How to Become an Athletic Therapist


If you want to become an athletic therapist, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for you. So, if the following description sounds like you, then it might be a great choice:


Those who get into this field have a genuine interest in the health and safety of others. They must have compassion for patients that are experience pain and discomfort, and have the manual dexterity to treat them properly.


Athletic therapists draw great satisfaction from helping athletes return safely and quickly to competition. They must also have the emotional and intellectual fortitude to complete the necessary educational requirements to become certified as an athletic therapist.


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as an athletic therapist in Canada and the United States. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed in the United States

To become a certified athletic trainer in the United States, you must first earn a degree from a college or university with an accredited athletic training program, then take and pass the exam administered by the Board of Certification (BOC)


If you already have a bachelor’s degree in something other than athletic training, you have two options:


1. You can earn a second bachelor’s degree from a school with an accredited program at the bachelor’s level.

2. You can get a master’s degree in athletic training from a university with an accredited entry-level master’s program. 





Education Needed in Canada

In order to become a certified athletic therapist in Canada, candidates must obtain a bachelor’s degree in athletic therapy accredited by the Canadian Athletic Therapists Association (CATA). Accredited athletic therapy programs are typically Bachelor of Science degrees in Kinesiology or Exercise Science, with a focus in Athletic Therapy.


CATA accredited athletic therapy degree programs provide students with the theoretical knowledge, practical skills, and all the prerequisites necessary to become certified as an Athletic Therapist in Canada.



Certification Needed in Canada

After candidates obtain a degree in athletic therapy from a CATA accredited institution, they must meet further CATA requirements in order to become a certified athletic therapist.


CATA certification requirements include completing at least 1,200 hours of practical training under supervision of a Certified Athletic Therapist, as well as obtaining a valid First Responder certificate. Candidates must then complete a comprehensive written exam, as well as a practical exam, which covers all components of the athletic therapy scope of practice.



Who Employs Them?

Athletic therapists are employed by organizations that provide care and reconditioning of musculoskeletal injuries for athletes in order to ensure that they have a safe and healthy return to activity and competition. They might also work in conjunction with other health care workers such as family physicians, orthopedic surgeons, chiropractors, massage therapists or physiotherapists.


Organizations that employ athletic therapists include:


• Professional, amateur and recreational sports teams

• Colleges and universities

• Private sport medicine clinics





General Job Description

Athletic therapists provide care and reconditioning of musculoskeletal injuries for professional, amateur and recreational athletes in order to ensure their safe and healthy return to activity. They also assist athletes and active individuals prevent sport related injuries.


Many athletic therapists obtain additional certification in areas such as massage therapy, muscle energy and osteopathic methods as an adjunct to their rehabilitative techniques.



Typical Job Duties

• Evaluate musculoskeletal function and posture of athletes

• Identify, evaluate and treat musculoskeletal injuries

• Plan, implement and supervise warm-ups, stretches, training and competitive activities

• Apply supportive taping and equipment

• Act as a liaison between players and coaches

• Use physical therapy techniques and therapeutic modalities to recondition sports injuries

• Perform general administrative duties such as inventory and budget control



Average Salary Level

The salary level of athletic therapists can vary depending on factors such as their level of experience, their level of education, where they work, and many others.


Athletic Therapist Salary Canada: According to the 2016 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Athletic Therapists occupational group earn an overall average wage of between $20.50 and $44.95 per hour. Unfortunately, no similar statistics were available from reliable sources for other Canadian provinces or territories at the time of writing (June 9, 2019).


Athletic Therapist Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary of Athletic Trainers is $41,600 per year. The lowest 10% of salaries in this group are under $25,750, and the top 10% are more than $64,390 per year.



Skills and Traits Needed to Be Successful

To be successful as an athletic therapist, you need to posses certain personality traits and skills. These personality traits will help keep a positive mind frame towards your work, and allow you to endure the ups and downs of this career, while the skills will allow you to conduct your job duties with competence.


• Manual dexterity

• Physical stamina

• Excellent interpersonal and teamwork skills 

• Sensitivity to the needs of others

• Patience and professionalism when working with patients and co-workers

• Mental flexibility and the ability to think creatively

• Compassion for the physical and emotional pain of others

• The ability to work effectively in stressful situations

• Enjoy working with people

• Able to effectively use equipment to implement treatment plans



Current Job Postings in This Field

Our job board below has "athletic therapist" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.




Working Conditions

Setting: Athletic therapists typically either work directly with teams or in a private practice setting. Those that work directly with teams must be present during practices and games. This can involve being exposed to a wide variety of weather conditions.


Hours: Athletic therapists that work closely with teams typically work long and hard hours. Since they must be present for all games and practices, they may be required to travel frequently, and may be required to work many evenings and weekends. For athletic therapists in private practice, hours of work and other working conditions vary depending on the hours and the staffing needs of the clinic.



Similar Occupational Profiles in Our Database

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to this one, as they involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities:



Exercise Physiologist

Massage Therapist


Sports Medicine Physician




Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as an athletic therapist.


Occupations in Alberta:Athletic Therapist.” (March 17, 2016). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved October 24, 2019.

Healthcare:Physical Therapists.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved October 24, 2019.

Becoming an Athletic Therapist:Education and Certification.” (n.d.). Canadian Athletic Therapists Association website. Retrieved October 24, 2019.



Scholarships for Becoming an Athletic Therapist

Scholarships listed for majors that are relevant to working in this field can be found on our Exercise Science Scholarships and Kinesiology Scholarships pages.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Relevant Fields of Study

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming an athletic therapist. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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