The world of sports medicine contains a wide variety of career opportunities. From providing sophisticated treatment for highly elite athletes to treating the general public for movement-oriented ailments, if you are interested in combining a love of medicinal intervention with the sports world, sports medicine can offer a wide array of career options to consider.
Many individuals who might be interested in a career in sports medicine mistakenly assume that they need a background in athletics or sport involvement to pursue a sports medicine role. This is not the case. In fact, non-athletes can make very effective sports medicine professionals and can often contribute different perspectives to athletic settings that long-time athletes or sports professionals might not bring to the table.
Whatever your background or historic involvement with sport, sports medicine can be a great career choice for you. Here are a few common examples of jobs within the sports medicine field that are worth exploring.
Sports Medicine Physician
A sports medicine physician is a medical physician that specializes in providing medical treatment for athletes or within athletic settings. Becoming a sports medicine physician requires completing medical school and becoming a certified physician.
While this career path requires a heavy educational load before being able to practice (often 6+ years plus additional certifications or rotations as necessary), it boasts a high average salary expectation once you reach the field. You might expect an average annual salary of $200,000 or more as an established sports medicine physician.
Sports medicine physicians often work for medical facilities, hospitals, or elite sports organizations. This includes professional teams or franchises. They provide both preventive and rehabilitative care for athletes. This often includes designing fitness and nutrition plans, educating athletes on stretching and effective safety and maintenance routines, diagnosing and treating injuries, and overseeing the recovery process after injuries occur.
An athletic trainer provides athletic care and education in a number of different settings. The education necessary to become an athletic trainer can vary, but it usually starts with a kinesiology degree. Four-year undergraduate programs are available to prepare you for an athletic training career, but it’s also possible to pursue certifications or specific training programs that can equip you for athletic training as well. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a high level of demand growth for athletic trainers from 2020 to 2030, making this a lucrative market full of career opportunities.
Some athletic trainers work exclusively with an elite athlete, set of athletes, or team. Others work for athletic facilities like gyms, fitness centers, universities, or similar and provide care for a range of individuals or athlete types. Athletic trainers have expertise in a number of areas pertinent to athletic performance.
These include nutrition and health, musculoskeletal systems, optimal training regimens for various sports or athletic goals, injury prevention and care, rehabilitation, and more. Athletic trainers help their clients pursue their athletic performance goals. These can range from meeting highly elite performance expectations to helping elderly individuals maintain an optimal level of fitness for their age.
Athletic Health Education Professional
Health education professionals fill a unique role within the medicinal landscape. Unlike direct care providers, health educators provide various stakeholder groups with the information and awareness they need to make informed health decisions and maintain optimal health. Some health education professionals specialize in athletic health education and work specifically with sports organizations, athletes, or within athletic contexts to equip their audiences with athletic or fitness knowledge.
These roles can range widely in expected salary. Completing additional schooling (such as a Master of Public Health or Health Education) can help improve earning potential in this type of position.
Athletic health education professionals could work for a variety of organization types. They might work for government institutions, medical facilities, universities, sport-specific facilities or organizations, community health provision organizations, and more. They are fantastic roles for individuals interested in athletic performance and who have the desire to teach and educate.
Though their workplaces and the populations they care for can sometimes look similar, a physical therapist (PT) satisfies a different need than an athletic trainer. Physical therapists are required to complete an advanced degree before being able to practice. The average salary expectation for a physical therapist role is higher than that of an athletic trainer.
PTs might work in dedicated athletic care facilities, medical institutions, universities, or in their own private practice. They might work with a wide variety of patients or specialize in a particular subset (such as elite athletes, community members, or elderly individuals).