Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences
Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences

The Athletic Training Profession

Certified athletic trainers (ATCs) are unique health care providers who specialize in the prevention, assessment, treatment, diagnosis and rehabilitation of injuries and illnesses that occur to athletes and the physically active. As part of a complete health care team, the ATC works under the direction 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 is on the playing field or in an industrial work setting, ATCs are in place to help active people prevent injuries and stay healthy. Here are some of the places you will find them:

Secondary schools

Public and private secondary schools offer abundant job opportunities for ATCs. Parents and administrators are discovering the benefits an ATC can offer in preventing and caring for injuries. Many ATCs teach classes at the high school level.

Colleges and universities

Certified athletic training jobs in colleges and universities generally fall into two categories: athletic department staff assignment and combination teacher/athletic trainer.

Professional sports

Although teams operate only a few months per year, ATCs work year-round conditioning and rehabilitating athletes. Fewer jobs are available in this practice setting due to the limited number of teams.

Sports medicine clinics

This growing setting provides ATCs the opportunity to work with a number of different health care professionals and a diverse patient population. In addition to athletic injury rehabilitation, many clinics provide athletic training services for secondary schools via outreach programs.


The U.S. military is increasing its use of athletic trainers. ATCs can be found as part of the health care team for active-duty injured service people, on- and off-base fitness and wellness centers, new-recruit readiness programs and pre-enlistment readiness programs, in addition to established military school sports teams.

Industrial and commercial

These settings use both outreach clinics and full-time ATC employees to deliver services. Athletic trainers are a key component to the heath care team, and work with physicians and other allied health personnel. As well, ATCs are first-responder medical personnel who are experts in injury assessment and treatment, particularly in the orthopaedic and musculoskeletal disciples.

Education Requirements

ATCs must have at a minimum a bachelor's degree, usually in athletic training. More than 70 percent of certified athletic trainers hold an advanced degree such as a master's degree. ATCs also participate in extensive clinical affiliations with physicians’ offices, hospitals, rehabilitation clinics and athletic teams under appropriate supervision.

Accredited undergraduate 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.


Certified athletic trainers have fulfilled the entry-level requirements for certification established by the Board of Certification. The certification examination consists of:

  • a written part with multiple choice questions
  • a practical section that evaluates the skill components of the domains within athletic training
  • a written simulation test, consisting of athletic training related situations designed to approximate real-life decision making

In addition to the exam, ATCs must maintain continuing education, and meet individual state regulatory or licensure requirements in most states. To determine if these added requirements apply, ATCs must check their state practice act.

National Athletic Trainers' Association

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

The mission of the National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA) is to enhance the quality of health care for athletes and those engaged in physical activity and to advance the profession of athletic training through education and research in prevention, evaluation, management and rehabilitation of injuries.

For more information, contact: National Athletic Trainers' Association.

© Copyright, 2004. National Athletic Trainers' Association.

OSU-CHS on Facebook OSU-CHS on Twitter OSU-CHS on Foursquare OSU Medicine on YouTube Google+