Forum: A Changing Tide in Athletic Training Settings?
By: Keri Sotak, MS, ATC, CES – Owner of The Athletic Training Room, Oakland

I have recently been asking fellow certified athletic trainers if they believe there is a changing tide in athletic training settings. Specifically, are more and more ATC’s moving away from the collegiate settings and into the secondary school setting, clinical, hospital, outreach, and industrial settings? I pose this question because I recently made the switch from the Division I Collegiate Setting to a Private High School. Only a couple years ago, I would have asked someone in my shoes, “But, WHY?!”. I always loved the competitive collegiate setting. I was at a Power 5 Conference school and to me, it was my dream job. Why would I leave working with elite athletes, having amazing resources, being around incredible physicians, and being able to travel and see new places with my teams? Answer: better pay, better hours, better lifestyle. The Division I setting to me just wasn’t worth it anymore. I was seeing fellow athletic trainers making far more money than myself, working reasonable hours, having a work-life balance, and enjoying life. I slowly started to realize that I was making myself sick, physically and mentally, by continuing to subject myself to long work hours, inadequate pay, and negative work environment variables. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, I have so many cool opportunities, and working in the Division I setting didn’t allow me to experience them and live life to my fullest. I know I know…it’s not always about the pay. If you truly enjoy what you do and it fulfills you in every aspect of life, go for it! If you resent the hours, the people, the environment, and it doesn’t fulfill you, then what’s it all for?

As I was seeking new employment opportunities and seeing the turnover rate at so many Division I institutions, I started to wonder if it’s not just me that’s realizing the grass may be greener on the other side (and I will be the first to say, it is greener! At least, for me and my situation). So, I ask the following questions:
-Are athletic trainers opting to work in other settings and take themselves out of the Division I limelight for the perks of what most of society would call realistic compensation, hours, and lifestyle?
-Is it younger athletic trainers, or a wide range that is making the switch?
-Is there more turnover in the collegiate setting in the last couple years?
-Are college institutions able to compete with other settings in terms of compensation and lifestyle?
-Are colleges going to have a hard time hiring and retaining athletic trainers in the future?
-Have you left the collegiate setting recently? If so, why?

The goal of this is to have an open and respectful forum as I am interested in my initial question posed, and for other athletic trainers to share their thoughts, and possibly help others who are thinking about making a professional setting change. We’d love to hear from you!

The Athletic Training Room
Oakland, CA