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Graduate Degree Programs in Athletic Training Overview

Majors Overview March 2, 2016

This article talks about graduate degree programs in athletic training and their educational requirements, coursework, career choices, job and wage outlook, and continuing education choices.

Information on Graduate Degree Programs in Athletic Training

People rely on athletic trainers’ expertise in health and fitness for the diagnosis and treatment of injuries suffered by athletes. Graduate level coursework examines subject areas such as injury prevention, advanced nutrition, the musculoskeletal system, and rehabilitation exercises. While most states mandate licensure for athletic trainers, a bachelor’s degree in the field should suffice educational requirements. Enrollees in a doctoral program in athletic training are typically ready to conduct an in-depth research or pursuit a career in academia.

Master of Science (M.S.) Programs in Athletic Training

Athletic trainers who are seeking entry-level jobs can enroll in this program that offers intense training in sports, health, nutrition, and medicine. The program may award a Master of Science (M.S.) in Kinesiology. While an athletic trainer may not need more than a bachelor’s degree to get a job, a master’s degree is often sought by many professional organizations and employers (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Two master’s degree options are available through some schools. One suitable for those who wish to practice athletic training and another adequate to the needs of those who seek continuing education leading to careers in academia or research. The Commission on Accreditation for Athletic Training Education (CAATE) sets the standards for college-level athletic training programs.

Educational Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited program in a related field, along with submitting letters of recommendation and GRE or similar testing scores. Students’ grades in undergraduate coursework related to athletic training, such as anatomy, biology, and health may also find consideration. Alternatively, additional coursework may have to be completed in those areas before students are allowed to begin core coursework.


Program coursework involves the advanced study of the body, exercise, movement, and sports. Core coursework may cover specific topic areas such as:

•Aquatic exercise for therapy and conditioning
•Therapy in sports medicine
•Exercise in Rehabilitation
•Musculoskeletal injury
•Social issues relating to sports

Job and Wage Outlook

Athletic trainers are expected to see a 21% job growth, over the 2010 – 2020 decade (BLS). The anticipated growth is due to the increasing awareness of young athletes in the United States about sports-related injuries. In May 2012, these professionals brought in an average annual wage of $43,370 (BLS).

Continuing Education Choices

In most states, licensure and registration are mandatory for athletic trainers (BLS). Licensing requirements include a certification by the Board of Certification, Inc. that is obtainable for individuals who hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree from an accredited school and successfully pass an exam. In states without a mandatory licensing requirement, employers often insist on professional certification.

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) Programs in Athletic Training

Schools sometimes offer this higher-level graduate program as a Ph.D. in Kinesiology to suit the needs of individuals who seek participation in academia or completion of research in sports medicine, exercise science, or a related area.

Educational Requirements

Admission criteria may vary by candidates’ education, background, and work experience. Some schools don’t insist on a master’s degree and, in the case of candidates with a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school, award credit toward their doctorate.


The program coursework focuses on the advanced study of wellness and health, along with principles for teaching health and wellness to the public. Core coursework may cover topic areas such as:

•Advanced clinical evaluation
•Metabolism and vitamins
•Injury prevention for sports and recreation
•Research methods in physical education
•Advanced human nutrition

Career Choices

Program graduates can pursue advanced roles in academic settings or laboratories. Correct medical training could entail a job as a doctor of physical therapy. These professionals may also choose from possible job positions such as:

•Physical exercise consultant
•College administrator
•Postsecondary professor
•Lead research analyst

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