- diverse patient population; athletic trainers are in tons of settings now like athletics at all levels, performance arts, military, industrial, physician practice, hospitals, operating rooms, education, research, the list goes on. There’s almost no limit to what health care setting an AT can be in!
-interesting fast paced job, you see something new all the time and there are always areas for advancement from learning new techniques to improve the treatment and rehab for your patients to streamlining administrative tasks
- the job can be tailored to you (in a way) similar to above with the diverse settings and patient population, as your professional interests shift you can pivot your job and role to match that. Think starting in collegiate athletics and then shifting to educate future ATs as a professor at a college or university
- travel: depending on your setting you can have lots of opportunities to travel. I have traveled all over the country and the world with my teams
- helping athletes get back to the sport or activity that they love. Seeing athletes develop on the court/field, in the athletic training room, in the classroom, in life, and as a person is so rewarding
-depending on the setting, the hours are not always a regular 9-5 M-F, and can be very demanding
- compassion fatigue is real, as with any health care job, being an athletic trainer can take a lot of emotional energy and toll
- pay is not always very good, it has been improving as NATA has done more work with its Salary Survey but still is not where it should be for the amount of work we do and the amount of education we have
- all around physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding
- depending on the setting there may not be a lot of room for vertical career growth. Speaking from the collegiate setting, an AT could get one, maybe two promotions in their whole career. From assistant AT to associate AT to head AT. In other settings there can be more room for vertical growth but that isn’t always common and isn’t the case across the board
Rachael recommends the following next steps:
The cons - the hours can be long and unpredictable. Here in Michigan,fall sports run fairly straight forward-as scheduled with few changes. But occasionally ,a football game will be moved from Friday to Saturday to officiating availability. We usually find out about that late in the week. In the winter, we'll have to reschedule events due to snow and anymore, that will be on a Saturday. Not mention coaches adding/dropping a practice and "forgetting" to tell you. And in the spring - it's anyone's guess :) . invariably you'll have multiple contests going on at the same time (baseball/softball/girls soccer/track). One of the biggest cons for me, and perhaps I'm being over sensitive, is that coaches do not have to go through any training to coach at the secondary level in this state. To coach, you must be 18, have a diploma or GED and pass a back ground check. They then automatically become the injury expert,strength and conditioning expert etc.
Overall, the pros far out weigh the cons in that by working where I do. My quality of life and work/life balance are pretty good and I'm pleased with that. My suggestion is to explore as many settings as possible. Talk to people and do clinical rotations in as many different sites as possible .
Hope this helps!!
-Great patient population! Athletes want to be healthy and get better.
-Personal connection. You get to know your athletes quite well and see them daily. You can build great relationships with them.
-Seeing your patients do what they love. It’s awesome to see your athletes compete! Having a hand in keeping them healthy or getting them back out to compete makes it even more rewarding.
-A “slow/boring” day at work is spent watching sports. Could be worse!
-Critical thinking. I felt intellectually stimulated (most days) by making diagnoses, administrative decisions, and communicating with athletes, their parents, and coaches. I enjoyed the challenge and thinking on my feet.
-Teaching opportunities. Many high school athletic trainers teach subjects like sports medicine, first aid, or anatomy at the school. Some teach volunteer high school students who help in the training room. Many collegiate athletic trainers have students rotate with them. This can potentially be a con and make for very long days, but many enjoy teaching.
-Schedule. It can be very unpredictable. If the basketball game goes into overtime, you’re staying later. If the baseball game goes to the 11th inning, too bad you’re stuck there. If you need to delay the game for lightning, the game will end later than expected. Friday night football games make for late nights. It’s difficult to say “I’ll be done at….” because things can change. If you’re at a collegiate level, you will be traveling with the team for days at a time (which can be a pro as well).
-Salary. It varies, but some ATCs are paid little for how many hours they put in. Do some research through the NATA or your regional athletic training association to get better numbers.
-It is a masters degree program. This recent change from a bachelors to masters degree can definitely be a pro since you are getting a higher level degree, but consider that there will be additional time in school. Ideally having a masters will increase salary, but this is not always the case.
-Respect. This also varies widely depending on your setting, but other healthcare providers or the public do not always show adequate respect or understand your role. Some may think that you are just a waterboy or just tape ankles.
I think athletic training is a good career if you can find the right setting where you are supported, respected, and intellectually challenged.