Dance Medicine and Science as a Career

Career Overviews

There are numerous educational pathways and disciplines one can study to promote dancer health. We have provided an overview of just a few careers that can be adapted and geared to target the special concerns and needs of dancers:

Orthopaedic Surgeon
Physical Therapist
Physical Therapy Assistant
Athletic Trainer
Massage Therapist
Pilates Instructor


Orthopaedic Doctors Specializing in Sports Medicine and Performing Arts Medicine
In the United States, "sports medicine" is not a recognized residency training specialty. However, a doctor can achieve special qualifications in sports medicine after completing a residency program in another specialty. There are two types of "sports medicine" doctors. Non-surgical, or primary care sports medicine doctors, and orthopedic surgeons.


  • Undergraduate degree
  • Medical School
  • 3 years of residency following medical school
  • 1-2 years in a sports medicine fellowship program

Most primary care sports medicine doctors choose family medicine as their baseline training. Although family medicine is the most popular choice, other choices for initial residency training prior to doing sports medicine include pediatrics, internal medicine, emergency medicine, and rehabilitation medicine. Each of these are non-surgical specialties. Orthopedic surgeons must of course complete an orthopedic surgery residency, and then complete a surgical sports medicine fellowship program.

Examinations and Certifications

For orthopedic surgeons, there is not an additional examination/certificate to specialize in sports medicine. For primary care doctors, there is, and it is called a "Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ) in sports medicine." The two organizations that certify physicians are the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), and the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) Bureau of Osteopathic Specialists.

For more information about doctors specializing in sports medicine and performing arts medicine go to :

Physical Therapy/Physiotherapy

What is a Physical Therapist/Physiotherapist?

Physical therapists provide services that help restore function, improve mobility, relieve pain, and prevent or limit permanent physical disabilities of patients. Physical therapists are educated in understanding the interaction of all your body parts. Their hands-on approach begins with examination, diagnosis, and treatment of the immediate problem. Then they teach you how to take care of yourself by showing you how to do exercises and how to use your body properly to gain strength and mobility and prevent recurring injury.

Physical Therapy Education and Licensure

Because physical therapists are required to understand a vast array of problems that can affect movement, function, and health, all physical therapists are college graduates. The majority of physical therapist education programs graduate students with a master’s degree or a clinical doctorate in physical therapy. All physical therapists also are required to take a national examination and be licensed by the state in which they practice. Some physical therapists seek advanced certification in a clinical specialty, such as orthopaedic, neurologic, cardiopulmonary, pediatric, geriatric, or sports physical therapy. Others are certified in electrophysiological testing and measurement.

Employment Prospects

Although many physical therapists practice in hospitals, nearly 80 percent practice in:

  • Outpatient clinics or offices
  • Inpatient rehabilitation facilities
  • Skilled nursing, extended care, or subacute facilities
  • Homes
  • Education or research centers
  • Schools
  • Hospices
  • Industrial, workplace, or other occupational environments
  • Fitness centers and sports training facilities

For more information on physical therapy in the U.S. go to :

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Physiotherapists Assistant

What is a Physical Therapy Assistant?

The physical therapist assistant (PTA) is a technically educated health provider who assists the physical therapist in the provision of physical therapy and may perform physical therapy interventions selected by the supervising physical therapist. The physical therapist assistant works under the direction and supervision of the physical therapist.

Physical Therapy Assistant Education and Licensure

Physical therapist assistants must complete a two-year education program, typically offered through a community or junior college. Candidates receive an associate's degree upon graduation. The course of study usually includes one year of general education and one year of technical courses on physical therapy procedures and clinical experience. More than 40 states require physical therapist assistants to be licensed, registered, or certified. States requiring licensure stipulate specific educational and examination criteria.

Employment Prospects

Physical therapist assistants work in a broad range of settings, including the following:

  • Hospitals
  • Outpatient clinics or offices
  • Rehabilitation facilities
  • Skilled nursing, extended care, or subacute facilities
  • Homes
  • Education or research centers
  • Schools
  • Hospices
  • Industrial, workplace, or other occupational environments
  • Fitness centers and sports training facilities

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Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC)/ Graduate Sports Rehabilitator (GSR) / Certified Sports Trainer

What is a Certified Athletic Trainer/Graduate Sports Rehabilitator?

Certified athletic trainers work under the supervision of a licensed physician and specialize in the prevention, recognition, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries incurred by athletes and those engaged in physical activity. Athletic trainers can help you avoid unnecessary medical treatment and disruption of normal daily life; if you’re injured, they can get you on the mend and keep you on the move.

Specifically, the certified athletic trainer specializes in six practice areas or domains:

  • Prevention
  • Recognition, evaluation and assessment
  • Immediate care
  • Treatment, rehabilitation and reconditioning
  • Organization and administration
  • Professional development and responsibility

Education and Licensure

Certified athletic trainers have, at minimum, a bachelor's degree in athletic training education. Students who want to become certified athletic trainers must earn a degree from an accredited athletic training curriculum or meet other requirements set by the Board Of Certification. A growing number of universities are gaining accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). After interested candidates have met the curriculum requirements, they must then pass a three-part test administered by the Board Of Certification in order to become certified. In addition to certification, athletic trainers must meet individual state licensing requirements in a growing number of states.

Employment Prospects

Certified athletic trainers work in a variety of professional settings including:

  • High school, collegiate, and professional sports facilities
  • Sports medicine clinics
  • Hospitals
  • Outpatient Physical Therapy Clinics
  • Research and Educational Institutions
  • Industrial, workplace, or other occupational environments

* The FACTS About Certified Athletic Trainers

For more information on certified athletic trainers in the U.S. go to :

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What is Kinesiology?

Kinesiology refers to the study of movement.


In American higher education, the term is used to describe a multifaceted field of study in which movement or physical activity is the intellectual focus. Physical activity includes exercise for improvement of health and physical fitness, activities of daily living, work, sport, dance, and play, and involves special population groups such as, children and the elderly; persons with disability, injury or disease; and athletes. Kinesiology is a common name for college and university academic departments that include many specialized areas of study in which the causes and consequences of physical activity are examined from different perspectives. The specialized areas of study apply knowledge, methods of inquiry, and principles from traditional areas of study in the arts, humanities and sciences. These areas include exercise and sport biomechanics, history, philosophy, physiology, biochemistry and molecular/cellular physiology, psychology, and sociology; motor behavior; measurement; physical fitness; and sports medicine. An interdisciplinary approach involving several of these areas is often used in addressing problems of importance to society.

Employment Prospects

The study of kinesiology can lead to a variety of careers involving teaching, research, coaching and delivery of services related to physical activity and fitness, health promotion, rehabilitation and sports medicine. Positions are found in a variety of settings including schools, colleges and universities, public and private agencies, clinical environments, government, business and the military.

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What is the difference between a registered dietitian (RD) or dietetic technician, registered (DTR) and a nutritionist?

The "RD" and "DTR" credentials can only be used by dietetics practitioners who are currently authorized by CADE to use these credentials. These are legally protected titles. Individuals with these credentials have completed specific academic and supervised practice requirements, successfully completed a national registration examination, and maintained requirements for recertification.

All RDs and DTRs study nutrition and applications to food and health. Some RDs or DTRs call themselves nutritionists. However, the definition and requirements for the term "nutritionist" vary. Some states have licensure laws that define the scope of practice for someone using the designation nutritionist.

What is the difference between a RD and a DTR and what career opportunities are available for each?

A RD is a food and nutrition expert who has met the minimum academic and professional requirements to qualify for the credential "RD." To obtain this credential you must complete at least a bachelor’s degree at a U.S. regionally accredited college or university, required coursework and at least 900 hours of supervised practice accredited by CADE. In addition, you must pass a national RD examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) and complete continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration.

The majority of RDs work in the treatment and prevention of disease (administering medical nutrition therapy, often part of medical teams), in hospitals, HMOs, private practice or other health-care facilities. In addition, a large number of RDs work in community and public health settings and academia and research. A growing number of RDs work in the food and nutrition industry, in business, journalism, sports nutrition, and corporate wellness programs.

A DTR is a food and nutrition practitioner who has completed at least a two-year associate’s degree at a U.S. regionally accredited university or college, required course work and at least 450 hours of supervised practice accredited by CADE. In addition, you must pass a national DTR examination administered by CDR and complete continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration. The majority of DTRs work with RDs in a variety of employment settings including health care (assisting RDs in providing medical nutrition therapy), in hospitals, HMOs, clinics or other health-care facilities. In addition, a large number of DTRs work in community and public health settings such as school or day care centers, correctional facilities, weight management clinics and WIC programs as nutrition counselors.

Employment Prospects

Registered dietitians work in a wide variety of employment settings, including health care, business and industry, public health, education, research and private practice.

Many work environments, particularly those in medical and health care settings, require that an individual be credentialed as an RD.

RDs work in:

  • Hospitals, HMOs or other health care facilities, educating patients about nutrition and administering medical nutrition therapy as part of the health care team. They may also manage the foodservice operations in these settings, as well as in schools, day-care centers, and correctional facilities, overseeing everything from food purchasing and preparation to managing staff.
  • Sports nutrition and corporate wellness programs, educating clients about the connection between food, fitness, and health.
  • Food and nutrition-related businesses and industries, working in communications, consumer affairs, public relations, marketing, or product development.
  • Private practice, working under contract with health care or food companies, or in their own business. RDs may provide services to foodservice or restaurant managers, food vendors, and distributors, or athletes, nursing home residents, or company employees.
  • Community and public health settings teaching monitoring, and advising the public, and helping to improve their quality of life through healthy eating habits.
  • Universities and medical centers, teaching physicians, nurses, dietetics students and others the sophisticated science of foods and nutrition.
  • Research areas in food and pharmaceutical companies, universities, and hospitals, directing or conducting experiments to answer critical nutrition questions and find alternative foods or nutrition recommendations for the public.

Dietetic technicians registered work independently or in teams with registered dietitians in a variety of employment settings, including health care, business and industry, public health, foodservice and research. Many work environments require that an individual be credentialed as a DTR.

DTRs work in:

  • Hospitals, HMOs, clinics, nursing homes, retirement centers, hospices, home health care programs, and research facilities, helping to treat and prevent disease and administering medical nutrition therapy as an important part of health care teams.
  • Schools, day-care centers, correctional facilities, restaurants, health care facilities, corporations, and hospitals, managing employees, purchasing, and food preparation, and preparing budgets within foodservice operations.
  • WIC programs, public health agencies, Meals on Wheels, and community health programs, developing and teaching nutrition classes for the public.
  • Health clubs, weight management clinics, and community wellness centers, helping to educate clients about the connection between food, fitness, and health.
  • Food companies, contract food management companies, or food vending and distributing operations, developing menus, overseeing foodservice sanitation and food safety, and preparing food labeling information and nutrient analysis.

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Massage Therapy

What is a massage therapist?

Massage therapists are licensed health professionals who apply a variety of scientifically developed massage techniques to the soft tissue of the body to improve muscle tone and circulation.

Massage therapists work to enhance well-being, reduce the physical and mental effects of stress and tension, prevent disease, and restore health.

Massage therapists use many different massage techniques and methods. These include the following, among others:

  • Swedish medical massage
  • Shiatsu
  • Connective Tissue Massage
  • Amma
  • Neuromuscular Massage
  • Tuina
  • Reflexology
  • Acupressure
  • Polarity Therapy

Some massage therapists specialize in sports massage, which

  • Prevents muscle and tendon injuries.
  • Reduces the strain and discomfort of training and chronic strain patterns. allowing a quicker return to maximum training levels.
  • Enables the athlete to recover more quickly from myofascial injury with less chance of chronic problems returning.
  • Provides psychological boosts to the athlete, consistent with his or her commitment to high performance.
  • Enhances a preventive approach to athletic training whereby soft tissues are free of trigger points and adhesions, thus contributing toward the improvement of peak neuromuscular functioning.
  • Pre-performance massage stimulates circulation, calms nervous tension, and prepares the athlete for optimal performance while reducing the chances of injury.
  • Post-performance massage relieves soreness and assists in the removal of lactic acid and other waste products.
  • Training massage focuses on the prevention of developing chronic injuries and aids in the healing process of current ones.

Education and Licensure

A large majority of individuals entering the field now complete an educational training program. Several years ago, when the massage therapy profession was smaller and there were fewer schools, some people prepared by taking a number of comparatively short workshops from different independent instructors or studying with a practitioner in an apprenticeship. However, now that the massage therapy profession has become more developed, it is recommended to complete a training program that offers a minimum of 500 in-class hours of instruction. An effectively-designed training program offers the advantage of a well-rounded and complete preparation for the field of massage therapy. Another important consideration is that 33 states and the District of Columbia now regulate massage therapists and almost all of these states now require a minimum of 500 hours or more from state-recognized training programs. Consequently, 500 hours or more of training has developed as a minimum entry-level standard.

It is recommended to enroll in a training program that is accredited or approved by a credible, national accreditation agency. One such agency is the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA). Currently, approximately 70 training programs and institutions are accredited by COMTA.

The training program curriculum should cover such subjects as anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, theory and practice of massage therapy, hands-on practice under faculty supervision, ethics and business practices. Many schools offer a supervised student clinic that is open to the public and gives students the opportunity to work with a variety of people. Training programs may emphasize certain styles of massage, so it is useful to find out if a school teaches a style you feel comfortable with. Schools often offer both full and part time programs.

Sports massage courses may be weekend courses, 8 week courses or techniques may be taught as part of a degree program in sports healthcare / medicine.

Employment Prospects

Massage therapists practice in a variety of settings, such as private offices or massage therapy clinics, chiropractors’ or doctors’ offices, holistic health clinics, health clubs and fitness centers, spas, nursing homes and hospitals, with sports teams, and sports medicine facilities. Some massage therapists have portable equipment and work at their clients’ offices or homes. Recently, massage therapists have appeared in some rather innovative settings, such as storefronts, shopping malls, and airports.

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Pilates Instructor

What is Pilates?

The Pilates method is a system of movement and therapeutic exercise developed over a span of 60 years by German born athlete and physical therapy pioneer, Joseph H. Pilates. Pilates works by toning muscles as well as balancing muscular force at the joints. It stimulates circulation through facilitating muscular flexibility, joint range of motion and proper musculoskeletal alignment. In addition, it promotes new neuromuscular patterns, heightened body awareness, and more precise coordination. All these things combine to help prevent injury, and may aid in alleviating chronic pain.

What Does a Pilates Instructor Do?

Pilates instructors can work in several different environments including private pilates or fitness studios, in conjunction with rehabilitative specialists such as physical therapists, athletic trainers, and occupational therapists, as independent contractors. Pilates body conditioning involves hundreds of exercises on mat and unique equipment specifically designed for pilates. It is required that a teacher learn about anatomy and the correct way to perform and execute each movement.

Education and Certification

Education and certification varies at different locations. For more information go to the following websites: