Frequently Asked Questions

Athletic Training

What is an athletic trainer?

Board of Certification (BOC) Certified athletic trainers are healthcare professionals who collaborate with physicians to optimize activity and participation of patients and clients. Athletic training encompasses the prevention, diagnosis and intervention of emergency, acute and chronic medical conditions involving impairment, functional limitations and disabilities. As part of a complete health care team, the certified athletic trainer works under the direction of a licensed physician and in cooperation with other health care professionals, athletics administrators, coaches and parents.

Students who want to become BOC-certified athletic trainers must earn a degree from an accredited athletic training curriculum. Accredited programs include formal instruction in areas such as injury/illness prevention, first aid and emergency care, assessment of injury/illness, human anatomy and physiology, therapeutic modalities, and nutrition. Classroom learning is enhanced through clinical education experiences. More than 70 percent of certified athletic trainers hold at least a master's degree.

Athletic training is not the same profession as personal training. And certified athletic trainers work with more than just athletes - they can be found Just about anywhere that people are physically active.

To become BOC-certified athletic trainers, students must pass a comprehensive test administered by the BOC. Once certified, they must meet ongoing continuing education requirements in order to remain certified. (Obtained from the NATA)

Where do athletic trainers work?

  • Professional sports
  • Colleges and universities
  • Secondary schools
  • Emerging settings
    • Physician practice
    • Performing arts
    • Health care administration
    • Hospital
    • Occupational/industrial
    • Armed forces
    • Public safety
    • Rehabilitation clinic
    • Community outreach

What is a typical day like for a BOC-certified athletic trainer?

  • Preparing athletes for practice or competition including taping, bandaging, wrapping and bracing.
  • Evaluating injuries to decide if the athlete needs further medical treatment.
  • Developing conditioning and injury rehabilitation programs.
  • These duties require extensive knowledge and strong decision making skills, obtained through the athletic trainer's experience and education.

What kind of education is needed to become a BOC-certified athletic trainer?

Professional athletic training education uses a competency-based approach in both the classroom and clinical settings. Educational content is based on cognitive (knowledge), psychomotor (skill), and affective (professional behaviors) competencies and clinical proficiencies (professional, practice-oriented outcomes).

Why NIU Athletic Training?

NIU students are professionally prepared by faculty and clinical staff, who have a diversity of experiences. Furthermore, they exemplify excellence in teaching, professional service, cutting-edge research, and textbook-development for classroom teaching.

NIU's Chicagoland location affords the NIU student and intern a wealth of clinical experiences, eg, intercollegiate, community college, high school, amateur sports, professional sports.

NIU students have experienced internships outside of Chicagoland, eg, Disney's Wide World of Sports (Orlando, Florida), Notre Dame (South Bend, IN), Chicago Cubs Spring Training (Mesa, Arizona) to name a few.

NIU students experience a strong and supportive alumni group. NIU students experience the Roger and Cathy Kalisiak Alumni Lecture Series every spring that sponsors recognized professionals in the field.

NIU students join a long tradition of providing athletic training coverage for the Chicago Marathon every October.

NIU students are encouraged to engage in service learning activities, as well as, faculty/student research and presentations at professional conference/meetings.

What are the requirements for admission into the Athletic Training Education Program (ATP)?

The NIU ATP requires the completion of coursework, clinical observation hours, essay(s), recommendations, an interview and a minimum of a 3.0 grade point average.

How many students do you accept into the program each year?

On the average, we accept about 14-16 students/year.

How can I improve my chances of being accepted in the NIU ATP?

Get professionally involved. Become a member of the:

Get all the experience you can by observing in different practice settings. Convey to athletic trainers that you have a genuine interest and a strong work-ethic.

Who should I ask to write my recommendation letters?

The NIU AT Program requires three letters of recommendation. One, preferably two, letter(s) of support should be provided by a certified athletic trainer (ATC), who knows your interest, commitment, and/or work ethic. If the second letter of support is not written by a certified athletic trainer, we encourage you to avoid family, neighbors, or friends.

What if I don't get into the NIU AT Program the first time I apply?

In most instances, you may reapply. We will assist you in identifying and correcting your deficiencies. We will let you know if you should consider pursuing another profession. Most of the time, those that don't get into the program have poor grades, do not seem to display a full awareness of our program or the profession, or have not demonstrated good interpersonal skills or professionalism.

What are the monetary expenses associated with the program?

Beyond the customary tuition and fees found here: Graduate School Tuition Rates, it is important to emphasize there are some monetary expenses you will incur. Students in the athletic training program should expect the following expenses:

First Year:

  • ATrack membership $45
  • NATA membership $75
  • Professional AT logo Shirt $45*
  • Professional pants/shorts approximately $40*
  • Cold/wet weather professional gear*
  • Criminal background check $80
  • Gas/Transportation to off campus clinical sites $0-1,000

Second year:

  • ATrack membership $45
  • NATA Membership $75
  • BOC Certification Exam and Application $330+
  • First Aid/CPR/AED recertification training $20 (held on campus)
  • Professional AT logo shirt*
  • Professional pants/shorts*
  • Cold/wet weather professional gear*
  • Gas/Transportation to off campus clinical sites $0-1,000



When do I begin my clinical experiences?

If you are accepted into the NIU athletic training program, you will begin your clinical experiences during the Fall semester.

What clinical experiences will I receive?

Students will engage in variety of athletic training clinical experiences with NIU Intercollegiate Athletics and off-campus clinical sites during their tenure in the athletic training education program. All athletic training clinical experiences are under the supervision of a preceptor who is an athletic trainer or physician. Assignments to a preceptor at on or off campus clinical sites are made by the Coordinator of Clinical Education and based on several factors: exposure to medical conditions, upper extremity injuries, lower extremity injuries, and equipment intensive sports. These assignments will be distributed through individual and team sports, in-season/out-of-season sports, contact and non-contact sports, and men and women's sports by the student's assigned preceptor. Further, each student will complete a clinical experience with football for at least one rotation. The majority of the clinical experiences will be completed in the afternoon during 2-6 PM. However, certain sports will practice either earlier or later than this time. Once a student is assigned to an approved clinical instructor/sport, they are to check with the preceptor about the practice time for that sport.

In addition to the athletic training clinical experiences, students will also engage in a variety of supplemental clinical experiences which are additional clinical learning opportunities supervised by healthcare providers, other than athletic trainers and physicians. Supplemental experiences will be disbursed throughout the athletic training program and can included, but not limited to, experiences in an orthopedic clinic, rehabilitation clinic, chiropractic clinic, emergency department, or health clinic.

What are my clinical experience expectations?

Athletic training clinical experiences are used to practice and hone athletic training students' ability. Athletic training students will have direct client/patient care guided by a preceptor. Athletic training students will receive valuable experiences to progress from basic skill acquisition and application to advanced skill application and integration.

During the first year of the athletic training program, the athletic training student will be rotating through clinical sites working on basic to intermediate skill acquisition and application. The clinical hour expectation for the first year in the program is a minimum of 200 hours per semester. Expectations in the first two semesters of clinical experiences is to be diverse clinical experience providing exposure to high school clinical sites, intercollegiate clinical sites, and other healthcare clinical sites.

During the second year of the athletic training program, the athlete training student will be rotating through clinical sites working on advanced skill application and integration. The expectations in the final two semesters of clinical experiences is to place a focus on professional career goals. These immersive experiences place an emphasis on the clinical experience and helping with the transition to professional practice. The athletic training student partakes in practice-intensive experiences and are designed to allow students the ability to experience the totality of care provided by athletic trainers. The assignment of the clinical experiences will be done to enhance the athletic training students' education experience and align with the students' career goals.

Although many of the athletic training and supplemental clinical experiences are on the campus of Northern Illinois University, many of them are not. The athletic training student is expected to have transportation to all clinical experiences. The athletic training program has a variety of clinical experience sites throughout the Chicagoland area.

Policies and Procedures

Information regarding the Northern Illinois University athletic training program's policies and procedures can be found within the NIU athletic training program Student Handbook (PDF).

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Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education
Anderson Hall 221
DeKalb, IL 60115
P: 815-753-1407
F: 815-753-1413

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