to accelerate the return to duty of injured service people.
  • Occupational workplaces: Providing value and a return on investment in industrial and commercial settings, which use both outreach clinics and full-time athletic trainer employees to deliver services. Their assistance can result in lower liability, workers' compensation and general health care insurance costs for the employer.
  • Performing arts: Working with performing artists to ensure their flexibility, condition, injury prevention and rehabilitation. Examples include Radio City Rockettes, Blue Man Group and Cirque du Soleil.
  • Youth sports and recreation: Working with youth and adults in organized sports leagues and recreational facilities. In this role, they educate coaches, participants and parents in sports safety and injury care.

Education requirements

Certified athletic trainers must have, at a minimum, a bachelor's degree, usually in athletic training. They also participate in extensive clinical affiliations with physicians offices, hospitals, rehabilitation clinics and athletic teams under appropriate supervision.

Accredited undergraduate and graduate education programs include formal instruction in a variety of areas, including: injury/illness prevention; first aid and emergency care; assessment of injury/illness; human anatomy and physiology; therapeutic modalities; and nutrition. More than 70 percent of certified athletic trainers hold an advanced degree.


BOC Certified Athletic Trainers have fulfilled the entry-level requirements for certification established by the Board of Certification (www.bocatc.org). The certification examination is a computerized exam containing a combination of 175 scored and unscored (experimental) items including: stand-alone multiple-choice questions, stand-alone alternative items (drag and drop, text based simulation, multi-select, hot spot, etc.), and focused testlets. A 5-item focused testlet consists of a scenario followed by 5 key/critical questions related to that scenario. Each focused testlet may include multiple-choice questions and/or any of the previously described alternative item types. Candidates have 4-hours to complete the exam. In addition to the exam, Athletic Trainers must maintain continuing education, and meet individual state regulatory or licensure requirements in most states. To determine if these added requirements apply, they must check their state regulatory agency.

National Athletic Trainers' Association

The National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA) , headquartered in Dallas, Texas, was founded in 1950. Today, the NATA membership spans the globe and includes over 30,000 members.

The mission of the National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA) is to enhance the quality of health care provided by certified athletic trainers and to advance the athletic training profession.

For more information, contact: National Athletic Trainers' Association www.nata.org 2952 Stemmons Freeway Dallas, Texas 75247 USA 214-637-6282 voice 214-637-2206 fax

Last updated: September 2007

© Copyright, 2006. National Athletic Trainers' Association.