AT EducationAthletic trainers (AT) have unique challenges they face as the profession shifts toward a higher degree as the career entry point. The AT profession is dynamic and requires individuals to be able to adapt, modify, and overcome issues to ultimately become master clinicians. But ATs are problem solvers, inventive, and interprofessional, as well as life-long learners.

AT Education

Accredited AT programs must show that they meet the minimum AT standards and that their students are competent in these standards. The goal of having a consistent base-level education is to help ensure that individuals who successfully pass the board exam will be competent at providing a similar level of care, no matter where the education takes place. For the AT profession, it’s through a Board of Certification (BOC) certified provider. The BOC establishes and regularly reviews both the standards for the practice of athletic training and the continuing education requirements.

AT Specialized Education

But one AT said it best when he said, ‘The bandwidth of Athletic Training is very broad’. With the complexity of the AT profession, specialty areas allow clinicians to become laser-focused and master clinicians in their field of specialty. 

The Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE) has started formulating residency models for specialty areas. Current and future AT students should consider these models once they complete their course work at the professional master’s degree level. It is time that ATs look to narrow their bandwidth and focus on a specialty area within the profession. Current students and professions should obtain structured and real-life experiences in an area of a specialty focus to become the ‘go-to’ master clinician

For example, once obtaining professional-level education from a CAATE accredited program and successfully challenging the BOC exam, an AT could investigate and choose a residency area to gain further focused education, experience, and professional mentorship by clinical specialists in a variety of topics: (1) Prevention and Wellness, (2) Urgent and Emergent Care, (3) Primary Care, (4) Orthopedics, (5) Rehabilitation, (6) Behavioral Health, (7) Pediatrics, or (8) Performance Enhancement.

Years ago, students who wanted to gain more experience and obtain an advanced degree went on to earn a master’s degree. Now, with the current CAATE residency model, there are standards that must be met to become an accredited residency. This ensures that students working on a residency will not only get great clinical experience but also will be held accountable under an academic structure.   

AT Master Clinicians

Current ATs who have a bachelor’s degree can get an advanced degree to become a master clinician. ATs can choose between a master’s degree, such as the Master of Science in Athletic Training Practice; Doctorate of Athletic Training (DAT), a clinical doctorate focused on strengthening clinical practice in a chosen focus area; or an academic terminal degree to provide support research design and academia.

AT Education Andrew Doyle

There are several roads to success in the AT profession. Where there once was murky water for professional advancement in the AT world, now there is a clearly outlined path for future professionals.

Learn more about the Master of Science in Athletic Training Practice or the Doctor of Philosophy  in Health Sciences – Athletic Training at Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions.


Guest post by Andrew Doyle, PhD, LAT, ATC, CSCS, Astym-Cert, is a certified athletic trainer and adjunct faculty at Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions.