Sports trainers help athletes prevent injuries before they happen and treat injuries after they happen, requiring some level of medical training. This means you typically will need a college degree if you want to become a sports trainer. A four-year degree is often the minimum required, but earning a graduate degree may better help you meet your career goals. You also may need to seek certification to land a specific job, or you may choose to earn certification voluntarily.
A college degree is often a starting point for a person who wants to become a sports trainer. You may find that many employers will expect you to have at least this level of education before they will hire you. To prepare, you may seek a degree in athletic training or another physical training program that includes a significant number of science and health courses. Your preparation also should include study of how to prevent and treat illnesses and injuries that may develop, including the proper methods of providing first aid to athletes who need it.
Though you may find some employers who will hire you are as a sports trainer with a bachelor’s degree, you may have a better chance of getting the job you want if you continue on to earn a master’s or doctoral degree. Earning a master’s degree will usually require you to spend an additional couple of years on your education, and a doctoral degree could take from three to seven years to complete. It is important to keep in mind that the extra time you spend pursuing a graduate-level degree may eventually pay off in terms of higher pay, additional job offers and advancement opportunities.
Depending on where you work and the employer with which you seek work, you also may need certification as an athletic trainer. Certification requirements may vary from organization to organization, but requirements typically include earning a degree in athletic training or a closely related major and then passing an examination. In the event that you choose to become a sports trainer in a jurisdiction that does not require certification, you may still consider seeking voluntary certification in an effort to make yourself a more desirable job candidate.
Along with education and certification, skills you will need to become a sports trainer and succeed include communication skills and the ability to get along well with others and help them stay motivated. Likewise, you will typically need good time-management skills and the ability to work well under pressure. For example, you may face stress as a result of some of your dealings with athletes or their loved ones. You may even deal with the stress of conflicts that develop with other sports trainers but have to perform your duties despite such trouble.