Sports Medicine Careers

Careers for Sports Fans, Athletes, or Physical Health Nuts!

Whether you are a former athlete, or just want to work with athletes, sports medicine and related health fields such as physical rehab or athletic training offer numerous career options. A variety of rewarding, challenging and growing careers awaits you in sports medicine and physical health! Whether you are ready to go all the way to a doctorate degree or need a career you can get with a high school diploma, there is a career for you in the sports med field!


Orthopedic Surgeon

Orthopedic surgeon operating on foot.

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Orthopedic surgeons treat the most severe sports-related injuries and musculoskeletal issues. Orthopedic surgery is one of the highest paying sports med careers, but also requires the most training and education. If you have what it takes to be a surgeon, and can work well under pressure and in highly stressful circumstances as surgeons often do, orthopedic surgery may be for you.


Athletic Trainer

athletic trainer timing athlete on track

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Athletic trainers, not to be confused with personal trainers, work with sports teams to help prevent and manage injuries. Athletic trainers have at least a bachelor's degree, and some have master's degrees. They are often employed by schools or professional sports teams.


Physical Therapist

physical therapist and patient

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Physical therapists do not only work with athletes or only with sports injuries, but this career is popular among athletes due to the physical nature of the work. Additionally, some of the injuries often treated are sports-related, while other patients may be recuperating from surgery or from another type of injury. A master's degree is necessary to become a physical therapist, and the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) encourages therapists to achieve a clinical doctorate degree in physical therapy (DPT). 

If you are unable to obtain a master's level education, or if you are not interested in completing a master's degree, there are other roles that work with physical therapists to help them provide the therapy to their patients. Physical therapy assistants and aides work alongside of physical therapists as part of the comprehensive therapy team. These support roles do not have as much input into designing the treatment, but they do help implement the physical therapy program devised by the physical therapist and physician.​


Dance Movement Therapist

dance therapy session with three people

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If dance is your favorite athletic endeavor, then a career as a dance movement therapist may be an ideal fit for you! Dance therapists have at least a bachelor's degree, but most have master's degrees from an accredited dance therapy program. Dance therapy is often used to treat a variety of problems, both physical and psychological.​


Sports Psychologist

psychologist talking to patient

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Succeeding in the high-pressure world of professional or Olympic sports can be extremely stressful. To win, athletes need not only physical skills and athleticism, but also the mental stamina and toughness to remain strong and motivated even when faced with extreme pressure or challenging circumstances. Sports psychologists are mental health professionals who specialize in the mental health needs of athletes such as motivation, stress relief, anxiety, and performance enhancement techniques.



injection being administered to patient's knee

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A physiatrist is also a physician, more commonly known today as a PM&R specialist, which stands for Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Physiatrists often work in conjunction with orthopedic surgeons, providing non-surgical care such as physical therapy, injections, and other treatments for less severe orthopedic ailments.


Exercise Physiologist

exercise trainer talking to woman

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Physiology is the study of life processes. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, "exercise physiologists are scientists who conduct controlled investigations of responses and adaptations to muscular activity utilizing human subjects or animals within a clinical setting, research institute or an academic institution."

Most exercise physiologists have at least a master's level education. However, if one is interested in research or academic roles, a PhD would be required.


Orthopedic Nursing Careers

nurse smiling at girl in wheelchair

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There are many nursing careers available in orthopedics and sports medicine as well. From LVN/LPNs to nurse practitioners, nurses who specialize in orthopedics are always in demand.​

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