Athletic training program to kick off master’s degree in summer 2019

Erica Fowler

Kent State University is to join a small list of schools in Ohio that are offering a master’s degree in athletic training. The new master’s program comes after the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE) announced that by fall 2022, all entry level athletic training education programs in the U.S. must transition from a bachelor’s degree level to a master’s degree level.

“In healthcare, you’re making life and death decisions, so having those extra years as a master student will prepare students,” said Kimberly Peer, a professor in the athletic training program and a member of the CAATE ethics committee. Peer also said many other medical professions — from podiatric medicine to physical therapy — are upping its entry level degrees.

“Every other healthcare profession goes through a master’s level program or higher,” said Jeff Huston, the coordinator of the athletic training program at Kent State. “(Athletic training) was one of those remaining holdouts.”

Huston said this change does not affect students who are already enrolled in undergraduate athletic training programs. Students who complete their bachelor’s degree and pass the Board of Certification can still become licensed athletic trainers.

“If we’re allowed to take in our last students into the professional phase of our program in fall 2022, that means we have to teach them out,” Huston said. “So pretty much every bachelor’s program will be gone by 2026 or 2027 and everything nationwide will become master’s programs.”

Huston said this change does not impact current athletic trainers who earned their bachelor’s degree either.“This shift isn’t going to be a huge thing within the profession, but it’s a huge thing within education,” he said.

However, not all universities plan on making the program change from bachelor’s level to master’s level.

In Northeast Ohio, five schools offer CAATE accredited bachelor’s degree programs in athletic training: Kent State University, University of Akron, Baldwin Wallace University, University of Mount Union and Ashland University. Huston said Kent State University and Youngstown State University are the only schools in Northeast Ohio offering a master’s degree program.

“Athletic training is a very expensive program to run because of the faculty to student ratio due to clinicals and the expensive equipment to train our people,” Peer said.

Peer said schools with smaller programs are less likely to have the money to invest in a new program or to pay faculty members.

The new master’s degree program at Kent State offers classes for students to increase their knowledge about the field which Huston says will benefit the students.

“Undergraduate students now are kind of pulled a lot of different ways because they have to split their time between all these different classes and sometimes they can’t be fully immersed in what their major is,” Huston said. “But the great thing about master’s students is they won’t have any prerequisites to distract them from focusing on just medical education.”

Senior athletic training major Noah Pennypacker said this education reform to the master’s level will help advance the athletic training profession.

“In order to keep up with other medical professionals and be respected, you really need that next level degree — that master’s level,” Pennypacker said.

Pennypacker plans to continue his education upon graduation and become an occupational therapist. He credits the professors and faculty at Kent State for providing him with many learning opportunities.“The people that you meet are amazing,” Pennypacker said. “It’s the best part about the program.”

With about 80 years of combined experience between all the faculty members, the athletic training program prides itself on diversity.

“We have people who have worked with national championship football teams, we have people who have worked at small colleges, big colleges, clinics and all over the place,” Huston said. “Personally, I worked six years of baseball and I worked with guys that pitched back to back World Series.”

For Terique Boyd, a part-time strength and conditioning coach at the University of Delaware, the reputation of the athletic training program at Kent State inspired him to apply for the master’s program.

“When I saw they opened up the master’s program, that really caught my attention,” Boyd said. “Having a background in fitness is something that has drawn me into the sports medicine field.”

Boyd, who earned a bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Kent State in 2013, said the campus and the overall atmosphere of the university inspired him to apply for the program.“The school spirit at Kent is what draws me back, and the diversity,” Boyd said.

Boyd is a part-time personal trainer but hopes to eventually make the transition to become a full-time licensed athletic trainer.

“My goal is to help out as much as I can, change lives and try to make people better movers in general,” Boyd said. “I am really big on longevity and I really truly want to help inspire people to reach their goals.”

An informational open house event about the new master’s degree in athletic training will be held on Nov. 14 in room 221 and 222 in the M.A.C.C Annex from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Erica Fowler is the heath and human services reporter. Contact her at [email protected].