Is becoming an athletic trainer right for me?
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How to become an Athletic Trainer
Becoming an athletic trainer involves a combination of education, clinical experience, and certification. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to become an athletic trainer:
- Educational Preparation: Obtain a Bachelor's Degree in Athletic Training from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE). These programs typically include coursework in anatomy, physiology, injury assessment, rehabilitation techniques, and emergency care.
- Clinical Experience: Complete a clinical internship or practicum as part of your bachelor's degree program. This hands-on experience provides you with the opportunity to apply your knowledge in real-world settings under the supervision of experienced athletic trainers.
- Certification Requirements: Athletic trainers are required to be certified by the Board of Certification (BOC) for Athletic Trainers. To become eligible for certification, you must graduate from a CAATE-accredited program and pass the BOC certification exam.
- BOC Certification Exam: Register for and successfully pass the BOC certification exam. This comprehensive exam assesses your knowledge and practical skills related to athletic training. Passing the exam demonstrates your competence in the field.
- State Licensure: Some states require athletic trainers to obtain a state license in addition to BOC certification. Research the specific licensure requirements in your state and fulfill them as necessary.
- Continuing Education: Maintain your BOC certification by fulfilling continuing education requirements. This involves participating in workshops, seminars, and courses to stay updated with advancements in the field.
- Employment and Specialization: Once certified, you can seek employment opportunities in educational institutions, healthcare facilities, sports teams, fitness centers, and more. Some athletic trainers specialize in areas like orthopedics, pediatrics, or cardiac rehabilitation.
- Graduate Studies (Optional): While a bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement for entry-level positions, pursuing a Master's Degree in Athletic Training or a related field can enhance your knowledge, skills, and career prospects. Some positions, particularly in higher education or advanced clinical settings, may require a master's degree.
- Professional Organizations: Consider joining professional organizations such as the National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA) to access networking opportunities, resources, and professional development.
- State Regulations: Be aware of any specific state regulations and requirements for practicing as an athletic trainer. Some states have additional requirements beyond BOC certification and licensure.
The primary certification for athletic trainers is provided by the Board of Certification (BOC) for Athletic Trainers. This certification is widely recognized and is a key requirement for practicing as a professional athletic trainer. Here are the details about the certification and some additional certifications that may be relevant for specialized areas within athletic training:
- Board of Certification (BOC) Certification: The BOC certification is the standard certification for athletic trainers in the US. To become eligible for the BOC certification, candidates must graduate from a Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE)-accredited program and pass the BOC certification exam. The exam assesses knowledge and skills related to injury prevention, clinical evaluation, immediate care, treatment, rehabilitation, and professional responsibilities. Maintaining BOC certification requires fulfilling continuing education requirements to stay up-to-date with developments in the field.
- Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS): Offered by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), the CSCS certification is relevant for athletic trainers who focus on strength and conditioning programs. This certification demonstrates expertise in designing and implementing strength training and conditioning programs for athletes.
- Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES): Offered by the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), the CES certification focuses on identifying and addressing movement dysfunctions and imbalances. This certification is valuable for athletic trainers who work on corrective exercises to enhance performance and prevent injuries.
- Performance Enhancement Specialist (PES): Also offered by NASM, the PES certification is suitable for athletic trainers who specialize in optimizing athletic performance through specialized training programs.
- Emergency Medical Technician (EMT): While not specific to athletic trainers, having EMT certification can be beneficial, especially if you work in sports with a higher risk of injuries or in environments where immediate medical response is essential.
- Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) Certification: Relevant for athletic trainers who work in environments where advanced cardiac life support skills are required, such as collegiate or professional sports teams.
- Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) Certification: This certification is beneficial for athletic trainers working with young athletes, particularly in educational settings or pediatric sports medicine clinics. Certifications in Specialized Modalities:
Depending on your specialization, you might pursue certifications in areas like manual therapy, instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization, or functional movement systems.