The title “athletic trainer” may make it sound as if the person in this profession is coaching the athlete along at the start of the sporting event, but most trainers come into play after the athlete has finished. Trainers respond to their charges’ injuries, helping athletes become stronger and recover. Trainers may also be involved in planning athletes’ diets, especially before a big event such as a marathon or game.
Helping their patients score goals, home runs, touchdowns, hat tricks and break records across the country, professional athletic trainers averaged an annual salary of $44,020 in 2009, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. Professional trainers looking to earn at a higher rate should seek out one of the BLS’ top-rated industries for the field. Paying the highest was the spectator sports industry, with an annual mean wage of $54,710. Also paying at a higher annual average salary were elementary and secondary schools at $52,090 and local government at $51,390.
The best places to earn a salary as a professional athletic trainer were located primarily on the East Coast. Averaging a salary of almost double the national median was the District of Columbia at $72,910, $10,000 higher than the next top-paying state, Connecticut, at $62,590. The mid-country holdout, Utah, scored as the third highest-paying state for athletic trainers at $58,290. Back on the East Coast, New Jersey at $52,000 and Rhode Island at $50,510 also paid higher-than-average wages.
A love of sports and knowledge of proper health and nutrition are helpful to persons interested in earning a salary as professional athletic trainers, but the minimum entry to the field is usually a bachelor’s degree, though master’s and doctoral programs are also available. The Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education accredits approximately 350 college programs across the country. In most states, athletic trainers must also be certified or licensed by the Board of Certification, which requires an examination.
Prospective athletic trainers looking to “get into the game” will find a positive outlook for their field. The U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a rise in employment of athletic trainers through 2018, adding 6,000 jobs and 37 percent growth to the profession. The BLS recommends candidates seek employment in high schools, the healthcare industry and recreational sports for the best opportunity to score a salary.