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Will You Be Ready?

October 1, 2018

One Viewpoint on the AT Degree Level Change to Master’s

By Jane Steger, First Aider Staff

In May 2015, The NATA Board of Directors and the Commissioners of the CAATE, with the full support of the Board of Certification and the NATA Research & Education Foundation, agreed to establish the professional degree in athletic training at the master’s level, effective July 1, 2020.

Cramer contacted Phillip Vardiman, PhD, LAT, ATC, of Kansas State University to get his thoughts on the impact of this change.

Cramer: How do you see the change of master level athletic training programs influencing the number of students pursuing athletic training as a career?

Dr. Vardiman: I am not convinced that there will be a drastic decline in the number of students pursuing athletic training as a career because of the change in degree requirements. I believe that there are a number of universities and colleges that are working creatively to develop quality and affordable educational programs that will keep prospective students enthusiastic about the profession.

Cramer: Do think this will allow for more employed certified athletic trainers in the collegiate level versus relying on grad students?

Dr. Vardiman: The college and university athletic departments are managing the change in different ways. I do believe that there are fewer graduate assistant positions as some institutions are replacing certified GA’s with full time certified staff. Some institutions are moving towards a fellowship model or have started a CAATE accredited residency program. I believe we are going to see some exciting opportunities for new Certified Athletic Trainers to gain experience in a variety of settings. I think that as athletic trainers and educators face this change, we are only limited by the creativity that we bring to the table.

Cramer: What impact will this have on high school level athletic trainers?

Dr. Vardiman: Very little, if any. The only change will be entry level certified athletic trainers will have graduate degrees.

Cramer: How will the curriculum change now that a master level is required? Is this just more years or will the content requirement change?

Dr. Vardiman: It is definitely not just adding years to a student’s education or just taking the undergraduate programs and offering the same content at the Master’s degree level. The CAATE has developed changes to their requirements effective in July 1, 2020 that are designed to better prepare students for the workforce.

Cramer: What effect will this have on smaller universities who currently have athletic training undergrad programs? How will they be able to support master level programs?

Dr. Vardiman: Some institutions have decided that they are not going to make the transition to the graduate degree while others have decided to make a new program. There are a lot of factors that have to be discussed to determine if the program is a viable option. I am excited to see the natural creativity and adaptability of athletic trainers shine through when they develop unique partnerships and programs that allow programs to continue or even grow into something new.

Cramer: What are some of the new requirements you are implementing into the Kansas State program?

Dr. Vardiman: The development of our future MS Degree program gave us an opportunity to reflect on our current model and strategically build a new academic plan that showcases our faculty’s expertise and enhances the learning opportunities for our students. As we make the transition, we are incorporating new skills, techniques and clinical experiences into our current curriculum and will continue to expand these opportunities..

For additional information on this topic, visit https://www.nata.org/professional-interests/job-settings/higher-education/resources

Bio – Dr. Vardiman, LAT, ATC is an associate professor at Kansas State University’s College of Human Ecology. He holds a Ph.D. in Kinesiology from the University of Arkansas; a M.S. in Health, Physical Education and Leisure from Oklahoma State University; and a B.S. in Athletic Training from Park University, Parkville, Missouri. http://www.he.k-state.edu/fndh/people/faculty/pvardiman/