Athletic Trainer

Overview of the Profession

Athletic Trainers (ATs) are highly qualified, multi-skilled health care professionals who collaborate with physicians to provide preventative services, emergency care, clinical diagnosis, therapeutic intervention and rehabilitation of injuries and medical conditions. Athletic trainers work under the direction of a physician as prescribed by state licensure statutes. This care is provided in a variety of environments, including secondary schools, colleges & universities, clinics, hospitals, fitness centers, professional sports, industrial & occupational settings. Athletic trainers are sometimes confused with personal trainers. There is, however, a large difference in the education, skill set, job duties and patients of an athletic trainer and a personal trainer. The athletic training academic curriculum and clinical training follow the medical model. In order to become an AT, one must graduate from an accredited master’s program. (Baccalaureate program will not be an option after 2020) After graduation, it is necessary to take the national comprehensive examination administered by the Board of Certification (BOC). In most states, individuals must also be licensed within the state(s) they wish to practice, As of 2016, the average annual income reported by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Salary Survey was $54,832. Job growth in this field is expected to be much faster than average. More information about the AT profession can be found at

Undergraduate Preparation

Athletic Trainers must complete a series of prerequisite courses to be considered for professional programs. Appendix A of the Pre-Health manual lists the general requirements for entrance into AT programs, but students interested in individual schools should check these programs’ websites for specific entrance requirements. Generally, an introductory biology course, chemistry course, exercise physiology, and eight hours of human anatomy and physiology are required along with Biomechanics or Kinesiology, and nutrition are required.  Some other common prerequisites are general physics, statistics, and introductory psychology. A medical terminology course is recommended, if not required.  On average, schools require an overall GPA of 3.0 and a grade of “C” or better in prerequisite courses, and place the most importance when reviewing applications on students’ grades in prerequisite courses.

In addition to these prerequisite class requirements, most professional schools request that applicants complete anywhere from a minimum of 50 hours of practical experience under the direct supervision of a certified and licensed Athletic Trainer Applicants with greater amounts and types of experience will be more competitive during the application process than those who just meet the minimum number of required hours. 

Application Process 

There are several steps involved in applying to athletic training graduate schools. In order to apply to most AT programs, it is necessary to complete a common application the Athletic Training Centralised Applications Service (ATCAS). Applicants must also take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and submit these scores as part of their application. Some schools also request a general application to their graduate program. 

Graduate Record Examination (GRE)

The GRE is composed of questions assessing verbal and quantitative reasoning as well as analytical writing. Verbal Reasoning is assessed in two, 30-minute sections consisting of approximately 20 questions. There are also two sections of Quantitative Reasoning with 20 questions with each section lasting approximately 35 minutes. The Analytical Writing component consists of two 30-minute essays. On the analytical writing section, the average score is around 3.5 to 4. There are a number of print and online guides available for preparing to take the GRE. Additionally, there are in-person courses offered from time-to-time at area colleges/universities.

Personal Statement

Another important component of applying to Athletic Training programs is the personal statement or essay.  Ranging from a minimum of one page in some programs to a maximum of five pates in others, the personal statement details your reasons and goals for applying to athletic training programs a well as some interests or unique factors that may set you apart from other applicants. The requirements vary depending on the program, so students should consult program websites for details. The personal statement is an important part of the application and should be reviewed by your major advisor or pre-health committee member. 

Letters of Recommendation

Most graduate schools expect to receive three letters of recommendation. Often, one or two must be from a Licensed/certified Athletic Trainer who has directly supervised the applicant and can attest to his/her abilities and investment in becoming an Athletic Trainer.  Additional letters of recommendation should be from professors who are familiar with the applicant’s work in prerequisite courses. It is a good idea to ask for these recommendation letters well in advance of the submission deadline.