Advancing the Athletic Training Profession
Master's Degrees Are The New Standard
As of fall 2022, all athletic training professional programs must be offered at the master’s degree level. The degree elevation came with changes in accreditation standards and educational content to cement the athletic trainer’s role as a healthcare provider.
Perceptions Are Correctly Shifting
For a long time, athletic trainers have been viewed as people who taped ankles. Most of the materials and photography supported this assumption. Unfortunately, this perception left out the most significant and important elements of the athletic trainer's career: helping patients with their complete wellbeing — before, during, and after an injury or illness.
Athletic Trainers are now seen as healthcare providers — as they should be. We hope to help you understand how to explain the profession in full so that prospective students have a complete understanding of how ATs work with their clients and patients.
The Field Is Growing Faster Than Others
According to a report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for Athletic Trainers between 2019 and 2029 is expected to grow by 16% — four times faster than the average occupation's employment rates.
Advising Prospective Athletic Training Students
The challenge of advising prospective athletic training students isn't just identifying what they really want to do. It's also how YOU get the right information so that you can correctly, accurately guide them along their journey. With the many changes in athletic training education, this can be a daunting task.
Follow the path below that matches your advisee type:
Advising Prospective Athletic Training Students
First, Figure out if Athletic Training is the Right Field
For the student who has passions for both healthcare and sport, Athletic Training can be an excellent fit. The multi-faceted, dynamic field provides the intellectual challenges and deep connections in healthcare with the excitement and energy from involvement in sport and other types of physical activity.
If the student is opportunity-minded or concerned with job security, you can let them rest assured that there will be jobs available in athletic training. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts employment numbers for Athletic Trainers to grow by 16% between 2019 and 2029. The average career has a mere 4% growth rate in comparison.
When there's a concern about types of patients, you can remind the student that ATs’ patients are not limited to traditional athletes. They also work with members of the military, performing artists, in secondary schools, in corporation's warehouses, and anywhere people have physically-demanding roles.
It isn't just the type of patients that can vary. Athletic Trainers help throughout the entire lifecycle of their patients — before there is an injury focusing on prevention and performance, during moments of emergencies and acute injuries, with urgent care, and after an injury for rehabilitation programs and coordinating with other healthcare providers.
Ultimately, the athletic trainer (AT) is there to help the patient reach their maximum potential. For the student who truly cares about helping others be their very best, athletic training offers a fulfilling career that meets their values while providing excitement and variety throughout the career.Learn About The Career
Getting into athletic training school depends on where your advisee is beginning
For professional programs at the master’s degree level, two routes of entry are available:
- Enter as an undergraduate (either directly from high school or during undergraduate years) Seek out early assurance (EA) programs. EA programs in athletic training allow the student to complete a bachelor’s degree and a two-year master’s degree in five years, reducing the total time to degree completion by one year. Some programs admit students straight out of high school and others admit students during their undergraduate program. These are often referred to as 3+2 or accelerated programs.
- Enter as a post-baccalaureate student: For those who already have a bachelor's degree in any discipline (or who will complete it by the time the target program starts), post-baccalaureate entry is the option. Admissions requirements include prerequisite courses (minimally physics, chemistry, anatomy, biology, physiology, and psychology) and other institution-specific items, that may include GRE scores and observation hours.
Some programs offer both routes of entry and others offer only one or the other. Our program search map lets you search by either.Finding the Right Program
Finding the Right Program for Each Student
After identifying the type of program that works for your advisee, it’s time to research specific programs. First, students should narrow their search of potential schools by considering what’s important to them - cost, location, job placement rates are often on the list. Our global program map can help during this process.
Athletic training professional (entry-level) programs are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Athletic Training Education (CAATE). Graduation from a CAATE-accredited program is required for eligibility for the Board of Certification (BOC) exam. Passing the BOC exam is needed for eligibility for a state credential to practice as an Athletic Trainer.
After making the list of potential schools with CAATE-accredited programs, encourage your advisee to get program-specific information to refine the list. Cruise the websites to find application requirements, clinical education opportunities, and program outcomes, and to learn about the faculty and facilities. Most programs offer information sessions - both on-campus and virtual - and students can also visit representatives from multiple schools during our career fairs. Program representatives are eager to tell students about their program, so a direct conversation may be the most helpful fact-finding strategy of all.
All programs are designed to include a combination of classroom study and extensive clinical education where students apply what they’re learning in the context of real patient care. Clinical education opportunities vary by program type but all programs include a period of full-time clinical experience where students engage fully in the day-to-day practice of athletic training.
Help Your Advisee During the Application Process
With their selected schools in mind, students should check the application requirements for each. Some institutions require applicants to use the Athletic Training Centralized Application System (ATCAS) to apply, while others have their own institution-specific system. Application requirements differ program by program, so careful review of requirements long before the deadline is a helpful preparation strategy. Application dates vary, so a careful review of deadlines is needed.
Prerequisite courses: All master’s degree programs minimally require students to complete these prerequisite courses: biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, anatomy, and physiology. Some programs have additional prerequisite requirements. Review these requirements with your advisee, and make an academic plan to fill in any gaps.
AT Programs Prerequisite Courses
Letters of recommendation: Two or three letters of recommendation are typically required. Recommenders should be able to speak to the applicant’s potential for academic success and aptitude to become an effective healthcare professional. Some programs stipulate that letters should come from specific individuals, like a former professor or an Athletic Trainer.
GRE scores: Some schools also require GRE scores, so encourage students to take the exam early in the process and to review where scores should be sent.
Observation experience: Watching an AT at work can be a great way to learn more about the field and is also sometimes a required application component. Students should track the time spent in this observation.
Essays: Programs generally require students to write essays responding to one or more prompts. You can help students refine their message to clearly articulate why they are solid candidates.
Interviews: Some programs require an interview from qualified applicants. Increasingly, virtual interviews are an option. A review of effective interview techniques and a recorded mock interview can be helpful to help the applicant showcase their strengths.
TOEFL or IETLS scores: Applicants for whom English is not their first language may need to supply test scores specific to their English capabilities. Again, requirements vary by institution.
Finally, if you have questions while helping your advisee apply, you can reach out to us for answers by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Making a Decision
Navigating multiple offers for admission can be overwhelming. Here are some considerations to help your advisee through the decision-making process.
Program Cost: Students should connect with the schools to get an accurate estimate of the program cost. Remember that some programs have clinical education experiences around the country, so students may need to move more than once. Exploring options for loans, fee waivers, scholarships, and grants.
Start Date: Some programs start in the summer and others begin in the fall.
Program Outcomes: All programs post data on employment rates, success rates on the BOC exam, and program completion rates. These outcomes can serve as a starting point of discussion with program personnel.
Student/Alumni Satisfaction: Encourage students to ask the program director to connect them with current or former students to get an insider’s perspective on the program.
Program Opportunities: Each program differs in terms of clinical education opportunities, curricular design, and educational philosophy. Students often find that talking with program faculty and attending open houses are helpful in discovering opportunities that match with their goals.
Completion of a CAATE- accredited program leads to eligibility to take the BOC exam. Students in professional programs are eligible for the exam in their final term of enrollment, so it won't slow them down in finding a job. Students also need to apply for a state credential to practice. State credential requirements vary by state but the key is that this is needed to practice legally.
Once they're certified by the BOC and have their state credential, they can get a job as an Athletic Trainer. That's not the end of their journey, however. As an AT, they’ll participate in continuing education to keep their knowledge and skills current. Plus, they will have opportunities to pursue advanced education and experiential opportunities like residencies and fellowships.
Advising Active Athletic Trainers
Start by Considering all the Options Available to you
Multiple career options are available for Athletic Trainers, ranging from employment at high schools and colleges, to hospitals and clinics, to military settings and law enforcement agencies. Many Athletic Trainers change practice settings during their careers as new interests develop and opportunities present themselves..
Athletic Trainers looking for career advancement have options to continue to sharpen their skills, knowledge, and experience by continuing their education. As the field expands into new pathways and specialties, ATs have the opportunity to pursue interests and focus their talents.
Doctoral programs for credentialed Athletic Trainers can help active ATs transition into roles as scholars, researchers and advanced practice professionals. Additionally, experiential options like residency programs and fellowships can be considered. Specialty certifications provide an AT with a credential attesting to achievement in a specific practice area.
We will explore these options further below.Explore The Diverse Pathways of Athletic Training
Consider The New Specialty Certifications
Specialty Certifications from the Board of Certification for the Athletic Trainer (BOC) are a new development for the profession. The goal of the certifications is to improve working conditions, compensation, differentiation, and advancement within the field. The first certification is in Orthopedics — with others to follow by the end of 2021.
Athletic Trainers may consider obtaining a specialty certification for a number of reasons: longevity of career, certification as a tool to distinguish themselves in the field, recognition and respect for their experience, as well as the inherent value of specializing in the field.
Pursue a Doctoral Degree in Athletic Training
Here, ATs interested in advanced academic preparation need to decide whether they want to pursue an academic doctoral degree (such as PhD or EdD) or an advanced practice doctoral degree (DAT), which should be pursued by those who wish to develop deeper knowledge and skills that can be applied in the workplace.
A Doctor of Athletic Training (DAT) serves as an expert clinician, educator, and administrator whose goal is to teach and train other athletic trainers while working to grow the profession.
Review Experiential Learning Opportunities in AT
Accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE), athletic training residency programs feature a combination of clinical practice under the mentorship of clinical experts and structured learning experiences in an identified content area. Residents work as full-time employees, supervised by experts, similar to residencies in other healthcare professions.
A residency program can be a step towards being eligible for a specialty certification as well. Residency programs provide a structured experience to develop specialized clinical expertise. The student considering this should be aware of general requirements, in addition to being clear on long-term career goals.
International Work & Degrees: Take Your Advisee’s Degree Internationally or Your Advisee’s International Degree to the U.S.
If your advisee is interested in broadening their horizon by working as an Athletic Trainer abroad, there are several considerations to review with them:
- Is the Athletic Training profession recognized in their target country?
- Will they be able to find employment in that particular country, provided their educational background?
- How can they network with other Athletic Trainers already working in the target country?
- What is the visa process?
It is important to remember that Athletic Training is not always officially recognized as a career outside of the United States. In any country, just like in the U.S. state by state, research on regulations and realistic job opportunities must be reviewed.
For ATs credentialed in the United States, Britain, Ireland, and Canada, it is now possible to challenge another country’s credentialing exam after a review of academic qualifications. The International Arrangement (IA) ensures different credentialing organizations across the globe all meet professional standards and allows ATs the opportunity to take another organization’s exam. If the AT’s certification is in good standing, they can apply for eligibility to take another country’s exam to become credentialed by the corresponding organization within the IA. The organizations recognized within the IA at this time are Athletic Rehabilitation Therapy Ireland (ARTI), BOC (USA), Canadian Athletic Therapists Association (CATA), and, soon, the British Association of Sport Rehabilitators (BASRaT).
What To Understand As An Advisor
Athletic Training is a patient-centered healthcare profession that connects with patients throughout their lifecycle. That means before injuries occur for prevention, when emergencies happen for emergency care, and after, during recovery from an injury.
It also is a perfect career for a student who wants a dynamic future that combines passions for healthcare and sport. For students who clearly articulate they want to work in sport, yet remain in healthcare, it’s a clear fit. For others, explore further their interests in different pathways and being with patients throughout their activity lifecycles (before, during, and after injury or illness).
If you are working with a student who is entering college and seeking a four-year degree, a bachelor's in athletic training is an option to discuss.However, know that bachelor's degree programs in athletic training are being phased out. After Fall 2022, there will be no additional students allowed to enroll in a baccalaureate degree AT program. Only master's degrees will be offered at that time.
Accordingly, students can pursue a bachelor’s degree in any discipline to enter a master's program. To be prepared for the master's program, the student should take the prerequisites for the master's program, which minimally includes physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, physiology, and anatomy. Individual programs may require additional prerequisite coursework.
Athletic Training employment is projected to grow by 16% from 2019 to 2029. This is tremendous growth for a profession! For comparison, the average profession's growth rate is only 4%.
This accelerated growth is augmented by the positive momentum created by improved perception and understanding of the career field and the more accurate and sophisticated language and identification as a healthcare profession.
There are a multitude of settings and environments that your advisee can explore. They could be under the impression that ATs only work with participants in organized athletics, but there are many more options. For example, athletic trainers can be found in the armed forces, performing arts, at a physician practice, or in the industrial and corporate setting. Of course, we also know that 100% of professional sports organizations employ an athletic trainer. No matter what type of setting your advisee has their sights set on, you should ensure that they are aware of all their options.
The Board of Certification (BOC) approved the first specialty certification for athletic trainers, orthopedics, in 2021 with the goal of rolling out additional certifications by the end of the year. Residency programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE) are opportunities to get specialized training in a specific content area. . A practicing AT could also pursue a Doctor of Athletic Training (DAT) degree to further their knowledge in their field. If your advisee is interested in taking a step into the research realm, they can look into academic doctorates like PhD programs as well.
Starting the application process consists of a lot of research and preparation. First, help your advisee in determining exactly what type of program fits their needs. If they’re unsure, try encouraging them to talk to people in different programs, attend open houses, or shadow ATs in different settings.
The application process itself consists of determining the school’s specific admissions requirements, including things like prerequisite course requirements, number of observation hours, and GRE scores. It’s also helpful to work with your advisee on getting letters of recommendations together, working on their personal essay, and preparing for the admissions interview.
Get To Know The AATE
The Association for Athletic Training Education (AATE) is the party behind AT Each Moment. The AATE serves as a voice and resource for athletic training education programs and works with member institutions to advocate for the profession, foster a community, conduct research, and provide resources to elevate the Athletic Training field.
AATE has additional information on its website about association membership, the annual colloquium, research initiatives, and jobs available in athletic training education.