Athletic trainer salary & career outlook

It may be easy to lump athletic trainers in with aerobics instructors, bodybuilding coaches and other professions in the fitness and recreation sector, but there's a little more to it than that. Athletic trainers are actually health care professionals who work to prevent, diagnose and treat muscle and bone injuries. Often, these professionals are part of a medical team and work under the supervision of a physician to help people from all walks of life. They are trained to recognize injuries, provide first aid or emergency care, and develop or prescribe rehabilitation programs for individuals with injury or chronic illness.

Athletic trainer salary information

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), athletic trainers in the U.S. earned a mean annual wage of $44,720 in 2013. The bottom 10 percent of earners made $26,120 or less that year, and the top 10 percent earned $66,060 or more.

The industry where athletic trainers find work typically has significant influence over individual salary expectations. The BLS data includes facts about the highest-paying industries for athletic trainers, including their 2013 mean annual salary figures. These are:

  • Performing arts companies: $53,570
  • Elementary and secondary schools: $53,430
  • Junior colleges: $48,130
  • Management of companies and enterprises: $45,920
  • Colleges, universities and professional schools: $45,760

Of course, salaries also vary throughout the nation. The BLS found that New Jersey and Washington, D.C., were the highest paying regions for athletic trainers in 2013, but those areas also rank among the most expensive in terms of cost of living. Here are a few states where each dollar from an athletic trainer salary will go farther, relatively speaking, based on the cost of living ranking from the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC):

  • Nebraska: $46,230 annual mean wage; ranks 7th in affordability
  • Indiana: $42,540 annual mean wage; ranks 5th in affordability
  • Texas: $52,580 annual mean wage; ranks 12th in affordability
  • Georgia: $45,410 annual mean wage; ranks 11th in affordability

Athletic trainer training online and on campus

Athletic trainers are licensed or otherwise regulated in 47 states, and these individuals must meet specific education requirements. A bachelor's degree from an accredited institution is a must for employment in all but the rarest cases, and some candidates will go on to earn a master's degree or higher before seeking employment.

Since the curriculum at most athletic trainer schools includes clinical requirements, entirely online degree programs are unlikely to be available. However, science prerequisites and the courses that are needed to maintain certification may be available online. Online courses in business, organizational finance or management can be found as well, for those graduates looking to move into leadership positions.

Job outlook for athletic trainers

Deeper understanding of athletic risks and advancements in injury prevention technique and technology are expected to drive growth in job opportunities for athletic trainers in the coming years. The BLS estimates jobs for athletic trainers in the U.S. will grow 21 percent between 2012 and 2022, which is well above average and should lead to nearly 5,000 new jobs in the field.

Most of these jobs are expected to emerge in post-secondary schools and the offices of health practitioners, but hospitals and fitness and recreation centers will also experience increased demand for the skills that athletic trainers bring to the job market. States that employed comparatively high numbers of athletic trainers in 2013 include Illinois, Texas, California, New York and Florida.


Cost of Living Data Series: First Quarter 2014, Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, Missouri Department of Economic Development, http://www.missourieconomy.org/indicators/cost_of_living/index.stm

Occupational Employment and Wages: Athletic Trainers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, May 2013,

Athletic Trainers and Exercise Physiologists, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014,