An athletic trainer is not the same as a fitness trainer. Athletic trainers do not help people to achieve physical fitness or to lose weight; instead, they evaluate and treat injuries, including rehabilitation. They also help athletes learn how to prevent these injuries. Typically, to become an athletic trainer, you must earn a bachelor's degree, which usually takes four years to complete.

Job Description for Athletic Trainers

Most athletic trainers work with professional athletes or with student athletes in high schools and colleges, though they can work in many other settings. They can work with athletes to show them how to prevent injury through maintaining proper form and using exercise equipment in the right way. When these athletes do become injured, athletic trainers are typically the first people on the scene and they can provide immediate aid in diagnosing and treating the injury. Athletic trainers can also work with other health professionals to recommend a course of treatment and to implement rehabilitation therapies.

Education for Athletic Trainers

Athletic trainers who wish to become certified by the National Athletic Trainers Association must complete a bachelor's degree at a school with an accredited athletic training program. A bachelor's degree takes four years to complete, though some schools may offer the option to accelerate the program through taking additional courses or taking summer courses. An athletic training degree program will include courses that focus on strategies for preventing injuries, the administration of first aid, rehabilitation, medical terminology and more.

Additional Training and Education

In addition to completing the required course work for the bachelor's degree, students who are interested in receiving Board of Certification licensing from NATA must complete at least two years of academic clinical education. This may be a part of their academic program, or it may be completed outside of the general curriculum, such as in extracurricular activities or in summer study. Continuing education is then required to maintain the license. Those who wish to advance their professional opportunities may also choose to pursue a master's degree in athletic training, which can take another two years to complete.

Job Outlook for Athletic Trainers

Job prospects are good for students who decide to study to become an athletic trainer. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects jobs in this sector to grow faster than average by 2020, increasing by about 30 percent. The agency expects more than 18,000 new jobs to be created. In 2010, average salaries were $41,600 per year.