Friday, March 6, 2015

What’s the Difference Between an Athletic Trainer’s National Certification and License?

What’s the difference between an athletic trainer’s national certification and license?

It is now officially National Athletic Training Month and this blog will continue the series on the differences within the sports medicine profession. As mentioned in the recent blog, “Differences in the Sports Medicine Staff”, athletic trainers are health care professionals that coincide with a physician to provide preventative services, emergency care, clinical diagnosis, therapeutic intervention and rehabilitation of injuries and medical conditions. The question is now, what type of education and certifications do athletic trainers need to be able to practice in their state?

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The National Athletic Training Society (NATA), is a professional association that supports all certified athletics and others that are active within the sports medicine profession. Though anyone can join, the NATA highly recommends that every athletic trainer becomes certified nationally through the Board of Certification. To become a BOC-certified athletic trainer (ATC), you must earn a degree from a college or university with an accredited athletic training program, then take and pass the exam administered by the BOC.1  

Requirements for an accredited athletic training education program include acquisition of knowledge, skills, and clinical abilities along with a broad scope of foundational behaviors of professional practice. Students complete an extensive clinical learning requirement that are identified in the Athletic Training Education Competencies. One obtains and keeps their ATC credential by adhering to the BOC Standards of Professional Practice, and Disciplinary Guidelines and Procedures; while also keeping up with continuing competence (education) requirements.1

An athletic training license (LAT) is a more restrictive type of professional regulation. Everyone must obtain a license within the state they are practicing. As long as you attend a college or university that is approved by the State’s Board of Athletic Training, then you are able to apply for the licensure examination to prove minimum competency in the realm of athletic training.2 State law defines the scope of practice and requirements for the legal practice of athletic training. Scope of practice can vary from state to state and state regulation always takes precedence over the voluntary BOC certification standards.

Forty-seven states recognize the Board of Certification credentials.1 Due to it’s voluntary nature, one is able to practice athletic training with just their state licensure, as long as they do not leave the state that obtained their degree in. The decision is left up to the future health care provider on choosing an accredited athletic training program or not. At the end of the day, an athletic trainer is still an athletic trainer regardless if they have ATC or LAT behind their name.

1 Athletic Training. National Athletic Training Association. Retrieved from

2 Board of Certification State Regulation. Retrieved from

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