Kyle North ATC, LAT
As a recent graduate of a master’s in athletic training program, you may be wondering “what can you do with an athletic training degree?” As healthcare providers, athletic trainers are in a unique situation regarding their flexibility and where they can work. When we think of athletic trainers, the first thing that comes to mind is working with a professional sports team. But athletic trainers have career options for settings including high schools, colleges, hospitals, factories, office buildings, theme parks, the military and more. As a new graduate, it can all seem overwhelming at times, but that flexibility in where we can go is also exciting as it allows athletic training graduates to really find a field that they’re passionate about while also allowing them to help people. The following are just a few of the many athletic training jobs available to graduating MSAT students.
In a high school setting, there is an ever-increasing number of athletic trainer jobs available. The value of the presence of athletic trainers in high schools cannot be overstated. Here athletic trainers are not only responsible for rehabilitating injuries to return their patients to activity, but their ability to create injury prevention programs is invaluable. With such a diverse skill set, athletic trainers in a high school setting can ensure that everyone is receiving high quality, evidence-based healthcare. Athletic trainers are extremely valuable to high school students who don’t have regular access to their own private healthcare professionals. Having an athletic trainer in a high school setting ensures that there is someone there who can recognize serious health conditions and refer the patient to the proper healthcare professionals. In a rural high school setting especially, athletic trainers are also the first responders in cases of medical emergencies, having to perform emergency services anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours before EMS can arrive.
Athletic trainers are just as important in college settings as they are in high schools. College environments for athletic trainers are incredibly diverse, with healthcare teams ranging from one or two athletic trainers, to full medical staff with physicians, athletic trainers, dieticians, more. While completing my master’s in athletic training, I had the opportunity to work in two completely different college settings. In one setting, the athletic trainers covered several different sports in the same season and had less equipment at their disposal. This college was in a more rural environment and didn’t have access to as many healthcare resources as a big city. The second setting was in a major metropolitan area with a medical center attached to the athletics complex and physicians and other medical staff always present. The athletic trainers here covered one sport during each season and there were many more athletic trainers on staff. There are a wide variety of jobs for athletic trainers in collegiate settings. These settings also require athletic trainers to be flexible and adaptable daily.
A far more well-known area of jobs for athletic trainers is in professional sports. Professional sports are probably one of the top two settings that the average person might expect to find an athletic trainer. Careers in professional sports are more demanding and intense than at the high school or collegiate level, however, that doesn’t mean that they are more valuable or complicated. Additionally, professional sports can offer international athletic training jobs. With professional athletes, ATs are still treating individuals for the same injuries as in college or high school, but there are likely more resources at their disposal. As an athletic trainer, you still work with your patients on prevention of injuries and rehab, but the time commitments and requirements are different depending on the location and the sport.
The last position where there is an increasing number of jobs for athletic trainers is in medical facilities. As athletic training shifts more toward a medical model, we are seeing athletic trainers more often find themselves in hospitals or physician’s offices. Athletic trainers are orthopedic specialists who have much more training and experience evaluating and diagnosing orthopedic injuries than a general practitioner. Physicians are not able to spend as much time with a patient obtaining a history or performing a physical evaluation, which is an area that ATs excel. Athletic trainers often spend much of their time building rapport, communicating, and evaluating patients for a wide variety of orthopedic conditions, which can aid a physician in numerous ways. Physicians also gain the benefit of having another professional involved who treats patients holistically and can help provide necessary, individualized care.
Athletic training is such a diverse and adaptable profession that it can and should fit into every type of organization. Every business can benefit from having an athletic trainer on staff; from helping to prevent overuse injuries and improving ergonomics, to treating and rehabilitating injuries in the highest level of sports performance.