UW–Madison’s Athletic Training program is transitioning to the master’s degree level due to changing national accreditation standards and an anticipated growth in demand for athletic trainers in the coming years.
The new Master of Science in Athletic Training (MSAT) program — which was approved by the UW System’s Board of Regents in April — is now accepting applications and will enroll its first cohort in the summer of 2021.
Athletic trainers are multi-skilled health care professionals who collaborate with physicians as part of a health care team to provide preventive services, emergency care, clinical diagnosis, therapeutic intervention, and rehabilitation of injuries and medical conditions. Athletic trainers provide this health care in a variety of settings for people involved in all levels of physical activity.
“If you enjoy sports and physical activity, solving problems, caring for patients, and working with people then a career in athletic training might be for you,” says UW–Madison’s Andrew Winterstein, who directs the university’s Athletic Training program, which is housed in the School of Education’s Department of Kinesiology.
Athletic trainers do everything from creating injury prevention programs at high schools, to providing health care to intercollegiate or professional sports teams. Others help workers safely perform on a factory assembly line, or treat patients of all ages and skill levels in a clinical rehabilitation setting.
“Athletic trainers are the health care professionals who use their skills where no two days or job settings are alike,” says Winterstein, a distinguished clinical professor with the Department of Kinesiology.
The new MSAT program is replacing the current Athletic Training program offered at the bachelor’s degree level. Athletic training programs across the country are making the transition following a decision from the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE), the Board of Certification (BOC), and National Athletic Trainers Association. By the fall of 2022, athletic training programs nationally will no longer be enrolling students at the undergraduate level. However, students currently enrolled in athletic training programs and current athletic trainers will not need to earn a master’s degree to satisfy this new standard.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of athletic trainers will grow 19 percent from 2018 to 2028, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. Demand for athletic trainers is expected to increase as people become more aware of the long-term effects of sports-related injuries, and as a growing middle-aged and older population remains active.
UW–Madison’s new MSAT program takes 24 months to complete, beginning with a summer session, and includes capstone clinical preceptorships in local environments and locations around the country. The curriculum, which includes 58 credits, is front-loaded in year one (summer, fall, and spring semesters), with a heavy didactic schedule and limited clinical experiences. The second year (summer, fall, and spring semesters) then stresses immersive clinical field placements supported by innovative courses that include both face-to-face and online formats.
The program at UW–Madison gives students the unique opportunity of working with elite Big Ten Conference athletes competing at the highest level of intercollegiate sports. Clinical education is guided by a talented collection of athletic training professionals dedicated to preparing students in the program for their future.
“Something new and exciting in the MSAT program is that we will be offering more immersive clinical experiences for the students at a variety of locations around the country and in our own Big Ten settings,” says Shari Clark, the program’s clinical education coordinator. “These intensive experiences will provide authentic clinical learning experiences to prepare students for a range of patient care.”
As a comprehensive university, UW-Madison also offers countless collaborative interprofessional education, research, and care opportunities where MSAT students can learn from physicians with the UW School of Medicine and Public Health in the classroom, operating room, and athletic health care setting. Additional opportunities exist alongside other health science students studying to become physical therapists, occupational therapists, and physician assistants.
“I’m very excited about the opportunities that the new MSAT program will bring to our students,” says David Bell, an associate professor with the Department of Kinesiology and the director of the Wisconsin Injury in Sport Laboratory. “I believe that students will be able to add to their clinical experience by participating in research that will directly benefit their patients.”
Winterstein notes that the changing nature of health care and an increased emphasis on inter-professional practice will make the master’s level of education very important to the profession’s future.
The new UW–Madison program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education and students are eligible to sit for the national Board of Certification exam after successful completion of the MSAT program.
“Our Athletic Training program is already a well-respected member of the health sciences community on campus and fully contributes to the research, instructional, and outreach missions of UW–Madison,” says Winterstein. “The transition from the bachelor’s to the master’s degree level will allow for greater collaboration as an interprofessional partner with existing health sciences programs.”
For more information visit the MSAT program’s website.