Athletic Training Graduate Programs Options

Athletic trainers are experts in health and fitness, and help diagnose and treat injuries suffered by athletes. Find out about educational requirements, potential coursework, career options and certification.

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Essential Information

In most states, licensure is required to work as an athletic trainer, though a bachelor's degree in the field is likely to meet educational requirements. Students can earn a master's or doctoral degree in athletic training. A doctoral program in athletic training typically prepares students to conduct in-depth research or pursue a career in academia.

Master of Science in Athletic Training

Sometimes resulting in a Master of Science in Kinesiology, this program can often be considered the entry-level degree for athletic trainers. It offers intense training in health, sports, medicine and nutrition. While a bachelor's degree is sometimes all that's needed to become an athletic trainer, many employers and professional organizations prefer at least a master's degree, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Some schools offer two master's degree options: one for the individual who wants to practice athletic training and another track for the person who may go on to further his or her education and pursue teaching or research. The Commission on Accreditation for Athletic Training Education (CAATE) sets the standards for college-level athletic training programs.

Students must have a bachelor's degree to enroll in the program. They also must submit letters of recommendation and GRE scores.

Master's degree programs involve the advanced study of the body, movement, exercise and sports. Specific courses might cover:

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

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Ph.D. in Athletic Training

Sometimes offered as a Ph.D. in Kinesiology, this higher-level graduate program is for those with a desire to participate in academia or complete research in exercise science, sports medicine or a related area.

Classes within a doctoral degree program will focus on the advanced study of health and wellness, as well as principles for teaching health and wellness to the public. Course titles may include:

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

Popular Career Options

With a Ph.D. in Athletic Training, you may be able to seek advanced roles in laboratories or academic settings. With the correct medical training, you may be able to become a doctor of physical therapy. Other job titles may include:

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

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Due to the increasing awareness of sports-related injuries in young athletes, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted job opportunities for athletic trainers to grow 21% from 2014-2024, much faster than average. As of May 2015, the median annual salary for athletic trainers was $44,670 (

Continuing Education Information

Most states require licensing and registration of athletic trainers, according to the BLS. To comply with licensing requirements, athletic trainers have to be certified through the Board of Certification, Inc., which involves holding a bachelor's or master's degree from an accredited institution and successful passage of an exam. In states where licensing is not required, certification is often necessary for employment.

Master's degree programs in athletic training educate students in health, medicine, and sports to prepare students for their career as an athletic trainer. Those wishing to pursue a career in academia may wish to complete a doctoral program that includes advanced studies and research in health and wellness.

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