AT Education

Athletic Training Education

Athletic training is an academic major or graduate equivalent major program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE). The current minimum entry point into the profession of athletic training is the baccalaureate level, however it was recently decided by the AT Strategic Alliance that the minimum professional degree level will be a masters degree change to be implemented within the next several years. More than 70 percent of athletic trainers hold at least a master’s degree. Upon completion of a CAATE-accredited athletic training education program, students become eligible for national certification by successfully completing the Board of Certification, Inc. (BOC) examination.

Professional Education

Professional training education uses a competency-based approach in both the classroom and clinical settings. Using a medical-based education model, athletic training students are educated to provide comprehensive patient care in five domains of clinical practice: prevention; clinical evaluation and diagnosis; immediate and emergency care; treatment and rehabilitation; and organization and professional health and well-being. The educational requirements for CAATE-accredited athletic training education programs include acquisition of knowledge, skills and clinical abilities along with a broad scope of foundational behaviors of professional practice. Students complete an extensive clinical learning requirement that is embodied in the clinical integration proficiencies (professional, practice oriented outcomes) as identified in the Athletic Training Education Competencies (PDF). Students must receive formal instruction in the following specific subject matter areas identified in the competencies:

  • Evidence-based practice
  • Prevention and health promotion
  • Clinical examination and diagnosis
  • Acute care of injury and illness
  • Therapeutic interventions
  • Psychosocial strategies and referral
  • Health care administration
  • Professional development and responsibility

Continuing Education

Per the Board of Education, continuing education requirements are intended to promote continued competence, development of current knowledge and skills and enhancement of professional skills and judgement. These activities must focus on increasing knowledge, skills and abilities related to the practice of athletic training. As information continually changes, it is important for professionals to learn the latest about athletic training. Continuing education requirements are meant to ensure ATs continue to:

  • Stay on the cutting edge in the field of athletic training.
  • Obtain current professional development information.
  • Explore new knowledge in specific content areas.
  • Master new athletic training-related skills and techniques.
  • Expand approaches to effective athletic training.
  • Further develop professional judgment.
  • Conduct professional practice in an ethical and appropriate manner.

NATA provides athletic trainers with a range of continuing education opportunities through workshops, webinars, home study courses and the Clinical Symposia AT Expo.

Doctoral Programs

Doctoral education is important to the profession, especially for athletic training educators. NATA nor the Executive Committee for Education and its committees accredit or endorse specific doctoral education programs for athletic trainers. The following information is provided to assist those who are interested in doctoral education for athletic trainers. There are several opportunities for athletic trainers when embarking on a doctorate. While there are few universities that grant a doctorate in athletic training, there are several universities that provide research infrastructure, educational opportunities, mentorship and financial compensation to athletic trainers. The list found below is intended to aid athletic training professionals by providing contact information related to the doctoral educational opportunities for athletic trainers wishing to pursue a career in the academy. Preparing for a career in higher education (commonly referred to as "the academy") requires careful preparation to decide which program is right for you. Establishing clear goals for your scholarly research agenda is important as you investigate academic programs. There are several resources available as you investigate a doctoral education. Graduate education prepares the scientists and engineers needed by industry, government and universities to conduct the nation's research and development; educates the scholars in the humanities, social sciences and the arts who preserve and enlarge our understanding of human thought and the human condition; and develops the scholars in all disciplines who become the faculties of the nation’s colleges and universities.

Post-Professional Residency Programs

The Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE) accredits post- professional degree and residency programs. More information is available from CAATE.

Becoming Certified

To become a certified athletic trainer, a student must graduate with bachelors or master’s degree from an accredited professional athletic training education program and pass a comprehensive test administered by the Board of Certification (BOC). Once certified, he or she must meet ongoing continuing education requirements in order to remain certified. Athletic trainers must also work in collaboration with a physician and within their state practice act. Eligibility for the BOC exam is contingent upon completion of a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE) that must instruct the Competencies within the curriculum. Passage of the certifying examination is a requirement for licensure in most states.

The ATC ®  Credential

The ATC ®  credential and the BOC requirements are currently recognized by 49 states plus the District of Columbia for eligibility and/or regulation of the practice of athletic trainers. The credibility of the BOC program and the ATC ®  credential it awards are supported by three pillars: (1) the BOC certification examination; (2) the BOC Standards of Professional Practice, and Disciplinary Guidelines and Procedures; and (3) continuing competence (education) requirements. BOC certification is recognized by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies and is the only accredited certification program for athletic trainers. To be certified, an individual must demonstrate that he or she is an athletic trainer capable of performing the required duties without threat of harm
to the public. The BOC traditionally conducts annual examination development meetings during which athletic trainers and recognized experts in the science of athletic training develop, review and validate examination items and problems. The knowledge, skills, and abilities required for competent performance as an entry-level athletic trainer fall into three categories:

1. Understanding, applying, and analyzing;
2. Knowledge and decision-making;
3. Special performance abilities.

BOC-certified athletic trainers are educated, trained and evaluated in five major practice domains:
1. Injury and illness prevention and wellness promotion
2. Examination, assessment and diagnosis
3. Immediate and emergency care
4. Therapeutic intervention
5. Health care administration and professional responsibility

Getting Certified

Find an accredited athletic training education program near you along with other valuable resources for students.

If you already have a bachelor’s degree in something other than athletic training, you can earn a master’s degree in athletic training from a university with an accredited entry-level master’s program or earn a second bachelor’s degree from one of more than 360 accredited athletic training education programs.

If you are a Certified Athletic Therapist in Canada and member of the CATA, you may automatically qualify to take the BOC exam based upon the Mutual Recognition Agreement. Please visit the BOC website for more information.

The BOC Recertification requirements outline the requirements to maintain your BOC certification. The requirements include information about completing the continuing education (CE) requirements, meeting the emergency cardiac care (ECC) requirements, submitting the BOC certification maintenance fee and adhering to the BOC Standards of Professional Practice.

Additional Information
For questions about admission to a specific accredited program, contact the program director at the individual college or university. For additional certification information, visit, email or call 1.877.BOC.EXAM.