If you are interested in becoming a certified athletic trainer (AT), you have chosen a rewarding and growing healthcare career! With a little bit of planning and the right information, you will be well on your way to earning your AT certification. Here are the steps you will want to follow when planning to apply to an athletic training program.
1) Do your research early.
To become an AT, the basic steps are simple: 1) complete prerequisite coursework, 2) complete your graduate coursework in an accredited professional program, 3) sit for and pass the Board of Certification (BOC) Exam. There are several things, however, that can make your AT education journey easier, faster, and cost less!
You can find a list of colleges and universities with accredited professional athletic training programs here: https://caate.net/search-for-accredited-program/.
2) Choose your top programs.
You can always change your mind, but having an idea of what programs are your top choices help you prepare yourself in alignment with what kind of applicants they are looking to admit. It also gives you ample time to decide what program will prepare you the best and is the best fit for you.
Things to pay attention to:
How long has the program been at the graduate level? You may want to look for well established programs, or a new one, depending on what you are looking for.
Do they have a 3+2 program? This is a program that allows you to complete your undergraduate and graduate coursework in 5 years, instead of the usual 6-7. You basically start your graduate coursework during your 4th year of undergraduate. This saves you considerable money in tuition and allows you to enter the workforce sooner.
Who are the faculty, what are their areas of expertise, are they actively practicing patient care and engaging in research?
What are the program’s BOC Exam pass rates?
What is included in tuition?
Where are graduates employed?
3) Understand and pursue prerequisites and recommendations.
There are many different things you can do to prepare a great resume for applying to AT programs. You will want to get CPR certified, gain observation or internship experience with ATs or other healthcare providers, and complete certain classes.
Every institution has the choice of determining their educational requirements, though all programs must include prerequisite coursework, per accreditation standards, in: psychology, physiology, anatomy, biology, and chemistry. Because each program can decide how each of these are met (e.g., full course, partial course), you will want to connect with your programs of interest to determine what they require and recommend.
4) Connect with Programs.
It is really easy to find program Facebook and Instagram pages or Twitter accounts. You can usually find links on their websites. Start following the programs you are interested in- you can learn a lot about the programs by what they post, how engaging their alumni and current students are, and it might help you get a ‘feel’ for each program. Calling or visiting the program faculty is another great way to connect on a more personal level and get questions answered. Some programs offer Virtual Open Houses as a way for you to meet faculty and staff and see the campus if you aren’t able to travel to visit in person.
5) Do some self-reflection.
Every person who decides to become an AT does it for different reasons- what are your reasons for wanting to be an AT? What kind of AT do you want to be? Where might you want to work? What kind of clinical environment gets you excited about being an AT? Knowing the answers to these kinds of questions helps you choose the right programs to apply to and will ultimately help you remain motivated to be the best AT you can be.
As you plan to start (or continue) your journey through AT education and into the profession, remember these steps and tips. You will set yourself up for a smooth transition from one step to the next, saving time and money in the process.