Sports Rehabilitation Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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Learn about sports rehabilitation careers. Get job descriptions, salary and education requirement information. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a career in the field of sports rehabilitation.
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Careers in Sports Rehabilitation

Sports rehabilitation professionals help athletes and non-athletes recover from injuries incurred during physical competition. Below is a table comparing careers in massage therapy, athletic training and chiropractics.

Massage Therapist Athletic Trainer Chiropractor
Career Overview Massage therapists manipulate a patient's soft-tissue muscles. Athletic trainers work to prevent, diagnose and treat muscle and bone injuries. Chiropractors treat problems of the musculoskeletal system, often by manipulation.
Education Requirements Postsecondary non-degree program Bachelor's degree Doctor of Chiropractic
Program Length Minimum of 500 hours Four years Three years undergraduate and four years of chiropractic school
Certification and Licensing Most states require licensure or certification Most states require certification and licensure All states and the District of Columbia require licensure
Experience Required None; entry level None; entry level None; entry level
Job Outlook for 2012-2022 Much faster than average employment growth (23%)* Faster than average employment growth (21%)* Faster than average employment growth (15%)*
Mean Annual Salary (2014) $41,790* $45,730* $79,760*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Massage Therapist

You might call massage therapy the literal and original hands-on work experience. By physically manipulating soft-tissue muscles, massage therapists can relieve stress, advance rehabilitation, alleviate pain and promote relaxation that can contribute to the general wellbeing of a patient.

Requirements

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), massage therapists must typically complete a postsecondary program of at least 500 hours. Programs contain classroom work and clinical experiences. Most states require massage therapists to be licensed or certified. If your state doesn't require you to hold a license, you may find that your locality may have its own licensure or certification requirements.

States that call for licensure mandate that you graduate from a program that has been accredited by the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA). Following graduation, you're required to sit for a state examination or for one of two national exams. The Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) is offered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards. The National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCETMB) is offered by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB)

Below are some examples of what employers were looking for in November 2012:

  • An orthopedic practice in Texas wanted to hire a full-time massage therapist. Candidates were to have graduated from an accredited school of massage therapy, having completed a program of at least 500 hours. Candidates were to hold a state license and membership in a professional massage association.
  • An Ohio fitness facility was seeking a part-time massage therapist. Candidates were to hold an associate's degree and a state massage therapy license. Candidates were also to hold current CPR certification. The employer preferred candidates to have at least one year of experience and be familiar with chair massage, deep tissue and Swedish massage.
  • A Florida franchise or a national healthcare/wellness company was seeking candidates to apply for full- and part-time positions as massage therapists. Candidates were to have completed an accredited program of at least 500 hours and hold a state license. The employer preferred that candidates be familiar with several massage modalities and be willing to go through training in additional modalities including deep muscle therapy and aroma therapy.

Standing Out

Though you can become certified after having completed a minimum of 500 hours of formal training, you may find that additional training can prove to be to your advantage. The BLS states that you may distinguish yourself in the field by becoming qualified in a number of different massage modalities or techniques. Beginning in 2013, you can earn the Board Certification credential from the NCBTMB. Requirements include 750 hours of education and 250 hours of hands-on experience. You must also pass a criminal background check and become CPR certified. Board Certification can serve to increase your marketability and enhance your career possibilities.

Athletic Trainer

Generally operating under the direction of and in cooperation with a physician, an athletic trainer works to prevent muscle and bone illnesses and injuries when possible, diagnose them when they occur and apply proper treatment to aid in a patient's rehabilitation. Athletic trainers may work for professional or amateur sports organizations, at clinics, in government agencies or with theatrical organizations.

Requirements

The BLS states that in order to become an athletic trainer, you need at least a bachelor's degree. However, athletic trainers holding a master's degree are becoming more common. Programs entail classroom and clinical components. Most states require athletic trainers to be certified and licensed. Certification is available through the Board of Certification, Inc (BOC), which is an independent outgrowth of the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA). The credential offered is Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC). In order to qualify to sit for a BOC certification examination, you must have completed a program that has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE).

Licensure requirements are determined by individual states. Generally, you may be eligible to apply for state licensure if you graduate from a CAATE-accredited program and sit for either a state or a BOC certification examination. If your duties include teaching at a public school, you'll also be required to obtain a state teacher's license.

Here are a few ads for athletic trainers that ran in November 2012:

  • A healthcare system in New York was looking for a full-time athletic trainer. Candidates were to hold a Bachelor of Science and be certified in CPR and the use of automated external defibrillator (AED). Candidates were to hold BOC certification and hold or be eligible to hold a state license. One year of experience as an athletic trainer was preferred.
  • A Pennsylvania university wanted to hire a part-time athletic trainer to work with 17 varsity sports programs. Candidates were to hold a bachelor's degree and be BOC-certified. Candidates were also to hold or be eligible to hold Pennsylvania licensure.
  • A physiotherapy company working with a professional arena football team in Iowa was seeking a full-time athletic trainer with BOC certification. Candidates were to have a background in college, semi-professional or professional football, with two years of work experience. Candidates were to hold a bachelor's degree and Iowa licensure.

Standing Out

Although it may not be required, you may help yourself get noticed by earning a master's degree. In order to present a more complete product to a potential employer, you may be well advised to obtain CPR, AED and any other certification that might come in useful in the course of practicing as a trainer. In order not to limit your job possibilities, you may want to become certified to teach. This is just in case the position you secure is in a public school system and includes a teaching component.

Chiropractor

Primarily through the use of their hands, chiropractors deliver adjustments to a patient's musculoskeletal system, including tissues, tendons, muscles, bones and most often the spine. Chiropractors are concerned with the overall health of a patient. They believe that correctly aligning the spinal column can do much to strengthen a patient's nervous system and improve a patient's resistance to disease or illness.

Requirements

As noted by the BLS, chiropractors must complete a program leading to a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.). This is a graduate program that usually takes four years to complete. In order to qualify for admission to the program, you must complete at least three years of undergraduate study.

All states and the District of Columbia require chiropractors to be licensed. Though specific licensure requirements vary by state, most states insist that you graduate from a program that has been accredited by the Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE). The Association of Chiropractic Colleges (ACC) also lists American and foreign accredited institutions for chiropractic instruction. Upon graduation, you're required to sit for either a state-designed licensure examination or one from the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE). In some cases, you may be required to sit for both exams. Through the Federation of Chiropractic Licensing Boards (FCLB), you should be able to determine the D.C. licensure requirements for your state.

Here are a few employers who were looking for chiropractors in November 2012:

  • A diagnostics company in Illinois was looking for a full-time chiropractor who was amenable to flexible scheduling. Candidates were to be licensed to practice in Illinois and preferably other states as well. Candidates were to have a familiarity with physiology and the ability to perform electromyogram/nerve conduction velocity (EMG/NCV) and ultrasound testing procedures.
  • A California healthcare provider wanted to hire a full-time chiropractor on a PRN basis. PRN is the abbreviation for the Latin term, pro re nata, meaning as circumstances arise.' Candidates were to either hold a bachelor's degree or have equivalent work experience. They also must have graduated from a certified chiropractic institution and hold state licensure.
  • A medical group in Texas was seeking a part-time chiropractor. Candidates were to hold current state licensure. They were to have graduated from an accredited or approved school of chiropractic. Candidates were to have five years of experience in a variety of clinical settings, with an emphasis on orthopedics.

Standing Out

The BLS states that some chiropractors specialize in a specific area such as pediatrics, orthopedics or sports injuries. If you're particularly interested in sports rehabilitation, it may be to your advantage to specialize in chiropractic as it applies to sports injuries. You may also be able to further distinguish yourself by becoming qualified in an allied modality such as ultrasound, acupuncture or massage therapy. You might increase your marketability by familiarizing yourself with office technology, such as that commonly found in healthcare facilities.

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Kaplan University

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Grand Canyon University

  • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
  • M.B.A. with an Emphasis in Sports Business
  • BS in Sports Management

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Ashford University

  • B.A. - Sports and Recreation Management
  • BA/Sports and Recreation Management - Finance
  • BA/Sports and Recreation Management - Information Systems

What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

  • Ed.D. - Sports Management
  • MEd - Athletic Coaching
  • Education Specialist - Sports Management

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Utica College

  • Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy
  • MBA - Health Care Management
  • Masters in Health Care Administration

What is your highest level of education completed?

Colorado State University Global

  • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration

What is your highest level of education?

University of the Rockies

  • Ph.D. in Organizational Development & Leadership - Sport, Fitness & Wellness Management
  • Doctor of Psychology - Sport and Performance Psychology
  • Master of Arts in Psychology - Sport and Performance Psychology
  • M.A. in Organizational Development & Leadership - Sport, Fitness & Wellness Management

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor of Management - Health Care Management and Leadership
  • MS - Healthcare Management
  • BS - Business Administration - Health Care Management

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