What is a Athletic Trainer

An athletic trainer (also known as Athletic Instructor, Certified Athletic Trainer, and Clinical Athletic Instructor) is a licensed health care professional who collaborate with physicians to prevent, diagnose, and treat clients with muscular and bone illnesses and injuries through the use of various forms of exercise and rehabilitative movement. They also help patients recover from long-term or chronic diseases, while helping to improve overall health and wellness. For more on job description, please visit our athletic trainer job description page.

Work Environment

Athletic trainers work in many different settings. Approximately one in three athletic trainers will work at an education facility including colleges, universities, elementary or secondary schools. They may also work for a professional sports team or at a fitness sport centre. Some will work in physician offices, rehabilitation clinics, and even in the military.  Many athletic trainers work in educational facilities, such as secondary schools and colleges. Others may work in physicians’ offices or for professional sports teams. Depending on who they work for, both indoor and outdoor work environment can be expected. For example, an athletic trainer working for a sports team may spend much of their time outdoors and may require to travel with the players to different cities.

Work Schedule

The work schedule for athletic trainers can be eclectic. In some cases, particularly for those in the health care industry, they will usually have regular business hours. However, for those in educational institutions, or particularly among professional sports teams, there can be long hours, including nights and weekends; it is entirely dependent on the schedule of the team, the time of year, and the needs of the organization at that particular time.

Mean Annual Athletic Trainer Salary

The mean annual athletic trainer salary is $44,720. The mean salary is calculated by adding all the wages within the occupation and divid that value by the total number of employees. Lowest 10% of this occupation makes less than $26,120 and the top 10% makes over $66,060.

Athletic Trainer Salary: Quick Summary

2013 Mean Salary$44,720 per year
$21.50 per hour
Top 10% Salary$66,060 per year
$31.76 per hour
Bottom 10% Salary$26,120 per year
$12.56 per hour
Number of Jobs, 201322,340

Athletic Trainer Job Outlook and Prospects

The job outlook for athletic trainers is very healthy, with an expected 21 percent job growth between 2012 and 2022. This is faster than the average for all occupations, and is due in part to the aging population and need for healthful exercise, both in rehabilitating injuries and for general disease prevention. Society is also becoming more aware of sports-related injuries, including strains and concussions, particularly among young people in colleges and universities. This is expected to lead to an increased demand for athletic trainers to help restore function and ability. Some factors that will increase the need for athletic trainers are:

  • Being able to detect and prevent injuries early on.
  • More awareness amongst the younger generation of sports-related injuries.
  • An aging society where the elderly are more prone to sustaining injuries.
  • Athletic Trainers taking on the role as a first respondent during training when injuries occur.
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What Affects Athletic Trainer Salary

The mean annual wage for athletic trainers in the United States is $44,720. This has a comparatively large variance, ranging from $26,120 among the lowest-paid 10%, to $66,060 among the highest-paid 10%. These variances are due to several factors, particularly industry and geographic location, as well as experience. Education can also play a significant role, and specialization works in conjunction with industry to lead to significant potential salary gains.

Education and Specialization 

The requirements to become an athletic trainer vary by state, however many require a bachelor’s degree and some licensing or certification. Many athletic trainers, however, hold at least a master’s degree; a Ph.D. will further improve the likelihood of being hired, and the resultant salary received. Further to this, in states that don’t require any licensing or certification, those holding advanced education and such licensure will, with the added endorsement of qualifications, likely receive a better wage.

Athletic training is itself a specialization in kinesiology, and there are several subspecialties one can focus on, which will in turn dictate the industry they work. Focusing on sports injuries and rehabilitation, for example, will lead one to likely end up working with a college or professional sports team, while a focus on artistic athletics can lead to one working with a dance company or with musicians.

Experience and Position 

Experience is a strong means of salary improvement, with starting athletic trainer salary averaging between $25,000 and $30,000, while those with ten or more years experience will earn around $45,000.

Position is less of a factor, with only minimal possibilities. In a health care setting, one may lead a team or department of athletic trainers; with a professional sports team, however, there may be only one or two trainers, who share the work equally. 


Interestingly, the best-paying fields to work in are not spectator sports (ie professional sports teams) which pay around $46,200, but in elementary and secondary schools, which offer athletic trainer salary averaging $53,530, and performing arts companies, which have a mean wage of $58,020.


The geographic location is one of the primary areas for athletic trainer salary improvement, with New Jersey holding the top spot at $59,090, District of Columbia in the second place at $58,680, and Texas in third at $52,900. Massachusetts and South Carolina hold the fourth and fifth positions, at around $51,500 each.

The metropolitan level can bring even greater gains, with both York-Hanover, PA and Colorado Springs, CO offering salaries of around $61,000. Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville, SC has an average of $64,490, but the past paying area is Edison-New Brunswick, NJ, at $69,000.

Athletic Trainer Salary: Top 5

Top Paying Metropolitan AreasTop Paying StatesTop Paying IndustriesStates with Highest Employment Level
Edison-New Brunswick, NJ: $69,000New Jersey: $59,090Performing Arts Companies: $58,020Illinois: (1,560 jobs) $39,420
Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville, SC: $64,490District of Columbia: $58,680Elementary and Secondary Schools: $53,530Texas: (1,380 jobs) $52,900
York-Hanover, PA: $61,910Texas: $52,900Junior Colleges: $46,980Michigan: (1,160 jobs) $40,950
Colorado Springs, CO: $61,210Massachusetts: $51,680Spectator Sports: $46,200New York: (1,080 jobs) $47,140
Dallas, TX: $58,540South Carolina: $51,350Colleges, Universities and Professional Schools: $45,020California: (1,070 jobs) $48,650
athletic trainer salary state by state 2013