Since the first woman joined the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) in the early 1970s, the field has seen significant growth. Here at the University of Idaho, we’ve mentored many women into their development as athletic trainers and have answered many questions specific to females entering the profession. For example, what is the current outlook for women in the profession? Is there an income gap for female athletic trainers? What is the scope of female athletic trainers in professional sports? Are any famous athletic trainers female? Let’s take a look.
What is an athletic trainer?
An athletic trainer is a healthcare professional who renders services such as primary care, injury and illness prevention, wellness promotion and education, emergent care, examination and clinical diagnosis, therapeutic intervention and rehabilitation of injuries and medical conditions. They work with active individuals in a variety of settings, including athletic teams, secondary schools, industrial settings, as well as hospitals and clinics.
How to become an athletic trainer
To become a certified athletic trainer, a student must graduate from a CAATE accredited professional athletic training program, as well as pass the BOC (Board of Certification) exam. As of this year, students must attend a professional-level master’s in athletic training program to qualify to take the BOC exam. After successfully completing the degree and exam, one is considered a certified athletic trainer and may practice athletic training nationwide and is eligible for licensure, certification, or registration in 49 of 50 states.
At the undergraduate level, students prepare for the master’s in athletic training by taking specific prerequisite coursework.
The University of Idaho master’s program requires:
- Human Anatomy (4 credits)
- Human Physiology (4 credits)
- Biology (1 credit minimum)
- Chemistry (1 credit minimum)
- Physics (1 credit minimum)
- Psychology (1 credit minimum)
- Current First Aid and CPR (AHA or ARC)
Famous female athletic trainers
Women have been slow to enter the athletic training field, with the first female members of the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) joining in the early 1970s. As a female athletic trainer, Gail Weldon achieved many “firsts”, creating a path in athletic training that more women are following. Gail was one of the first women to join NATA, and one of the first to earn certification. She was also the first female athletic trainer to be hired by the US Olympic Committee, and more recently, the first woman inducted into the NATA Hall of Fame. Another trailblazer was Sue Falsone, who in 2012 became the first female head athletic trainer in major American professional sport leagues, as the head athletic trainer for the LA Dodgers.
What are challenges for women in athletic training?
Until recently, athletic training was a male-dominated field. As with many fields, women can encounter outdated views. Some may be hesitant of women working with male athletes, fearing that they will be a “distraction”. Some may also hold biases about women being less knowledgeable or competent than their male counterparts. However, this mentality is shifting, and does not represent the overall sentiment of the profession.
What about female athletic trainers in professional sports?
Female athletic trainers are under-represented in male professional sports. For instance, in 2020 the NFL had only eight full-time female athletic trainers across all teams. However, the demographic is shifting. About 54% of NATA members are female. Many female athletic trainers work in secondary schools or collegiate athletics. This means many young male athletes have the opportunity to be cared for by a female athletic trainer during their athletic career, and the stigma is reducing.
Is there an income gap for women in athletic training?
There is a salary gap in athletic training that mirrors the gap seen in other professions. According to a 2018 NATA salary survey, females earn about $8,700 less annually than their male counterparts. Unfortunately, sources suggest that the income gap has continued to widen since then. This 2018 income gap can be partially explained by some demographic data. 69% of female athletic trainers are young professionals, compared to 46% of males. 33% of female athletic trainers have been in the profession for less than five years, compared to 22% of males. And lastly, 25% of female athletic trainers have supervisor duties, compared to 41% of males. (If you’d like to see more of these statistics, please visit the BOC Newsroom here). However, although this data can explain part of the income gap, it raises some intriguing questions on its own. Why are most women in athletic training young professionals? Do they leave the profession after a few years in greater numbers than men? Why do they have fewer supervisory roles? More data is needed to see a complete picture of women in athletic training.
What is the outlook for female athletic trainers?
Despite some of the challenges, this is an exciting time to be a woman in athletic training. As stigmas continue to disappear, woman are placing themselves in more and more diverse settings. Here at the University of Idaho, we are committed to fostering women in athletic training. Women are well-represented in our faculty, as well as in our student body. Although change comes slowly, we are doing our part to build momentum towards a fully equal athletic training profession.