Athletic training and physical therapy dual degree programs most frequently pair a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) with either a Bachelor of Science (BS) or Master of Science (MS) in athletic training. Below are more details on what these programs are like, including sample class topics and enrollment requirements.
General Overview of Available Programs
The DPT paired with the MS or BS in training is something of a standard degree option for students looking to simultaneously study in these two fields. This is because the master's is the terminal (highest available) degree in athletic training. There is only one program at present that offers a doctorate in athletic training in the United States, and that school does not have a dual degree program of this nature. There are some programs that allow the student to obtain the master's in athletic training paired with an undergraduate degree in physical therapy, but these programs tend to take about as long as the DPT programs do.
Students should expect these programs to take four to seven years to complete. For students who do not already have a bachelor's degree, this would at least be a comparable cumulative amount of time to taking a bachelor's and a DPT individually and could actually save several years in the best case scenario.
Admission requirements can vary greatly depending on whether the program involves a BS degree in one of the disciplines.
If a BS is involved, the application requirements usually change depending on whether or not the applicant is a first-time freshman. If you are fresh out of high school with no prior higher education experience, expect to be required to have completed some coursework in biology, chemistry and an advanced math such as trigonometry. There may also be a GPA requirement. Transfer students or older students with some prior higher educational background may be able to meet these prerequisite course requirements with prior related undergrad coursework.
The DPT/MS programs are sometimes highly competitive and have limited slots available due to clinical practicum requirements of the program. Students should hold a bachelor's degree with some amount of prior coursework in the natural sciences and human health subjects completed. Students are also usually required to achieve a minimum score on the GRE and submit relevant references and a personal essay.
Anatomy, physiology and health classes make up the bulk of this dual degree program curriculum. Classes tend to focus specifically on the practical issues and scenarios that trainers and physical therapists will regularly encounter in their work.
Anatomy classes in an athletic training program usually focus on musculoskeletal function throughout the body. Programs often have several of these classes to cover different systems. These courses can include clinical labs in which students examine both human partners and cadavers.
Physical therapy courses usually cover the various dysfunctions of the musculoskeletal system and how to treat them. Students learn therapeutic and orthopedic techniques to examine and treat a variety of these conditions. Specifically, they will learn how to create various exercises to manage any pain associated with this system.
Clinical medicine courses in an athletic training program focus on diagnosing and treating conditions that a trainer normally encounters. Students learn the scope of treatments they can perform and how to make referrals to physicians. Medical testing such as blood work is also covered.
Athletic training students learn about diet and health, with a particular emphasis on optimal diet for athletes who perform at a high level. Concepts covered include nutrients, maintaining healthy body weight, and proper hydration. Treatment for eating disorders may also be a component of these classes.
Biomechanics courses in an athletic training/physical therapy program focus on the relationship of force and motion to the musculoskeletal system. Students in a dual degree program can expect sports and exercise applications to be a primary focus. These courses usually involve lab work.
While it's possible that you may find a few exceptions, an athletic training and physical therapy dual degree program will usually follow the structure of a DPT paired with a BS or MS in training. This combination opens many career doors for students in both of these fields.