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Know Your Worth: Athletic Training Internships

By Devon Serrano, MS, LAT, ATC

As the number of professional-level master’s programs increase, more Athletic Trainers and athletic training students are looking for options to further their clinical education before diving into a full-time job.  Internships and advanced residencies and fellowships are popping up across the country, offering Athletic Trainers the opportunity to improve themselves as clinicians.  As great a concept as it is, there is a deadly catch: these opportunities come at a price.  Many do not offer medical benefits or housing assistance and most offer very low wages..

Now don’t get me wrong: not all internships are evil places that lure unsuspecting young professionals to a year of crazy hours and little pay.  The higher paying internships, fellowships and residencies can range from $18,000 to $30,000, according to a recent search on the NATA career center.  However, some are offered for far lower – from $15,000 all the way to unpaid.  Imagine trying to live in a major city such as New York, Chicago or Washington, DC with the constant fear of having to choose between paying for rent and transportation or buying groceries.

The return of internships is a great thing.  Going back to the start of the profession, internships allow for Athletic Trainers to become better clinicians with a bit of a safety net still available in case they fall.  In order to make this route successful and ultimately improve the profession of athletic training as a whole, Athletic Trainers must demand more for themselves.

Let’s compare internships for doctors versus Athletic Trainers.  During a doctor’s internship, they are still doctors and are paid as such.  They work long hours with a great deal of responsibility assigned to them.  However, they don’t usually worry about being able to make rent that month.  Not many Athletic Trainers can say they felt financially comfortable during their internships.

Athletic Trainers need to recognize their worth and demand recognition by their employers.  When looking for their first job or placement right after school many young Athletic Trainers will take the first job they’re offered without doing their research.

When considering your first position out of school, consider these questions:

1. What is the cost of living in that area?

2. How many teams are you assigned to?

3. Are you responsible for paying your own licensure fees, insurance, NATA dues, CE fees, etc?

4. Is your pay taxed at the time or not?

After a while, things add up. You don’t want to pay to be an intern.

As a profession, we need to embrace the changes that are upon us.  I wouldn’t be surprised if internships take the place of Graduate Assistants in post-professional clinical education in the coming years.  If we as professionals know our worth and are willing to fight for it, we will continue to see an improvement in athletic training’s reputation.  It is important for us to teach the future generations of Athletic Trainers to know their worth and refuse to work for pennies