Below is an overview of the education and credentialing process for entry-level athletic trainers. Athletic trainers must complete their professional degree from an education program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE), which is recognized by the Council for Higher Eduation Accreditation (CHEA).  Currently two degrees options towards the national entry-level examination offered by the Board of Certification, Inc. (BOC) exists for the athletic trainer's professional education; a bachlor's degree or a post-baccalaureate degree. 

In 2015, the CAATE, in conjunction with its partner organiziations in the Athletic Training Strategic Alliance (BOC, NATA, NATA REF), determined that beginning in 2022, the entry-level professional degree in Athletic Training will only be offered at the post-baccalaureate (master's) degree level.  For more details on this degree transition process, please see the CAATE's Professional Degree resource.


Professional education in athletic training uses a competency-based approach in both the classroom and clinical settings. Using a medical-based education model, students are educated to provide comprehensive athletic training services in five domains of clinical practice: injury/illness prevention and wellness protection, clinical evaluation and diagnosis, immediate and emergency care, treatment and rehabilitation, and organizational and professional health & well-being. The educational requirements for CAATE-accredited professional programs include the knowledge, skills, and abilities delineated in the Athletic Training Education Competencies, 5th Edition, as well as a comprehensive clinical learning requirement that embodies the competenices central to all health professionals by delivering patient-centered care in interdisciplinary teams that employ evidence-based practice, health informatics, and quality improvement measures.

Students must receive formal instruction in the following subjects:

Basic and Applied Sciences Professional Content

Human anatomy

Human physiology


Statistics and research design

Exercise Physiology


Evidence-Based Practice

Prevention and Health Promotion

Clinical Examination and Diagnosis

Acute Care of Injuries and Illnesses

Therapeutic Interventions and Rehabilitation



Psychosocial Strategies and Referral

Nutritional Aspects of Injuries & Illnesses

Healthcare Administration

Professional Development & Responsibility


Students complete a minimum of two years of academic clinical education that must provide students with authentic, real-time opportunites to practice and integrate knowledge, skills, and clinical abilities, including clinical decision-making. Through these experiences, students are prepared to address the continuum of care necessary to function in a variety of settings with patients of varying complexity who are engaged in a range of activities. These expeiriences must include, be should be limited to: individual and team sports, sports requiring protective equipment, patients of different sexes, non-sport populations, and a variety of conditions other than orthopedics. Clinical experiences are completed under the supervision of qualified health professionals (athletic trainers, physicians, & other credentialed providers) who serve as preceptors for the accredited education program.