Career Paths for Sports Medicine Majors

Sports medicine is a rapidly growing part of healthcare, and it focuses on preventing and treating sports-related injuries. Sports medicine professionals diagnose problems and plan and implement treatment, including surgery and post-operative care. They can help athletes reduce pain and improve their strength and athletic performance. Moreover, they can help those who aren’t athletes recover from injuries and regain their strength and range of motion. Here are some of the most popular career paths for sports medicine majors.

Exercise Physiologist

An exercise physiologist determines appropriate health and exercise regimens for people by analyzing their medical histories and current fitness levels. Exercise physiologists often administer stress and fitness tests and monitor vital signs before and during exercise to create a safe, effective exercise program. They often have a bachelor’s degree in sports medicine, exercise physiology, biology, or a related field. Some have a master’s degree and additional certifications as well.

Athletic Trainer

An athletic trainer usually specializes in a particular sport, like football, figure skating, or hockey. Athletic trainers may work with individuals or entire teams. They recommend exercise and nutrition programs, teach safe and effective exercise techniques, intervene when needed to prevent injuries, and recommend injury recovery programs.

Athletic trainers often have a bachelor’s degree in sports medicine, athletic training, or exercise science. They are required to pass a board of certification test to become certified athletic trainers, and they must complete continuing education requirements to stay certified. They also must work in collaboration with a doctor. Athletic trainers work in fitness centers, doctors’ offices, or hospitals, or with collegiate or professional sports teams.


Kinesiotherapists design and implement exercise programs for people recovering from injuries. They focus on restoring strength and mobility. Some kinesiotherapists support a range of problems, and others work with athletes recovering from specific injuries. They perform their jobs in fitness centers, doctors’ offices, hospitals, or sports medicine facilities. A kinesiotherapist must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited kinesiotherapy program. Passing the registered kinesiotherapist certification exam is recommended but not required.

Physical Therapist

A physical therapist is like a more qualified version of a kinesiotherapist. In addition to a bachelor’s degree, physical therapists have doctorates in physical therapy. They must also pass a national licensure exam. Physical therapists assess patients’ current musculoskeletal functioning, make diagnoses, and recommend and implement treatment plans. They help people recover from muscle, nerve, and joint injuries to resume an active lifestyle. They teach people how to perform physical therapy exercises until they can complete the tasks on their own. Physical therapists often work in rehabilitation centers, hospitals, clinics, schools, and more.


A physiatrist is a medical doctor who supports people with pain and mobility issues. Their role is similar to a physical therapist, but it usually requires more knowledge of nerves, muscles, and bone tissues. Physiatrists focus on non-surgical treatments, such as medication and exercise. Physiatrists must have a bachelor’s degree and a Doctor of Medicine degree. They must also complete four years of post-doctoral residency and pass a medical board exam.

Orthopedic Surgeon

An orthopedic surgeon, also called an orthopedist, prevents, diagnoses, and treats tendon, bone, joint, and muscle disorders. They may use non-surgical treatments along with surgery. Some orthopedic surgeons are generalists, while others specialize in particular parts of the body, such as the feet and ankles. Orthopedists may work in hospitals or in a private practice. They must have a bachelor’s and Doctor of Medicine degrees, complete a four or five-year orthopedic surgery residency, and pass a board certification exam.

Sports Medicine Physician

A sports medicine doctor focuses on preventing, diagnosing, and treating injuries non-surgically. These professionals also provide training and information about nutrition and athletic conditioning. They may recommend physical or occupational therapy, and they help patients decide when they can safely return to their normal activities. Most sports medicine doctors also act as primary care physicians. They often specialize in family medicine, and they have supplemental certifications in sports medicine.

Sports Medicine Nurse

Many sports medicine nurses are nurse practitioners who can perform many treatments on their own. They are also supervised by a physician, and they can treat torn ligaments, muscle strains, bone fractures, dislocations, and more. Sports medicine nurses must have a bachelor’s degree in nursing or a related field, and many also have a master’s degree as a nurse practitioner and an orthopedic nursing certification.

Physician Assistant

Physician assistants (PAs) are similar to nurse practitioners, and they usually work under the direction of doctors. They can prescribe some classes of medication, and they assess, diagnose, and treat injuries and other issues. PAs usually need a bachelor’s degree in a related field like biology or sports medicine. Then, they must obtain a master’s degree in physician assisting. These programs usually last three years, and they often require previous healthcare experience. After you graduate, you’ll need to pass a certification exam and become licensed in your state.

Sports Psychologist

A sports psychologist helps athletes develop and maintain beliefs and ways of thinking that help them deal with the stress of competition, prevent burnout, and enhance their performance. They may also help athletes deal with pain when recovering from injuries. Some sports psychologists work with coaches and other professionals to create challenging, creative programs for athletes of all ages. Sports psychologists must have at least a bachelor’s degree, and many professionals obtain a master’s or a doctorate as well. Sports psychologists often double major in psychology and kinesiology, exercise science, or sports medicine for their bachelor’s program.

If you enjoy sports and helping people feel healthy, consider one of these sports medicine careers. Many sports medicine career paths are growing rapidly. Sports medicine is ideal for people who are compassionate, organized, and meticulous. Sports medicine professionals also need to communicate well with patients and form good relationships. Dr. Lisa M. Schoene is a certified athletic trainer and sports medicine podiatrist with more than 25 years of experience. She can help you learn more about sports medicine treatments and career paths.