Professional Education in Athletic Training: Part 1

January 12, 2014

Professional education is something that is ever-evolving and if a profession does not keep up, it is likely to be left behind. With that in mind, a taskforce was tasked with providing information regarding a potential move from the bachelors level to a masters level degree program as the “entry level” into Athletic Training. This group has no authoritative standing, however its recommendations can be beneficial for the profession and the related organizations who do have that power.

You can read the document here:

Let me come right out and say it. When I began this discussion and began reading this document, I was against making the move to an Entry-Level Masters (ELM). I can’t say that my opinion has changed, but I do have a better understanding of the idea to move to an ELM is coming from and some of it does make sense to me. Continued work is definitely needed and thankfully this is not a move that will be made overnight.

This blog I am going to highlight a few points that I found to be important in this document and will provide brief commentary to go along with those points. In future blog articles in the coming days and weeks, I plan to expand on some topics and also share my vision of where our profession needs to head.

Additionally the expansion of athletic training practice beyond its traditional roots has broadened our role in the healthcare community.

–I think this is of concern to begin with. Many of you know that I am an athletic trainer at the high school level and I’m very passionate about that. I may be best known for my #AT4ALL hashtag on Twitter and my statement that “Every Athlete Deserves an Athletic Trainer.” I believe we have moved away from where we belong and that is one cause for many of our problems.

And considerable direct patient care (in regards to classification as Frontline Workers)

–Isn’t that one reason athletic trainers are in athletic training? Is for the patient care? I don’t fully understand why this is of particular issue. I want to be a frontline worker when it comes to patient care. It’s part of what keeps me going each day!

Similarly, in our own professional care, communication, commitment, and integrity are also essential traits of quality ATs; knowledge is not enough.

–This to me says we need to examine our program; not drastically change it. Everything I’ve read talks about “more knowledge needed.” But really what’s needed is more hands-on experience!
Factors such as greater staffing levels, lower patient loads and length of stay positive influenced outcome; years of experience, specialty certifications, and professional degree level appear not to affect outcomes.

–So does this statement not say that additional education is unnecessary to achieve our goals?

The literature regarding patient outcomes is not well established and it is difficult to draw conclusions about the potential impact of a degree change on this aspect of quality care…. However there is no compelling evidence that a change would be detrimental to the quality of care provided.

–There also appears to be no evidence saying that the current education level is detrimental to quality of care being provided.

In fact a common reason that undergraduate AT students change their major is because they lacked an accurate and thorough understanding of the profession prior to their choice and they did not fully appreciate the time commitment associated with the clinical portion of the major.

–This is a problem with the academic side of the profession. They need to do a better job of outlining that before students show up. And the observation periods need to reinforce the time commitment.

Professional programs in athletic training would be well served with alignment in schools/colleges of health professions, regardless of the degree required.

–This statement I agree with! We definitely can be better served by participating in multi-disciplinary activities. So for the schools that have these opportunities, why aren’t they?

So I’ve gone on long enough here for one post. I will address the remainder of the white paper in a second post very soon. Please let me know what you think! Twitter, Facebook, or here. Start a conversation. Let’s discuss!


5 Responses to “Professional Education in Athletic Training: Part 1”

  1. Great conversation to have. I discussed this a bit on twitter with several people, but this forum is a bit easier to talk. My experience in undergrad showed there were some issues on the academic side of things. First off: there’s a chasm between academic and clinical in many places (luckily, not my institution, which was a small D3 school), which causes a lot of issues in educating students, such as learning multiple ways to perform the same special test. One thing I know occurred at my institution was small class sizes, led to pressure on program directors, etc. Coming into our program, profs and preceptors weren’t shy about the work needed to succeed, or the time commitment. However, this led to students changing majors, which the university didn’t like (lots of money in the major, not a lot of butts in the seats). So, even upperclassmen were eventually told to stop “scaring” freshman about the job/major…which I personally found unfair. If we were being honest, and that’s sincerely not what that student wanted…don’t we want them to know that early? What favors are you doing to an 18 year old by sugar coating things? You have to love the job to succeed, so I think programs need to give undergrads the closest thing to the job they can. That’s just being fair, and frankly keeping unmotivated people out of the profession. I know too many people who spent 4 years getting their degree, and they’re doing something completely unrelated. (also relevant: I’m not sure I support entry level masters…and I’m currently getting mine)

    And so ends my long reply! Good stuff!


    • Erin, I appreciate the thoughts! Make sure to check back tomorrow as I’ll go into more issues that I found. I’m not 100% against the change, but I believe there are other changes that need to occur first…

  2. James Says:

    It is hard for me to support a move from the current ATC requirements to an ELM program simply for the fact that athletic trainers at this time do not make enough money to warrant the amount of education funding for a masters. Until pay significantly increases this cannot happen. Now some will say that with a masters the pay will go up. Not the case, for the most part there is not a hospital or clinical outreach program that will pay you more for a masters. Until the ROI equals out, there is simply not enough justification out there to warrens such a rediculous move.

  3. Rachel Says:

    “In fact a common reason that undergraduate AT students change their major is because they lacked an accurate and thorough understanding of the profession prior to their choice and they did not fully appreciate the time commitment associated with the clinical portion of the major.”

    I think much of this has occurred as we shifted away from the internship route. If you’ve done an actual internship, worked with teams, etc. there’s not much question about the time commitment to do the job properly. I don’t feel additional classes adequately convey the commitment involved in being an AT.

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