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The Difference Between Athletic Training and Sports Medicine Majors

Higher Education Articles August 18, 2014

Schools offer sports medicine amid athletic training majors at entirely different levels, but the two majors differ in other aspects as well. Schools offer both bachelor’s and master’s degree programs where students can choose to major in athletic training. However, employers for some positions require athletic trainers to have completed graduate-level degrees. Nearly 70% of instructors in the field are master’s degree holders (National Athletic Trainers’ Association).

Program Overview: Athletic Training

The health sciences school of the university often offers athletic training degree programs. After graduation, the students are expected to gain professional certification and assume an athletic trainer position where they can specialize in the prevention, rehabilitation and treatment, of both illness and injuries.


Coursework in both bachelor’s and master’s degree programs combines classroom instruction and clinical experiences. Apart from athletic training specialized classes, core science courses, including biomechanics, physiology, nutrition and human anatomy, also have to be completed by students enrolled in the program. The curriculum, which incorporates clinical rotations and graduate assistant-ships devised to give students hands-on training, also includes classes in methods of data analysis, geriatrics, medical examination and research methods.

Program Overview: Sports Medicine

Unlike athletic training majors, sports medicine majors are often offered as associate degrees and certifications. Incoming students to a sports medicine major are typically trained to seek entry-level careers in the treatment of injuries, including those related to the spine, knees, hips, ankles, feet and hands. Students can expect to become adept at helping others in rehabilitation, conditioning, and assessment of one’s fitness and training of others.


The coursework includes first aid, physical education, chemistry, and human physiology. Bachelor’s level students often take upper-division courses, such as sports business management, sports marketing, healthcare communications, strength training, substance abuse, and nutrition in health and exercise. Those who successfully graduate from the program can seek entry-level careers as sports psychologists, umpires, coaches, athletic trainers, and physical therapists.

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