5 Steps to a Rewarding Career in Athletic Training

April 9, 2019


By Dr. Erin Hassler, DAT, MS, ATC, LAT, PES

Athletic training has been for me an extremely rewarding career. It is an industry full of triumph and the pangs of defeat. Athletic training can be a world of cheers and a quiet room filled with disappointment and tears. No two days are the same and for most of us, that is the draw. Each day can be a new adventure a new problem to solve.

Athletic trainers have historically bought an uphill battle against poor working conditions, low pay, and little or no recognition of value. The “burnout” of an athletic trainer has been accepted as almost a rite of passage. Many ATs can rattle off at least 2 or 3 situations that have caused them to miss an important milestone or occasion, like a birthday, wedding, graduation or funeral. We can almost battle anyone in the “who-worked-more-hours-this-week” contest, and win. Most can recall a time when there was no provision to have coverage for a sick day. (“Does that even exist?”)

Now in my twentieth year as a certified and licensed athletic trainer, I find myself wondering how I lasted so long. I have come across former practicing ATs who have switched careers. Many who really loved it, but never figured out to manage the work-life balance challenges or the battle to be valued as arguably the most pivotal part of the sports medicine team. So I decided to share what I have to learned along my journey, in hopes to retain more quality clinicians in an industry that so desperately need them.

Here are 5 step to enjoying a your life as an AT and be successful at the same time:

  1. Learn a new skill: Every AT is required to satisfy our certification and licensure requirements. However, that doesn’t mean that you will necessarily learn a new skill. Learning new ways of doing something is exciting and can be fun to apply in your workplace setting. This gives athletes/patients the latest and most up-to-date techniques.

  2. Share what you’ve learned: Each one teach one. For years athletic training has had a foundation in the “each one teach one” style of learning. Many athletic trainers mastered the craft by someone else sharing the knowledge they gained with them. By teaching a student or a colleague what you have learned, your knowledge is reinforced and your confidence in providing care can increase.

  3. Self-care: Athletic trainers can be best medical providers. We provide the best health and wellness recommendations to our athletes and patients and often fail to follow them ourselves. It is important to carve out time for exercise, plan and enforce good sleep habits and learn to say, “NO”. If we are unhealthy, we cannot be our best in the best profession in the world.

  4. Be open to change: Athletic trainers in most settings are subject to the schedule of others. Game and practice changes, weather delays and playoff schedules are bound to mix things up. In traditional settings, administrative and coaching changes can impact the stability of the systems that undergird the care that we provide. Many athletic trainers move to follow coaches or administrators. Contractors may have to make adjustments to find steady work. Being open to change and staying ready for the next challenge that may come, will reduce undue stress.

  5. Find a new thing to appreciate daily: It is important to look for the silver lining in everything. Athletic trainers are experts in damage control. We have so many people counting on us and often can find ourselves trying to keep everyone happy. There are so many things that can be out of our control, and potentially go wrong. By focusing on the good or the positive that can come out of it, you will find that you enjoy your choice to become an athletic trainer more and more each day.


This article is part of a "Doc on Deck" series written by Dr. Erin Hassler, who has almost 2 decades of hands-on experience at multiple levels of Sports Medicine and Sports Performance Enhancement. Credentials include but are not limited to: Advisory Board of Athletic Trainers, Board of Certification and National Academy of Sports Medicine Performance Enhancement Specialist.


Twitter: @drhassler

Facebook: @drerinhassler

Instagram: @drerinhassler


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