On and Off the Court: Where Do Athletic Trainers Work?

April 27, 2021

There’s more to athletic training than just working on a sports field. Assisting athletes might be the backbone of the profession, but there’s no limit to the settings where an athletic trainer can apply their expertise.

Athletic Trainers are individuals who’ve worked to become qualified and multi-skilled health care professionals. Athletic trainers, or ATs, work to prevent injury, maintain wellness, provide clinical evaluation, while also offering emergency care, rehabilitation, and more.

So where do athletic trainers work? Here are some of the top locations that utilize athletic trainers—and a few that you might not expect.

What Does an Athletic Trainer Do?

For student populations interesting in becoming athletic trainers, their prospects are looking good. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the athletic training industry is projected to grow 19% between 2018 and 2028.

With the growing awareness of the effects of sports-related injuries, particularly brain injuries, more people are recognizing the importance of athletic trainers. The demand is higher than ever, and it’s not going down any time soon.

Athletic trainers specialize in managing and preventing illness and injury in athletic settings. In many cases, they are the first health care professionals on the scene after an injury. They also collaborate with other medical professionals to develop treatment and rehabilitation plans.

Whether it has to do with practice, training, or competition, athletic trainers are the vital link between athletes, coaches, and physicians in caring for and preventing injury on the sports field.

Where Do Athletic Trainers Work?

Out of all the settings where athletic trainers are employed, the top three include colleges or universities (19%), secondary schools (18%), and clinics or hospital settings (18%). While most athletic trainers might be employed in these locations, there are more professional applications out there.

So where might you find an athletic trainer? Here’s a breakdown of some of the places athletic trainers find work—and the expectations that come along with these jobs.

Colleges and Universities

At colleges, universities, and other places of higher education, athletic trainers are in charge of both collegiate sports teams and physical education classes.

Athletic trainers oversee practice sessions and competitions for a wide range of sports teams on campus. They also manage any injuries—short or long term—for individual athletes. In addition, they may be in charge of teaching physical education or athletic training education classes.

Secondary Schools

While secondary school sports teams might not play on the same level as collegiate teams, athletic trainers at high schools take their jobs just as seriously. They’re in charge of preventing and treating athletic injuries during a time when many students are at a crucial moment in their physical and mental development.

They also may teach physical education classes at the high school during the day. In some cases, they will also oversee team managers by passing out water, athletic tape, and more.

Clinics and Hospitals

Whether in a sports clinic or traditional hospital, athletic trainers work hands-on with patients. They provide evaluation, diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation both for emergency cases and long-term injuries.

In many cases, they collaborate with other medical professionals, while still maintaining a focus on athletic or sports injuries.

Professional Sports Teams

Just like with college and high school sports, a professional sports team athletic trainer will be working hands-on with the players. But at this level of competition, the job can be even more demanding. This is because professional sports teams can function a lot like businesses—they put a lot of money into recruiting, training, and paying their players.

This position involves handling injury treatment and rehabilitation, as well as working to get these players back on the field as soon as possible. You can work year-round with professional teams in football, baseball, basketball, hockey, and more.

Performing Arts

While you might think of football and basketball when you think of athletics, some performing arts are just as rigorous and demanding. For example, ballet dancers are finely tuned athletes. They have to stretch, jump, run, lift, and push their bodies to the limit.

While rehearsing and performing a show, dancers will be dealing with broken bones, sprained ankles, swollen feet, inflamed shoulders, and chronic pain.

It’s vital to keep performers healthy. Often times athletic trainers are hired to help handle injuries as well as helping guide them on how to stay in top shape. These athletic trainers help make sure the show goes on.

The Military

Men and women in all of the armed forces—whether they’re going through boot camp or are on the front lines—are putting their bodies on the line.

This means that members of the army, air force, Marines, and more can require rehabilitation or special attention to get back to their peak condition. Athletic trainers work with the military to develop treatment plans for injured servicemen and women—whether the injury is a concussion, a broken arm, a severe wound, or injuries from the strain of day-to-day life on the job.

It’s the job of the athletic trainer to ensure that a simple nagging pain doesn’t turn into a severe injury down the line. Their presence during boot camp and training can help prevent injuries and instill proper stretching and exercising techniques. They also ensure that seriously wounded members of the military can get their full functionality back as soon as possible.

The Bottom Line

Whether working at the local high school, the ballet stage, or the front lines in the military, becoming an athletic trainer means taking on a role as the support system for athletes across the country.

There’s never been a better time for students to get into the field of athletic training —the demand is higher than ever before and shows strong signs of continued growth. For career advice on athletic training, you can refer students to NATA’s website; NATA provides detailed information about the field and even resources to help their members find a job.

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