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Why is a Master’s Degree in Athletic Training Essential?

Athletic training quote

If you’re considering a career in Athletic Training, congratulations!  You are launching into a fast-growing career field with a great deal of opportunities.  However, you may find yourself facing a lot of questions.  Do you need a master’s degree in Athletic Training, or a bachelors?  Is there such a thing as an athletic training major?  Here at the University of Idaho we’ve helped many students navigate these questions, and we’re here to do the same for you. Let’s start with an overview of the field.

Athletic training overview

According to the National Athletic Trainer’s Association, “Athletic training encompasses the prevention, examination, diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of emergent, acute or chronic injuries and medical conditions. Athletic training is recognized by the American Medical Association (AMA), Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as an allied health care profession.”

What is the athletic training career path?  The title of “athletic trainer” can be a bit of a poor description.  Athletic trainers provide medical services to all types of active individuals, and they do not serve the role of personal or fitness trainer.  Athletic trainers can fill many job titles, such as Rehabilitation Specialist or Occupational Health Manager.  They are found in physician’s offices, rural hospitals, and outpatient clinics, as well as in the traditional role with schools and athletic teams.

Why isn’t getting a bachelor’s degree in athletic training enough?

Historically, getting a bachelor’s degree in athletic training was sufficient for licensure and beginning a career.  However, as of Fall 2022 students desiring to earn a degree in athletic training will need to attend a graduate degree program.  Undergraduate athletic training majors are phasing out, and master’s in athletic training (MSAT) programs are becoming the new standard for the profession.  Many schools, including the University of Idaho, have closed their undergraduate offerings in preparation for this cutoff date in 2022.

Does it still make sense to get your bachelor’s degree?

Yes!  Most Master’s in Athletic Training programs require students to receive an undergraduate degree as a prerequisite.  MSAT programs also require specific pre-requisite coursework that are most often fulfilled during bachelor’s degree programs.  If you are interested in attending a specific school’s MSAT program, it is important to take note of their prerequisite course requirements.  You don’t want to complete your degree, only to discover you’re missing key courses you’ll need to apply for a graduate program.

What bachelor’s degree should I choose for a career in athletic training?

When considering undergraduate options, think about what you’d like to be doing after graduation.  Some athletic training master’s programs (like ours at the University of Idaho) don’t require a specific degree for admission.  This gives you a chance to customize your education.  If you’re hoping to start your own business after graduation, a business degree could be helpful.  If you want to go into research, maybe an exercise science degree would be your best option.  Math, science, and even social science majors can all help you prepare for different athletic training career options.  Your own interests and passions will help lead you to the best fit.  When you graduate with your master’s degree in athletic training you will have a resume custom-made for job positions that will be the most attractive for you.

The 3+2 Option

The University of Idaho is among the schools that offer a “3+2” option.  It is an accelerated program which allows you to get your undergraduate and graduate degree in athletic training in five years, instead of the traditional six.  Here’s how it works.

1. You enroll as a Pre-AT major in a participating school. 

2. While completing your major-specific courses, you apply for the MSAT program in the Fall of your Junior year.

3. If accepted into the MSAT, your first two semesters of the MSAT program fulfills your undergraduate requirements. Your Pre-Athletic Training degree will be eligible to post in the fall of your first year in the MSAT.

4. After you complete your second year of the MSAT program, and graduate with your master’s degree.

Update your skills

If you already have a bachelor’s degree in athletic training, you may be wondering if you need to continue your education further. Post-professional degrees like masters and doctoral degrees are common options that athletic trainers take advantage of. Our top three reasons that students should continue their education beyond an undergraduate degree are:

1. Evidence-based practice:  When the athletic training degree was confined to undergraduate programs, students were unable to focus on evidence-based practice in the same way students of advanced degrees can.  An advanced degree can help you learn more about conducting your own research and collecting your own data to provide the best evidence-based care. 

2. Competitive job market: As the industry moves beyond bachelor’s degrees in athletic training, the market is going to be more difficult for practitioners with solely an undergraduate degree.

3. Updating your skills: If it has been a few years since you graduated, returning to the classroom is going to introduce you to new techniques, technology, and strategies.  Together with evidence-based practice, this will help you elevate your practice and improve your patient care.

University of Idaho’s Doctorate in Athletic Training (DAT) program

At the University of Idaho, we have a unique doctorate program designed for students who already are certified athletic trainers.  This program improves students’ clinical practice through advanced manual therapy techniques and analysis of patient outcomes.  In applying these skills, students receive guided growth towards advanced clinical practice and creates space for learning new and progressive approaches to patient care.  Our program was founded in 2011 and was the first of its kind in the nation.  It is an awesome option for athletic trainers wishing to expand their understanding and improve their practice.


In the Fall of 2022, undergraduate degrees in athletic training will disappear.  If you are starting your journey into athletic training now, an undergraduate degree in a related (or unrelated!) field can help you prepare for your career, while fulfilling the prerequisites needed to enter a master’s in athletic training program.  If you already have an undergraduate degree in athletic training, returning to the classroom will help you stay competitive in the job market while elevating your patient care.  Either way, the University of Idaho Athletic Training Programs can help you get there!



MSAT Rolling Application Deadlines:
Priority application deadline: Nov. 15
Secondary deadline: Jan. 25
DAT Application Deadlines:

Only one for Summer admissions: April 15 each year


First day of classes and Summer semester dates:
MSAT: June 3- August 2nd 2024
DAT: July 1st through July 26th 2024

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