Career opportunities for athletic therapists are diverse and challenging. Generally speaking, athletic therapists find employment in four areas:
If you have an education degree (B.Ed.) and an advanced certificate in athletic therapy (such as Mount Royal's), you are a strong candidate for employment in a high school. While your main responsibility would be teaching, you could also provide an excellent "add-on" service to school's athletic program. Key advantages of working for a high school (or a college or university, for that matter) include security, a benefits plan, paid vacations during the summer months, and the opportunity to move into related areas such as counselling, coaching and administration.
If you pursue at least a Bachelor's degree in Physical Education or Kinesiology, and are a Certification Candidate through the Canadian Athletic Therapists Association, it is possible to secure work at a college or university. Be aware, however, that the minimum standard for a permanent faculty appointment is now a Master's degree and will soon be a doctorate.
Almost all major universities have Head Athletic Therapists and are expanding by hiring assistant therapists. More than half of the colleges in Alberta, on the other hand, do not have a person designated as a Head Athletic Therapist, much less anyone who is certified.
If you were to set your sights on creating a position at a college, the opportunity is there. You would have to "sell" the academic decision-makers on the need for a higher level of athlete care. In practice, this often means that you would volunteer initially in the hope you would eventually become the co-ordinator of the team's therapy service.
There is a limit to the expectations a graduate should have about employment by a professional sports team. Not only are there relatively few professional teams, most experience limited staff turn-over. There are, on the other hand, noticeable opportunities in baseball, football and ice hockey for female therapists. If you choose to pursue a career like this, you must earn a degree in Physical Education or Kinesiology and certification through the Canadian Athletic Therapists Association (CATA). You can expect to start as an assistant or possibly a head therapist within a minor league team and work your way up.
Sport medicine clinics, particularly in Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec, advertise for Certified Athletic Therapists. Based on physician referral, Certified Athletic Therapists practice in a modalities and rehabilitation setting and bill participating insurance companies fees for service or by charging the patient directly.
Chiropractors sometimes hire Athletic Therapists with massage therapy skills to provide complementary therapy for their patients. Our own Mount Royal Athletic Therapy Centre, for example, is a model Athletic Therapy Clinic.
If you are entrepreneurially inclined, we also recommend that you consider starting your own business.
Many Certified Athletic Therapists also choose to enhance their employment opportunities by acquiring additional credentials:
- Certified Fitness Appraiser through the Alberta Fitness Leaders Certification Association (AFLCA)
- National Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength Coaches Association (U.S.A.).
- Registered Massage Therapist through the Massage Therapists Association of Alberta (MTAA).
- Alberta Fitness Leadership Certification (AFLCA) delivers strength and conditioning certification for professionals prescribing resistance training for healthy participants