Personal Finance

Best Cities for Athletic Trainers

Best Cities for Athletic Trainers

There are rigors and rewards to every profession, but few are as immediately upsetting — or gratifying — as those for athletic trainers. Someone like former Los Angeles Clippers trainer Robbie Davis could work with one of his clients in an empty gym one day and then watch him either break a bone or drop 30 on Kobe the next.

Defined by the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA), athletic trainers "are healthcare professionals who collaborate with physicians" and focus on "prevention, emergency care, clinical diagnosis, therapeutic intervention and rehabilitation of injuries and medical conditions."

"There is something about seeing an athlete peak and perform, and knowing that you had a little something to do with that, how(ever) small," says Davis, who now runs his own business training "some of sports’ biggest names," Game Shape.

"LA is a very superficial city, so there is the obvious plethora of clientele," says Davis, a University of Southern California graduate who once phoned the Clippers a dozen times looking for an entry-level opportunity before finding a sympathetic ear. "Being here has enabled me to carve out a niche for myself that I couldn’t have created anywhere else."

Like Davis, Olympian-turned-personal trainer Maik Wiedenbach has his own brand, working for his own clients. He tailors his services to on-the-move New Yorkers like the celebrity he once helped to shed 200 pounds (but won’t name). Of his own career challenges and rewards, Wiedenbach, a two-time World Cup swimmer from Germany, says, "It is hard to duplicate yourself, but taking somebody (else) from good to great is incredibly fulfilling."

This is why many athletic trainers, those that are really on the ground floor, get into the field in the first place. And there are many.

NATA says it represents 39,000 athletic trainers based in both this country and abroad, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 8,900 of the 22,400 athletic trainers employed in the U.S. last year worked either for schools or sports organizations. The remainder were found in doctor’s offices, hospitals, clinics and even governmental departments like the police.

To learn about the best places for athletic trainers to work, ValuePenguin reviewed data from 125 cities across three important metrics: median salary, cost of living and location quotient (more on our methodology below). Davis, athletic trainer-turned-performance coach, still works in Los Angeles, which ranked 102nd in our study. Here’s what we found for athletic trainer prospects and veterans looking for a new city to call home (or to confirm where their current one ranks).

Select best cities for athletic trainers

Edison-New Brunswick, New Jersey

Edison doesn’t have its own major college sports program, but nearby New Brunswick’s Rutgers University has one big enough to share. In fact, looking at our list, it’s hard to avoid seeing the trend: Most of the top 30 cities for athletic trainers also act as hubs for universities with documented success in athletics, including Charlottesville, Va., the home of the University of Virginia, and the Universities of Illinois, Michigan, Nebraska and Alabama, among many others.

In addition to its proximity to the Scarlet Knights, Edison, meanwhile, also rose to the second spot on our rankings because its number of jobs and annual average salary overshadowed the cost of living in New Jersey.

Winchester, Virginia

Based on its study-high location quotient (4.46), Winchester seems to have among the highest demand for athletic trainers. This is partly due to the smallest city’s population size. Regardless, a healthy percentage of the city’s jobs are in the field, perhaps because of its sprawling Valley Health Medical Center. Concerning athletics above the high school level, Winchester, which ranked one spot behind Edison in third place, has its local Shenandoah University, plus a summer league baseball team comprising promising college prospects.

Houston, Texas

Coming in at 26th on our list, Houston is an interesting city to consider if you’re an athletic trainer looking to start or rejuvenate your career. Texas’ most populous city has the most jobs (410) among our top 30 cities — hosting Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital, one of America’s largest, doesn’t hurt. Plus, the city’s average annual salary of $61,190, dwarfing the $46,656 average in our study, more than makes up for its very low location quotient (definition below).

Cincinnati, Ohio

At $46,100, Cincinnati sits right in the middle when it comes to annual average salary for athletic trainers. But in this Midwestern city, which has the student-athlete communities of its public university and the private Xavier University, the cost of living is 14% cheaper than the average American city. Cincinnati, which takes our 30th spot, also has 146 more jobs than a given city on this list. Like Houston, it has its fair share of hospitals.

Top 125 cities for athletic trainers

Here are the top 125 places for athletic trainers to work inside the U.S., ranked based on average salary, jobs, location quotient and cost of living.

Average salary
Location quotient
Cost of living
1Charlottesville, VA65,150503.0810925.6


Edison-New Brunswick, NJ61,6003001.7913435.9


Winchester, VA50,370404.4611250.2


Colorado Springs, CO59,830701.7110053.7


Burlington, VT48,540703.3312558.7


Champaign, IL53,810301.939560.5


Duluth, MN47,280703.299664.5


Ann Arbor, MI49,240702.0610369.9


Bridgeport, CT45,3102804.0514372.6


York-Hanover, PA54,580401.519375.9


Haverhill, MA48,450302.5313576.0


Lubbock, TX57,040301.428576.1
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We asked three key questions when determining the top 125 cities for athletic trainers:

1. What can athletic trainers earn in the city?

We ranked the best cities for athletic trainers based on the median annual pay. Income is likely the most important factor people consider when starting their careers or relocating elsewhere. A high salary in an expensive city, however, may be less attractive than a lower salary in an affordable town. Our next metric takes affordability into consideration.

2. How affordable is it to live in this city?

Once we had each city’s median salary, we considered its cost of living. The cost of living is a measure of how far earnings can be stretched. Cities with lower cost-of-living index numbers ranked higher in our study. For example, the average city is benchmarked at 100. A city with a cost-of-living index of 143, such as Bridgeport, would mean that generally speaking, living expenses are 43% more expensive compared to the average city.

3. What is the location quotient for athletic trainers in the city?

A place with a high median salary and low cost of living may seem perfect, but job opportunities may be limited. Our third factor accounts for this by favoring cities with high location quotients. To determine location quotient, we measured the concentration of athletic trainers in an area as a percentage of all occupations, and then compared that to the national average. We interpreted a higher location quotient to mean a relatively higher demand for an athletic trainer’s services.