Athletic Trainer Salary: It’s Nobody’s Fault, but Our Own

Last week Twitter was abuzz due to a job posting on the NATA Career Center. Athletic Trainers on Twitter were up in arms over the posting – a full-time, temporary position with a starting salary of $8.00/hr.

Said many ATs:
Somebody needs to call the Head Athletic Trainer! Why? In most cases the Head Athletic Trainer has absolutely no say regarding salary of his or her assistants.
Call the school!  Why? The school simply needs a body to serve as a first responder and to cover its butt in case something does go wrong.
The NATA needs to ban such postings! Why?  Is the NATA some totalitarian and tyrannical organization designed to hold the hand of its members and dictate what they can and cannot do?
What an insult! An insult, maybe to the vast majority, but not to the several athletic trainers who do apply for the job.
How could this happen? Easy, we let it happen.

Before we go further and before Athletic Trainers start throwing rocks through windows; an $8.00 / hour salary is NOT just. It is a slap in the face. However, we need to take ownership. We as a whole made this bed and now have to sleep in it. Before we attempt to fix this mess from the outside (attacking schools, administrators, political committees, supervisors, etc.), we should look from within and ask,  “To what degree are we at fault?”

Let’s look at some data. The average annual salary according to the most recent NATA Salary Survey is $48,317 (link requires member log-in). It is alarming to look at the range of salaries for different positions. There are Athletic Trainers in colleges making less than your average administrative assistant. There are comparable health care professionals (physical therapists and counselors for instance) working at colleges making twice what some athletic trainers make. Have you seen the NATA’s “Examination of the Professional Degree Level” published in December? Athletic Training salary has grown at a rate less than inflation and the gap between Athletic Training and PT, OT, and PAs has widened.

While $48,317 looks decent on paper, this data is misleading. The median is $42,500, meaning the profession is bottom heavy. You can thank the top salary earners for skewing this data. 25% of the surveyed make less than $35,000. That is right, 1-in-4 make less than $35,000 and to add to that, the average income for this lower quartile population is $26,645. When you look at the average salary per district, most of my Athletic Training friends do not make the average annual salary. In fact, I know several Athletic Trainers working 50+ hours week, no benefits, with an annual salary around $25,000 per year.

Despite the fact this job announcement is a slap in the face and despite the moaning and groaning from Athletic Trainers, this position will get applicants. Not only will there be applicants, they will likely get a lot of applicants. If the school’s administration just wants a body to CYA in case of an emergency, what type of Athletic Trainer will they get? When that Athletic Trainer is on the field disseminating information to players and coaches is that individual representing the profession in the best possible light?

Do not misread what is being said here. Athletic Trainers must pass a very tough BOC examination and Athletic Trainers have a very high level of baseline knowledge. That said there is a large variance between those with baseline knowledge and the experts in our field. One could go to the NATA annual meeting, register, drink for three days and collect 24 CEUs. In reality the only education gained was how much alcohol one could consume, while remaining a functional human being. The BOC is in constant pursuit of improving our continuing education standards and has made great strides in this area.

Can the NATA improve salaries for athletic trainers? To a certain degree I will concede that they may be able to help. The NATA is our professional organization; however you are the NATA. The NATA can provide job listings that will provide professionals with the resources to find employment. They have tried to be the gatekeeper regarding these job postings, however anyone can post a job and there are times that jobs unrelated to athletic training slip into the NATA from the service that is used. We are responsible for improving our salaries.

How should we go about doing this? We, as a profession, need to learn the power of negotiation and utilize it for higher salaries. We need to stop settling for salaries that do not match our experience, education and abilities. If we continue to settle then we are ultimately hurting ourselves and our profession. Use the Salary Survey and understand what is appropriate, but don’t settle for the average or for less than what you are worth. All Athletic Trainers should hear Linda Mazzoli speak about self-value and self-worth.

Every Athletic Trainer needs to understand his or her worth and seek to demonstrate it. Collect data to demonstrate the value you provide to the organization. This can be through treatments, decreased school absence, and a number of other factors that are important. There are resources on the NATA website, at the annual symposium and through other professionals. 

Athletic Trainers are a prideful bunch and supremely passionate about their job. Unfortunately, this passion comes at a cost. We put so much stock in our job, that it supersedes our self-worth and life in general. If you are getting paid $30,000 per year and working 60 hours you need to say no. Why should you stay until 8pm, because football doesn’t get out of lifting until 7pm?  If you have worked 50 hours Monday through Friday, why should you travel with baseball’s weekend series?  Why cover off-season practice? Why work over Thanksgiving? Either they pay you more, or they hire an assistant. You don’t have to say yes. Be courageous, be armed with facts, make a stand and earn respect, eventually, they will respect your efforts and compensate accordingly. 

Let’s do a better job of not accepting insulting salaries. Have some self-value. Educators and mentors can instill a sense of worth into young professionals. Obtaining a higher salary is not the only part of the contract negotiation. If the employer is not receptive to financial negotiation, it is incumbent on you to negotiate your time.  If they are only willing to pay you $25,000 per year, negotiate what you will and will not do. Set regular athletic training room hours. Dictate which sports you cover. Identify which weekend events you will cover and which events you will travel to. Clarify the terms, otherwise, you will be taken advantage of.

How can a company or organization offer Athletic Trainers a salary of $8.00 / hr? Because they can! They will not change for us nor do they have to. It is up to you and me to influence change. Be proactive in contact negotiation and reactive to any disrespect of your professional self-worth. Athletic Trainers are doing this to a degree, but we need a greater, collaborative effort to influence lasting change.

I’d like to send a thank you to Ryan Wantz, ATC who collaborated with me on the writing of this blog. Ryan is an assistant athletic trainer at Lehigh University and serves as the NATA District 2 representative to the Governmental Affairs Committee. 
The views shared in this post are not necessarily those of the Government Affairs Committee or the NATA, but represent our collective opinion. You can find Ryan on twitter using the handle @WantzATC. 

79 thoughts on “Athletic Trainer Salary: It’s Nobody’s Fault, but Our Own

  1. Dan

    My biggest piece of the blame pie goes to the NATA. As long as they allow these jobs to be posted they will be taken. When I worked at a H.S with what I thought was an unfair salary, I put together a proposal if whatATC’s with masters make and what I make as well as other data. I am still waiting for their response 7 years later. I left but someone else came and took the job. So frustrating. Not a fan of the NATA.

    1. Janice

      Dan, I am as disappointed as you with NATA. It is the biggest insult to our profession when PTAs with 2 years college surpass our salary.

      1. Christopher Dean

        Dan and Janice,
        While I can appreciate the need to point the proverbial finger at someone, this issue goes much deeper. The NATA is offering a simple service through the career center. It is neither their role nor their responsibility to set a glass ceiling (or floor in this instance). Would you suggest that they have a 1 limit fit all method? Assign geographical differences?
        I to am disappointed by the salaries I see in many of the job offerings. Heck, minimum wage workers in SEATAC, WA now make more ($15/hr) than some of the jobs that are posted requiring post graduate degrees and previous work experience.
        We are our own worst enemy in this battle. As Dan mentioned, there was someone who was willing and eager to swoop in and take that low paying position. Why would employers make changes to their salary structures when there is a line of Athletic Trainers eager to fill this role.
        As members of this association, we must stand up and demonstrate our value while not selling ourselves short in the process. Until we all are on board, change will not take place.

    2. Thomas

      I’m aware that a posting of $8.00/hr seems absolutely disrespectful, especially given all of the work that we put in and the level of health care that athletic trainers provide; however, I do not disagree with this particular job/ pay. I am a newly certified athletic trainer looking for my first full time athletic training position and a lot of the “entry level” jobs that I am qualified for and meet the minimum experience for offer less pay. If you look at most intern athletic training positions, they average a 10 month contract and pay between $10,000 and $15,000 (at least in the areas I have been looking) and if I only worked a 40 hour work week during this time I would be paid between $5.77/hr and $8.66/hr and because that is salary and not hourly, those numbers would obviously drop for working past the “standard” 40 hours, and I would not have any compensation for additional time, unlike the hourly rate. My point is this, yes athletic trainers on the whole are underpaid, but given my knowledge (minimal compared to more experienced AT’s) and experience (again minimal), I would be willing to take a job that paid $8.00/hr knowing that it would help me grow as a professional and I would be able to negotiate for a higher pay/ higher paying job at a later date. Again, I am aware that this job posting seems disrespectful but I don’t know why none of the poorly paying intern positions do.

  2. jaybarss17

    Josh, a few months ago I decided to take a proactive approach to this problem. I was scanning craigslist for a local part time gig in the fitness industry, because while my current athletic training salary is above the national average (but i do live in southern california), my salary was cut by over $5000 when we were taken over by a new contractor. I came across an ad for a physical therapist looking for an athletic trainer to work part-time at her clinic. The pay was $10/hr. The listed requirements were be a certified athletic trainer with a bachelor’s degree (master’s preferred), 3-5 years experience working in a physical therapy environment. I contacted this person through email and explained my disgust with the posting. She actually emailed me back and tried to explain the situation, that she was a small clinic and that is all she could afford to pay. She went on to explain that it was an entry-level position and that she would be designing the rehab programs and telling the ATC which exercises to implement. I responded by asking why she was requiring so much experience for an entry level position and what she was actually describing was a job for a PT aide which can be done by any responsible person with a high school degree. I also described to her the entry level skills of an ATC right out of school so that she could gauge the type of person that she actually needed for the position. Finally to put it in perspective for her, I asked her why a person with a Master’s degree or a bachelors for that matter would take a job for a salary less than that of someone working at a fast food chain in california. I think she got the message. The next day the job was re-posted with different requirements… but the same pay. This is one way to be proactive. If you see these types of positions. contact the employer and educate them. Tell them what you think. You may not get a response like I did (I have since contacted a few others without a response) but at least they will get the picture.

      1. Ryan U

        The problem with us athletic trainers is that we care about our jobs too much. In the states where jobs, such as teachers, have unions, they can strike and demand more for their work. if athletic trainers could join together and demand the pay which we deserve (WE ARE HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS AREN’T WE?!?! we might be able to make institutions such as universities, high schools and general clinics see how much they actually need ATCs. But being that most ATCs love their athletes and the reason they work, it would be hard to go against the people who pay us. BUT if the NATA could organize some kind of protest/strike against our low wages, i could see many ATCs joining in on the effort.

  3. Janice

    I agree with Dan. NATA is our main source for salary standard and I have not seen much improvement. Thus, I refused to pay membership on top CEUs, licensure that costs more than PTs and the biggest joke goes to Us for getting paid less than PTAs with a 2 years degree. 6 years in college plus CSCS cert and I can’t even feed my family.

    1. David

      Janice and Dan, You cant blame a voluntary membership organization for the job the YOU accepted for the terms that YOU accepted. Dan you are still waiting 7 years later, is that the fault of the NATA? Janice you don’t belong as a member and I am going to assume you don’t get involved through volunteering to the profession, so stop complaining or get involved to make the changes you think need to be made. The crux of this article (well written) was take ownership for your own situation and not blame others.

  4. Who Cares

    Certified 17 years and next week I start work at Bojangles because of paycuts, loss if benefits, and administration seeing a better value in personal trainers. The highest salary I ever had as an ATC was $31,000 and worked about 85 hours a week.

  5. James

    Been doing this for a decade at the high school, college, and professional level.

    The problem is that someone will ALWAYS pick up gigs and work for less than what we deserve. My coaches (DII college) host summer camps and can’t justify paying an athletic trainer more than one of the coach/counselors because we’re “basically an insurance policy.” They think they do us a favor by paying us with t-shirts and lunch each day.

    “Oh you’re above working that camp for $15 an hour? No problem, I’ll just find a fresh out of school ATC to do it.”

    Incredibly unfortunate, but I doubt we can be completely united in this. People need to feed their kids, pay their mortgage, put gas in their cars, etc.

  6. Jennifer

    I don’t know how you tell someone unemployed to not take a job on principal. But I think a lot of AT’s have contributed to this culture by chasing status. Many collegiate and professional team AT’s have exponentially more responsibility, work load & time commitment than I, a “lowly” secondary school AT. But I work 33.75 hours a week, get overtime, have full union-subsidized benefits and union support, job security and a six-figure salary that increases annually. My job was good when I took it 23 years ago and the 12 of us in the school district have remained vigilant and diligent, looking for and working towards ways to improve the service we provide balanced with an acceptable quality of life. The vast majority of people I know couldn’t believe we would take jobs in an inner-city environment all those years ago. But both financially and otherwise this job has been more rewarding than I could have imagined. Those college & professional team AT’s can keep their prestige. I’ll keep working with athletes that call me “Ma”.

    And those of you that blame the NATA do you take an active leadership role in your profession and organization or just watch from afar and wait for someone else to do the work? Who is “someone” that should call x, y and z? We are all “someone”.

    1. Sean Hutchison

      Thank you! I whole heartedly agree. I am finishing my second year at a secondary school. We are in the process of hiring an assistant ATC. The school board pays for my CEU’s, Nata Membership, medical supplies, and what ever else I need. I have a very good salary, and it will increase again next year. One thing I always preach to the athletic training students that are sent to me by the local college is to “Know your worth.”

  7. Jack

    It’s economics and a free market. It’s that simple. While there may be a great deal of education and training to become an AT, the number of applicants willing to accept a job for the defined pay, define the pay. That’s called supply and demand in a free market. If you don’t like the pay, don’t apply. Of course you may then make -0- but hey, you got your principles right? Everyone thinks they are underpaid and everyone wants more than they get. If you don’t like the pay, do your homework before you choose a career and find a profession that pays what you want. Whining about your pay scale sounds like you are a bunch of self-important nannys.

    1. Josh Stone, MA, ATC, NASM-CPT, CES, PES, FNS

      Couldn’t agree more Jack. It is simple economics. You need to pay bills and feed the family and should use simple economics in order to build a family budget. Understanding your family’s budget and constantly reviewing your margins is prudent. Your net family budget should also have a valuation for time. This is where many athletic trainers fail.

      They value their job more than quality of life and ignore simple family economics. Subsequently, many do follow your scenario ‘either take this job or take 0.’ This should not be the case and is where I disagree.

      Personally, I have always been well compensated. However, my principles do outweigh my aspirations to work in the profession. The option isn’t either take this job or have 0, the option is take this job or find another. If after a few years of failed financial gain, it is time to shut-up and move on.

      If you are going to complain, do something about it. If you are broke and overworked, get out. In 2 years of hard work you can become a shift supervisor at Wal-Mart with paid vacation.

  8. Mark

    I agree with everything stated here. As an AT with over 12 years of experience we as a profession are to blame. ATs would rather moan and groan about their situation rather than personally make change happen. The workforce is waiting for some knight in shining armor to arrive on his valiant white steed to rescue the profession. Guess what. He’s not coming. The only recourse is to get involved or get out. Unfortunately the workforce is so burnt out that they will quit before they get involved. And I’ll take it one step further. Athletic training curriculums foster no sense of business acumen. Great. It teaches us how to order supplies and manage a budget, but their is nothing to foster an entrepreneurial mindset, or a winning attitude eapecially when you are constantly placed at the end of the line and the first in and last out every single day.

    Lastly, I leave you with this. ATs are too giving. Everybody else charges for services rendered. Because we GIVE IT AWAY nobody wants to PAY. It’s that simple. Plain and simple.

    1. Laura McDonald

      “Athletic training curriculums foster no sense of business acumen. Great. It teaches us how to order supplies and manage a budget, but their is nothing to foster an entrepreneurial mindset, or a winning attitude eapecially when you are constantly placed at the end of the line and the first in and last out every single day.”

      Well said, but I actually see this as a mentoring/advising issue. I make sure my students are fully aware when they start the job or graduate assistant search of the standard of living in that area and the area they think they want to settle down. With student loan debt what it is, the balance between needing to pay the bills and your dream job is often skewed. We rarely have a student take a job that is not for adequate pay for that area (I think cost of living is an important co-variant to the “average” debate) and they will turn down GA positions that would not at least allow them to break even over the course of a master’s degree. I am not sure that belongs in a class but rather up to the education faculty to foster that sense of pride in the profession.

  9. Mike

    I fail to see how it is the fault of the NATA for posting “low paying” jobs. Why is is that people think that they shouldn’t post these jobs? What’s the threshold for “low paying”. A job that pays $35K in a rural area may be low, but a person could live on that salary. The same salary in New York City would not be acceptable. The NATA is not the problem. Leave them out of this debate.

    I agree with the economics statement. I’ve said for years that these division I schools and professional teams often don’t have to pay a “living wage” because they don’t have to because they know that someone will take the job. If people stopped taking these jobs then the employer would have to do one of two things. Eliminate the position or pay more.

    A good friend of mine who is a secondary school AT in the Chicago area always tells the story about hiring an assistant. The person that he hired was an assistant AT at a Big 10 school prior to being hired at this high school. When the position was posted he said he got a minimal number of applicants and the AT from the Big 10 school who took the job almost had his salary doubled. The position that he left at his Big 10 school that had incredibly low wages had over 200 applicants. Guess what that meant? That school continued to keep their pay low.

    Finally I will echo what several of the other people that have commented have said. Get involved. My father told me at a young age if you don’t like the way things are then try and change them. If you aren’t willing to do that then don’t complain. Sitting on the sidelines and complaining doesn’t benefit anyone or anything.

  10. Chris Proctor, ATC

    This discussion has been going on for years. The insultingly-low salaried jobs are posted, and athletic trainers get all up in arms about it, and the solution presented is usually that the low-paying jobs will go away if people stop applying for and accepting them. It’s a brutal catch 22 in several ways – mostly in points already mentioned by others:
    1. We give our time away. We can’t keep saying, “Sure I’ll work every weekend from now to eternity,” without demanding some kind of compensation for it. Whether it’s negotiating more pay or less hours, it needs to be done.
    2. As a profession with a bachelor’s degree minimum, but 70% at master’s or higher, and so many jobs requiring a master’s or higher, there are so many GA and intern positions that get filled for minimum wage in exchange for partial tuition payment, and maybe room and board (in a college dorm room) and lunches (in the school cafeteria). When an employer looks at the average salary for an entry level athletic trainer and all these $10-12k jobs are dragging down the average, they’re not going to look at specifics before deciding on the salary.
    3. WE KEEP TAKING THESE LOW PAYING JOBS!!! I know, I know…it’s take this job or starve. I don’t really have a good answer for that. I decided to look at other settings. Industrial is a good gig – 40 hour weeks, holidays, no weekends, climate (somewhat) controlled, etc.

    Athletic trainers have a pretty high burnout rate, and I’ve known plenty that have gone on to other careers because the hours/wages just are nowhere close to ideal. The NATA can’t decide for you whether or not you accept the terms a company offers you for employment. Be smart about your employment decisions and encourage/empower others to do the same!

  11. amber

    As a newly certified AT I may not understand the situation quite as clearly as the more experienced who have commented on this article. However, I have seen the profession in two states (Ohio and California) and two countries (US and Canada) and have a few thoughts.

    Looking at the larger issue of pay across the country (US) can be a great indicator of how the field is doing compared to other similar health care fields, however, there are a large number of factors that are not considered. Ohio, where I completed my undergrad, requires state licensure and the athletic training jobs are required to be filled by ATCs. I am currently living in California while I complete my masters, and as we all know California does not have any state regulations. Last semester I had 2 students who had been the ONLY medical personnel before entering into their program (and were given the title of Team Athletic Trainer). This would be considered illegal in Ohio. It seems to me, that by allowing unqualified individuals to take on the role of an ATC we are allowing our profession to be ‘watered down’. A person who is just out of high school is not going to be concerned with what the position is worth, they simply want a paycheck.

    I feel like I’m rambling so let me say this another way. If an 18 year old could apply and get a job with a title of CEO or lawyer, do you think CEO’s and lawyer’s would have much credibility or worth in our society? Probably not. While I agree that individual salary is something that each one of us can fight for, I believe that the bigger issue stems from a lack of respect and a lack of knowledge that is still being spread in certain areas. Maybe I’m naïve, but I don’t think a lot will change until every state has requirements and no person who is not certified should be legally able to use the term Athletic Trainer.

    Also, I believe that high school athletic trainers are in an excellent place to help the profession as a whole. It is a unique location as you are able to educate and influence not only your athletes, but their parents/guardians, as well as the staff of your school. I have had the good fortune of coming into a school as an assistant ATC, and it is very clear the respect my Head ATC has earned from everyone he comes into contact with. When these kids become teachers, lawyers, doctors, and whatever else they decide, they will have an understanding of the importance of an ATC and the respect the profession deserves. If they are in a position of hiring an ATC, I am confident that they would be more inclined to offer a more respectful salary. The parents can be a great support system. When discussing an athlete’s injury with a parent, they almost always mention how happy they are that my boss finally has an assistant, and when I graduate they will be pressuring the administration to hire him another assistant. While the administration tends to look at saving money, they have also come to realize that the work we do is not simply a liability issue. By acting conservatively and doing what is possible to prevent injuries, the number of school days missed has dropped dramatically which helps them receive a better education as well as get into better colleges.

    As I mentioned before, I am newly certified and may not have as good of a grasp on the situation as I believe. However, I think that individually arguing salary will only get us so far if we do not work on fixing the issues that damage the professions credibility.

  12. Chris

    I am a relatively recent grad (2011) and had a rough going during my first 2 years with either low paying positions or no positions (I filed for unemployment at 23). I was fortunate enough to catch on with an up and coming industrial health/ergonomics company where I am 1 of currently 2 full time employees. We have several contracts with manufacturing companies all over the Chicago area. My athletic training program did not teach us how to be independent or entrepreneurs but instead settle for the traditional setting of athletic training. I find myself in a great position to advance a business from the ground up and being compensated well for it too.

    The NATA is not to blame. There are opportunities out there for ATCs that are respected for what they know and for what they are worth.

    1. Nathan

      I believe Chris makes a good point in regard to using our education in emerging fields. There is money to be made, or at least fair compensation to be had in the field of industrial medicine. There are also more and more positions every month available to work as a physician extender, which generally (in the midwest region, I cannot speak on a national level) pays higher and employees are generally not working 60-70-80 hours/week. There is always going to be an issue getting reimbursement from secondary schools, it is difficult for them justify salary increases when they are regularly cutting extra-curricular activities, elective classes and increasing the number of students in classrooms. How can we expect to receive a pay increase where some orthopedic practices place Athletic Trainers at schools as a “marketing” tool, tax write off or community exposure. I ask that all athletic trainers when negotiating services at secondary schools do not “give away” services in hopes of driving “business” to another profession. We need to be able to eventually stand alone as a profession if we hope to advance to the levels that we aspire to.

      As a profession, as we move into emerging fields we need to establish a higher rate of pay/reimbursement and have the education to back it up. One suggestion would be for Athletic Training Education programs to create additional tracks or classes that speak to industrial medicine, FCE, Post-offer Pre-employment, physician extending and billing (pertaining to ICD-9 codes and how to maximize reimbursement).

      Unfortunately, in the end, reimbursement and salary will come down to the athletic trainers ability to make money (billing) and reduce costs. I believe by enhancing our education and finding new revenue sources we can utilize the exceptional education, and generally higher than average work ethic to maximize earning potential while maintaining life balance.

  13. jmarshal51

    It is certainly our own fault.

    I would love to see some CEU courses geared towards salary negotiations and such things. It will be very hard to move the profession as a whole upwards when most of us have no training or experience and little knowledge in these areas.

    I think that is one of the reasons other professions are doing better. A sense of worth and negotiation skills are included in the education.

    If any one knows of any one in Washington state who does courses on salary negotiation please let me know. I have no doubt our state association head would love to hear about it.

  14. Josh

    My opinion. ….. Everything said was fairly accurate.
    My vote is a form of protest. All 30000 members of NATA should apply for the job and flood that posting. Maybe they will get the hint.

    1. Kelly

      Don’t waste your time…I have applied for three different positions with that institution and have not even received as much as a computer generated rejection letter. I could not even get the Head AT to reply even after email, voice mail, and a message left with an assistant in the training room. Sparking this media attention was the most important thing that institution has done and may ever do. The salary is a joke, but so it the entire institution that posted it.

  15. Joanne kinyon, MA, ATC, CSCS

    So well written! While I agree that we need to take control of our profession, look outside the box for other types of positions, and generally be proactive there are several factors involved. I think the nata should stand up for its members, it is supposed to support us and be the face of our profession. If the don’t stand up for us, who will? That being said we are responsible for negotiating our terms at jobs and when Starbucks and trader joes pay more than a master degree job, we have a problem!

  16. Dan Quigley MSED LAT ATC

    The NATA does not set the salary standards, the economy does. If you are dissatisified with your salary or job description then you have do something about it. The individual has to take ownership. You can not sit back and wait for others to do it for you. You need to be involved and proactive. You can not complain about the NATA if you are not willing to step up and do something about it. Is this day and age we may not be getting paid for what we do and our worth. That is partly because as health professions go, we are relatively young. We need to continue to educate the public and employers in our abilities and worth. It is up to us to make our lives better.

  17. bob

    Expecting to be paid as much as ot or pt’s is a bad joke. You don’t have the training or the education. 45k sounds about right for entry level when someone who didn’t go to med school nor do the school for dpt to make. If you can get more then more power to you.l but don’t expect to do less school and less training and get equal pay.

  18. Dan Quigley MSED LAT ATC

    Less school and less training? I do not think you comprehend the education and training that it takes to be a Certified Athletic Trainer

    1. bob

      I comprehend that it is both less time and less intensive than pa pt and ot all of which you referenced. You are correct in that you shouldn’t settle and attempt to raise your base salaries by demanding more but to use words like “comparable” in that article is a joke. You aren’t in the same tier as dpts (which is almost required now) and to try and make that case would be folly

      1. Pat

        Most DPT programs are a joke, I would rather have one of the old school PT’s without advanced degrees. The DPT programs have been dumbed down and speed up solely to earn the Doctorate degree to appease the MD’s that complained about direct access by PT’s. Which in turn forced the PT’s to whine about AT’s not having a Master’s degree, thereby forcing ATC to pursue Master’s degrees. Some of which are a farce as entry level AT programs where the student will never be left alone to work with patients until they have a ‘masters degree’ and they are somehow more qualified than someone like me that has 10 years of experience working in professional sports and no Master’s degree.

  19. Keith

    I worked as an athletic trainer with a masters degree but decided to get a PTA degree. That instantly took my yearly pay up by 25 percent! Athletic training salaries are a joke when you factor in the time/stress .

  20. Joanne kinyon, MA, ATC, CSCS

    Bob is a perfect example of the need to educate people on our education level and qualifications! I hardly think an aa degree should boost an ATC salary by 25% when 70% have a masters degree!

    1. bob

      Your education level does not equal a d(this is for doctor fyi) of physical therapy. You cannot get jobs with a masters in pt now…. They have a doctorate with one year more in than even a pa.

      This doesn’t equal a masters no matter how you want to phrase it.

      1. Josh Stone, MA, ATC, NASM-CPT, CES, PES, FNS

        Bob I hate to say you are misinformed and not comparing apples to apples. A Doctorate of PT is a terminal degree. So yes you are correct a DPT has more schooling than an ATC. But not all PTs are DPT. A person with a PT has LESS schooling than an Athletic Trainer with a PhD.

        So apples to apples. Athletic Trainers, OT, and PT have the same schooling requirements (4 year degree with clinicals and a national certification exam). The exact same. While many programs are now DPT, it is not a requirement and many practicing PTs are just a PT. The same for OT – it is a 4 year degree.

        But let’s take your opening argument re: amount of schooling. A PT Assistant is a 2 year AA degree. Less schooling when compared to entry level Athletic training, yet the pay scale is significantly tipped to the PTA side.

        Now all that said, this is not a debate on who’s schooling is more arduous. It is a discussion about how Athletic Trainers are responsible for this mess and how they can improve their salary. Athletic Trainers are really damn good at what they do and it’s about time they get a salary to reflect that skill set.

  21. Randy Bisnett MEd, ATC, LAT

    Josh, I agree with much of what you said. It is true that we as a membership have put ourselves in this position but the NATA much shoulder a large portion of the blame as well. A number of years ago when athletic trainers were challenging in court our status to be paid overtime based on the fair labor and standards act the National office and leadership made a conscience decision not to get in evolved. This is not my opinion but fact as told to me by Eve Becker Royal in a letter exchange that I had with her. These court cases went on for 10 years or better with different ATCs filing actions so the national leadership had plenty of time to get involved but chose not to. To me this is an outrage. I feel like the national office turned it’s back on the membership. A few years ago the NATA lost more members than it gained and for all I know it may still be happening. I know the report just came out in the NATA News that said we have been adding members but I didn’t see any stats listed in that report that said how many we lost each year. Regardless of that we all know people who are getting out of the profession for one reason or another and almost all of them go back to either the working conditions (typically too many hours, like don’t get to see my kids grow up or spend time with my family) or because of the low pay. From my experience the average ATC would be perfectly happy if they were either getting the time or the money, meaning if I’m working the 50 – 60 or more hour work week I’m getting paid overtime so I have something to show for it other than a warm feeling inside, or if you’re not willing to pay me then I get the time off. I’d work my 40 hours and take the weekend off. Yes, I did hear the collective gasp, 40 hours is he crazy? No he must just be lazy. Really? Why shouldn’t an athletic trainer work a 40 hour work week? Why shouldn’t an individual making medical decisions work a 40 hour work week? Tell me why a high school graduate should be able to go to Detroit and put lug nuts on a Cadillac and make more and have better benefits than a nationally certified college degreed professional? It would be a huge uphill battle to fight to change the fair labor and standards act especially after the folks at the national office let it get changed (after65 years) to our professions detriment but that is exactly what needs to be done. Let’s face it the majority of employers are not going to suddenly step up and do what’s right and pay us what we are worth unless they are forced to(federal law: fair labor and standards act). If we can’t do something to improve the working conditions for athletic trainers the ATCs are going to continue to leave the profession for better conditions elsewhere and eventually we are going to become insignificant as a profession. I am an educator and I struggle on a regular basis with trying to recruit students into this profession knowing what kinds of conditions they can expect to work under and say with a good heart come be an athletic trainer it’s a wonderful profession knowing all along what they’re in for. We need to quite wearing that ridiculous badge of courage and self pity that this is athletic training long hours and low pay and somehow being proud of that. We need to learn to have more self respect. This post has run very long but I think you understand where I’m coming from. Thank you for your time.

  22. Joanne kinyon, MA, ATC, CSCS

    Bob, the argument is not us against pts, the argument is that atc’s deserve pay comparable to their education and that is not happening!


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