There are many employers that are willing to pay athletic trainers low salaries because they know there are athletic trainers who are willing to accept a lower paying salary in order to do what they enjoy or work in a particular setting. Accepting jobs that pay us for less than what we are worth ultimately hurts our profession. It also hurts our athletic training colleagues who are searching for a job and those looking to negotiate a higher salary. Employers not only utilize data from the NATA Salary Survey, but they also use organizational data to determine what ‘fair pay’ is within their individual organization. If we continue to accept lower paying jobs, we are not only lowering our local organizational value, but also our national value. This hurts both the colleagues we work with every day and those athletic trainers who we may have never met.
As practicing athletic trainers, we are responsible for the growth and sustainability of our profession; not the NATA, not the BOC, and not CAATE. All of these organizations support causes important to the profession, but ultimately the buck stops with each and every single one of us. If we fail to make to make athletic training an appealing profession for the best and brightest aspiring professional (part of which includes salary), athletic training will fail to meet our potential in the modern healthcare community.
In 2010, Yahoo Financial listed athletic training as the 4th worst paying college degrees. This is interesting, considering that the athletic training job outlook for 2012-2022 is expected to rise by 19%, faster than average when compared to all other professions. These two data points demonstrates something we all know: money isn’t the main reason we chose to enter the profession. However if you attend any professional meeting in athletic training, you will most certainly hear complaints that athletic trainers are underpaid and overworked. It is a great to see the average salary on the rise, but we still are not adequately compensated for our skills or time. The most critical mistake that we can make is to sell ourselves short. The next time you find yourself in the position to negotiate your salary, make sure your employer recognizes your value and set the bar high.
-Ethan Roberts, LAT, ATC