Degrees in athletic training are offered both in totally online and hybrid formats at the bachelor's and master's level. Bachelor's degree programs require four years to complete and include general education courses that may also be available online. In a bachelor's degree program, students get a foundation in recognizing, preventing and treating sports injuries. They also learn about general health and conditioning. Master's degrees usually require two years of study and cover more advanced topics in athletic training. Hybrid degree programs at both levels require on-campus attendance for labs, conferences and seminars as well as for completing the extensive hands-on work with athletes that is required. Fully online programs may also require students to complete some sort of internship. While certificate programs in the field are not available online, there are certificate options available in athletic administration and sports management.
Students should make sure that any program they are considering is sanctioned by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education. Graduation from an accredited program is one of the qualifications to take the Board of Certification, Inc. (BOC) examination for athletic trainers.
Bachelor's Degree in Athletic Training
An athletic training degree program at the bachelor's level teaches students how to prevent, recognize and treat athletic injuries. The curriculum includes study in medical conditions, motor skills, pharmacology and professional conduct, among other subjects. Students also participate in research experiences pertaining to sports medicine topics. One of the purposes of the program is to prepare individuals for the BOC examination upon graduation.
Information and Requirements
Students should expect to spend four years completing a bachelor's degree program. Athletic training programs with distance learning options require students to spend a significant amount of time on campus to complete lab requirements, as well as participate in various clinical settings so that they may gain hands-on practice in the field. However, some required and elective courses may be available through online means. The online component of the program requires that students have a computer and Internet access in order to obtain assignments and submit completed work.
List of Bachelor's-Level Athletic Training Courses
A hybrid bachelor's degree program in athletic training includes on-campus courses in areas such as ethics, legal and insurance issues, sports psychology and emergency care. Sample courses with online components are discussed below.
In this course, students learn about the musculoskeletal system of humans. Study of basic anatomy allows them to gain an understanding of the body's form and functions in relation to movement.
This course explores the nutritional requirements of humans over their lifetime. It also provides instruction in making healthy food choices.
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Master's Degree in Athletic Training
A master's-level curriculum in athletic training provides students with the knowledge and practical skills needed to provide athletic training to sports teams as a whole, as well as on an individual basis with athletes. Students learn skills for preventive, emergency and rehabilitative care of athletic injuries. Classroom and distance learning is accompanied by hands-on work in clinical settings. Through the program, students also prepare for the athletic trainer certification exam offered by BOC.
Information and Requirements
The master's degree program typically takes about two years to complete. Because of the hands-on nature of athletic training, distance learning courses included in the curriculum often have a short-term residency requirement. The on-campus residency typically includes short lectures, demonstrations and hands-on practice of training techniques. A computer with Internet access is required to complete the online learning component of the program; instructors and students use an online course management system to track assignments and materials.
List of Master's-Level Athletic Training Courses
Courses at the master's level consist of advanced topics related to kinesiology, strength, conditioning and training practices.
Athletic Training and Pharmaceuticals
Government regulations related to pharmaceuticals common to the athletic training field are discussed, as are typical applications and dosing schedules. Students learn when and how to advise athletes regarding the use of medications. Topics include possible drug interactions and contraindications.
Fundamentals of Athletic Conditioning and Strength Training
Theories behind strength training and conditioning activities are discussed, in addition to practical methods for implementation. Since athletic trainers may work with a diverse group of individuals possessing varying physical skills and abilities, an exploration of how best to tailor programs to meet athlete needs is also part of the class.
Administrative Skills for Athletic Trainers
An overview of the organizational and administrative duties of athletic trainers is covered, including discussion of initial physical evaluations, progress reports, athlete questionnaires and injury report forms. Students learn to collect data, write accurate reports and interact as needed with primary care doctors or medical specialists when an athlete's condition warrants referral or conferral.
Graduation from an accredited bachelor's degree program in athletic training may qualify students for entry-level jobs in the field. In 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that colleges, universities and professional schools employed the highest number of athletic trainers (www.bls.gov). Other places of employment included schools, hospitals and health practitioner offices. The top-paying jobs for athletic trainers in 2015 were in the category of business, professional, labor, political and similar organizations.
The BLS reported a median annual salary of $44,670 for athletic trainers as of May 2015, and estimated a 21% increase in jobs from 2014-2024. Growth was projected due to the role of athletic trainers in providing preventative health care, which helps bring down associated costs, as well as such factors as efforts in some states to require employment of athletic trainers in high schools to aid student sports teams.
Continuing Education and Certification Information
Also according to BLS, many athletic trainers hold a graduate degree, which may be necessary for certain positions or advancement. Most states also require athletic trainers to be registered or licensed, which hinges on achieving certification through the BOC. To be eligible for the certification exam, candidates must have graduated from a bachelor's or master's degree program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education and pass an examination. Continuing education classes are required to retain certification and licensure.
Undergraduate and graduate degrees are available in the field of athletic training, both in online and hybrid formats. Both levels will focus on similar topics, though the graduate level studies may become more advanced and specialized.