There are rigors and rewards to every profession, but few are as immediately upsetting – or gratifying – as those for athletic trainers. Someone like ex-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.
“There is something about seeing an athlete peak and perform,” said Davis, now a self-ascribed performance coach who still works with NBA players like current Clipper Blake Griffin, “and knowing that you had a little something to do with that, how(ever) small.”
Of course, most athletic trainers don’t have the glory of working on the sideline for a professional sports team. Some don’t work with athletes, amateur or professional, at all.
Defined by the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA), they “are healthcare professionals who collaborate with physicians” and focus on “prevention, emergency care, clinical diagnosis, therapeutic intervention and rehabilitation of injuries and medical conditions.”
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, among other spots.
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, the athletic trainer-turned-“performance coach”, still works in Los Angeles, which ranked 102nd in our study.
“LA is a very superficial city, so there is the obvious plethora of clientele,” said 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 on the opposite coast, 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).
Unlike Davis, who was among 800 NATA members working for a professional sports league before switching gears in 2003, Wiedenbach, a two-time World Cup swimmer from Germany, has a different rigor to go with his reward.
“It is hard to duplicate yourself,” he said flatly. 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. They started out as students at universities with high success rates before meeting their state’s certification standards.
Here is what ValuePenguin 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 Athletics 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. Looking at our list, it’s hard to avoid seeing the trend: Most of the top 30 cities for athletic trainers are also a hub for universities with documented success in athletics. This includes Charlottesville, Va., the home of the University of Virginia, and continues with the sites of 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 second in our rankings because its number of jobs and annual average salary overshadowed the cost of living in New Jersey.
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.
Coming in at 26th on our list, Houston is an interesting city to look at 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 – but a very low location quotient (definition below). The latter statistic is made up for an average annual salary of $61,190, dwarfing the $46,656 average in our study.
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 percent cheaper than the average American city. Cincinnati, which rounds out our top 30 list, also has 146 more jobs than a given city on this list. Like Houston, it has its fair share of hospitals.
Full List of the Top 125 Cities for Athletic Trainers
Here's our list of the Top 125 places for athletic trainers to work inside the US. We've also broken out Average Salary, Jobs, Location Quotient, and Cost of Living so that you have insight into the data behind the final scores. If you're interested in seeing our methodology and thought process you can always click here.
Cost of Living
|Edison-New Brunswick, NJ||61,600||300||1.79||134||35.9|
|Colorado Springs, CO||59,830||70||1.71||100||53.7|
|Ann Arbor, MI||49,240||70||2.06||103||69.9|
These were the three key questions we asked in coming up with the list.
1. What can athletic trainers aides 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 career 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?
Now that we have the median salary, we’ll look next at the 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 percent 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. Location quotient measures the concentration of athletic trainers in an area as a percentage of all occupations, and then compares that to the national average. We interpret a higher location quotient to mean a relatively higher demand for an athletic trainer’s services.