How to become a certified Athletic Trainer in the United States

How to become a Certified Athletic Trainer in the US

Becoming a certified athletic trainer is an ideal career option if you want to work with athletes of all levels. In the United States, this process requires the completion of a college degree and the passing of a Board of Certification exam. In this post, we’ll discuss what you need to become a certified athletic trainer in the US.

Educational Requirements

As a recognized allied health profession, athletic training requires knowledge and skills in areas such as human anatomy and physiology, exercise physiology, biomechanics, nutrition, therapeutic modalities, and the acute care of injuries and illnesses. To become a certified athletic trainer in the US, you will need formal education in these areas and there are two ways you can do this: one is to complete an undergraduate degree in athletic training; the other is to complete graduate studies.

Undergraduate Studies

Most certified athletic trainers gain their certification by completing their undergraduate studies in athletic training. This involves a four year course which includes training in the areas mentioned above, along with practical experience working with, and caring for athletes. Once the degree is successfully completed, students then need to sit and pass the Board of Certification exam in order to work as certified athletic trainers.

\When selecting an undergraduate program, it is important to make sure it meets the approved curriculum set by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE). A list of approved courses can be found on CAATE’s website ( and on the National Athletic Trainers’ Association website ( Degrees in programs such as exercise science, physical therapy, and strength and conditioning are not approved athletic training courses.

Graduate Studies

Completing graduate studies is another way of becoming a certified athletic trainer, especially if you have completed undergraduate studies in a related field (such as biomechanics or exercise physiology). There are two options for completing graduate studies in athletic training – entry level master’s and graduate school (which results in a Master of Science degree in athletic training).

Entry level master’s degrees take two years to complete, and cover the same content as an undergraduate program. Generally, the entry level program will require prerequisite classes in human anatomy, human physiology, exercise physiology, biomechanics, kinesiology, nutrition, and personal health. Entry level graduate Athletic Training programs also require the student to complete a set number of observational hours under the guidance of a certified athletic trainer.

Certification Exam

The final step in becoming a certified athletic trainer, is to sit and pass the Board of Certification exam. Eligibility requirements for the exam are listed on the Board of Certification website (, and include the completion of an approved program, along with proof of an emergency cardiac care (ECC) certificate.

Becoming a certified athletic trainer in the US is a formal, yet satisfying process. Once certified as an athletic trainer you can build a successful career working with all levels of athletes in a variety of settings.