Q: Will Athletic Trainers who have earned the BOC Orthopedic Specialty Certification have qualifications
in line with a physician assistant in the same setting?
A: The BOC will be working with employers to ensure they understand the value and importance of
this new certification. There are many differences between Athletic Trainers and physician assistants, but in an
orthopedic setting, their responsibilities often overlap. Does this mean that Athletic Trainers with the BOC
Orthopedic Specialty Certification will be held in the same regard as physician assistants? That is yet to be
seen. One of the goals of this specialty is to begin the process of elevating the perception of Athletic
Trainers. We believe the launch of specialties is a very important part of a broader strategy to elevate
perception, clarify value and generate a corresponding increase in respect and pay.
Q: Is there a deficiency in AT knowledge/skills indicating the ATC credential is not
A: No, in fact it is quite the opposite. Specialty certification provides
an opportunity for ATs to be recognized for devoting a focused effort in a specific area of athletic training,
such as orthopedics.
Q: Who will want the orthopedic specialty certification? Who is it being created for?
A: The orthopedic specialty certification is intended for Athletic Trainers who have devoted
much of their professional development (education and training) in the focused area of orthopedics.
Q: Would the orthopedic specialty certification be good for someone who works in a collegiate setting or
is it intended specifically for those who work in orthopedic offices?
A: The orthopedic specialty certification is not based on practice setting, but rather on the
role and responsibilities of the practitioner for their patient population. If an Athletic Trainer employed in a
collegiate setting identifies that their knowledge and skills align with the “BOC Orthopedic Practice Analysis”
they may want to consider pursuing the orthopedic specialty.
Q: Did the BOC consult with orthopedists to see how they feel about orthopedic specialty certification?
Do they want it?
A: The BOC has received feedback from both physicians and Athletic Trainers in
physician-practice settings. Their feedback identified support for an athletic training orthopedic specialty
Q: Will there be assurances that specialization in orthopedics will enhance the athletic training
profession and drive it towards becoming a mid-level health care provider, and not become a financial burden
like other certifications?
A: Specialty certification is not required. Employers with orthopedic positions within their
organizations were surveyed and indicated that post-certification education was important to them. In fact,
additional specialized skills in the orthopedic clinical setting appear to hold considerable value for employers
and supervisors. The additional skills gained, combined with employers’ desire to improve patient outcomes and
their practice, will push mid-level health care providers with an orthopedic specialty into the forefront of our
evolving health care system.
Q: Will this specialty certification in orthopedics be recognized by the Centers for Medicare and
Medicaid Services (CMS)?
A: Athletic training leadership, such as members of the Athletic Trainer Strategic Alliance,
continuously work to have Athletic Trainers, entry-level and specialists, recognized by regulators, such as CMS,
as well as third-party payors.
Q: Will Athletic Trainers who have achieved BOC Orthopedic Specialty Certification have the opportunity
to assist in the operating room?
A: Obviously, there are many factors that determine who is invited to assist in the operating
room. But with the BOC Orthopedic Specialty Certification, the elevated perception of Athletic Trainer’s skills
and knowledge will come into play with surgeons as they decide who they want to assist during procedures.
The BOC will be working with employers to ensure they understand the value these specialized
practitioners bring to their practice - note the
topline benefits, which
include operating room assistance. For any employer, optimizing the value that an Athletic Trainer can bring to
a team hinges on them understanding the skills, experience and knowledge they possess. The BOC Orthopedic
Specialty Certification is an important step in that direction.
The “BOC Orthopedic Practice Analysis” (OPA)
defines the domains (medical knowledge, procedural knowledge, professional practice) and task statements that
will be assessed on the Orthopedic Specialty Exam. We suggest Athletic Trainers review the
domains and task statements comparing them to
what they encounter within their specific practice. The knowledge and skills required of each domain and task
statement can be found in the
Q: Will earning the BOC Orthopedic Specialty Certification increase my salary?
A: In other health care professions, such as physical therapy, nursing and pharmacy, those
practitioners with a specialty certification earn more. We cannot promise this, but going forward, we anticipate
that to hold true for those who earn the BOC Orthopedic Specialty Certification. Of course, salaries are
established by employers and are correlated to the value you bring to the practice. The launch of specialties is
one important step toward helping employers understand the value you provide. Be prepared to show how your
orthopedic specialty certification offers a return on investment that justifies a higher salary.
Below are a few resources of the other health care professions who have indicated as such:
The rigor involved in launching a specialty that meets the requirements of true board certification is
A thorough and in-depth process was followed, supported by multiple research
projects, including one to define the Orthopedic Practice Analysis (OPA). The purpose of the OPA is to identify
and validate the significant responsibilities that ATs who specialize in orthopedics have in their work, as well
as the specialized knowledge and skills they must possess. The practice analysis study consisted of two major
phases: 1) Initial Development and Validation and 2) Validation Study, both of which are outlined in detail as
part of the OPA. The OPA (
the orthopedic specialty is available on the BOC website.