Why a Doctorate of Athletic Training Degree + Online No GRE Option

This article will provide an explanation of the doctor of athletic training degree program, some of the subjects and courses that will be covered, and why the degree may be a very good career move. This article will also describe a high quality doctor of athletic training degree program that is available online.

What Is a Doctor of Athletic Training?

The field of athletic training is developing rapidly, and there is an increased need for people who are educated at the doctorate level. The doctor of athletic training program focuses on medical-based education and you will be introduced to five different areas of clinical practice:

  1. Clinical evaluation and diagnosis
  2. Prevention
  3. Treatment and rehabilitation
  4. Immediate and emergency care
  5. Organization and professional health and well-being

The degree program will focus on a number of core competencies. These are:

  • 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

This degree program will enable you to play a pivotal role in the continuing education of other athletic trainers. Athletic trainers must keep their knowledge up to date, which requires educators who have been educated to the doctorate degree level. Furthermore, research must be completed to determine new developments in the field of athletic training, and also to determine athletic needs, techniques, and skills. With a doctorate degree, you will be able to become involved in research, and also in the development of appropriate standards of professional practice.

The field of athletic training has an immediate need for educators who have a doctorate degree, particularly because there is a shortage in educators. Unfortunately, there are only a few universities at present that offer this degree, which is another reason why more people who have this kind of education are required, so that more athletic trainers can be developed. It is quite common for those who have completed, or those who are studying towards this doctorate degree, to be required to undertake a residency program. Such a program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education.

Meanwhile, those who have a doctorate in athletic training generally find employment in educational services at private, local, or state level. Others remain employed in the field itself, rather than become educators. Hence, they may work in spectator sports or in fitness and recreational sports centers. Others choose to engage in research, often working in private, local, or state hospitals or universities with research facilities. Lastly, there is a need for these degree holders in ambulatory health care services.

Why Earn a Doctor of Athletic Training?

With a doctorate of athletic training, you will be fully equipped to prevent, diagnose, and treat bone and muscle injuries and illnesses. A large part of your role will be to educate others on how to apply certain devices following injuries, how to evaluate and recognize such injuries, how to provide emergency and first aid care, how to implement rehabilitation programs, how to protect athletes from injuries, and more. Furthermore, you are likely to be involved in research for new and better rehabilitation and injury prevention programs.

One of the key elements that will set you apart from a non-doctorate level athletic trainer, is that you will no longer have to work under the supervision of a physician to perform you work. That said, you will remain part of the multidisciplinary team that has the goal of improving medical services for athletes who have been injured. Once you have a doctorate degree, you will likely be more involved in the administrative side of the program as well, focusing on developing and implementing policy based on research, managing budgets, and planning programs that are in line with state and federal regulations. Meanwhile, others will choose to become more heavily involved in certain sports-related injuries, such as athlete concussions.

Those who have a doctor of athletic training degree are not personal trainers, fitness instructors, or fitness trainers, however. They will have less to do with athletes with acute injuries and more to do with research and education. And even if they still provide direct clinical care, this will go outside of the realms of personal and fitness training.

Obtaining a Doctor of Athletic Training degree will greatly increase your job security and prospects. This will also give you a lot of personal satisfaction, not in the least because you will be able to take on a role of leadership. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an exercise physiologist had a median salary of $45,630 per year as of May 2016, but this was at the bachelor’s degree level. Those with a doctorate degree are more likely to be in the top 10% of earners, who earn $69,140 per year or more.

Online Option for Doctor of Athletic Training

A.T. Still University

A.T. Still University (ATSU) offers a highly respected Doctor of Athletic Training (DAT) program. Graduates are expected to become academic and clinical leaders who will be at the heart of improving the profession as a whole. You will be an educator, expert clinician, and administrator respected for your advanced skills and knowledge in developing, implementing, and analyzing practice solutions in the field of athletic health care, with a goal of improving outcomes for those who are physically active. The program emphasizes applied research, professional leadership, clinical decision making, and orthopedic rehabilitation.

Acceptance criteria to the program are incredibly stringent. Indeed, graduates are seen as the top industry, educational, and clinical professionals. You will be in high demand to teach the next generation of athletic trainers, although you can also take on a more clinical role. You will be equipped with advanced decision making skills, critical thinking skills, and evaluation skills, particularly in areas of health and safety.

The degree is unique and goes above and beyond existing accreditation standards. It is a post-professional, terminal level degree. The degree has a number of foundations, each of which has core courses that must be completed. As such:

The clinical decision making foundation includes the following core courses:

  • Quality Improvement and Patient Safety
  • Evidence-Based Practice
  • Health Information Technology

The orthopedic rehabilitation foundation includes the following core courses:

  • Foundations of Orthopedic Basic Science
  • Surgical Considerations for Orthopedic Rehabilitation
  • Assessment of Movement Dysfunction
  • Corrective Techniques for Movement Dysfunction

The leadership foundation includes the following core courses:

  • Practice Based Research
  • Athletic Injury Epidemiology
  • Healthcare Policy and Systems of Delivery
  • Leadership and Professionalism in Athletic Training
  • Innovation to Advance Athletic Health Care

As part of the degree, students must also take part in applied research.

Those who graduate can work as:

  • Clinical athletic trainers
  • Athletic training educators
  • Faculty staff
  • Researchers


By completing a doctor in athletic training degree, you can greatly advance not just your career, but also the discipline of athletic training as a whole. You will be able to work in academia or sports entities alike, where you will be able to set yourself apart as a leader in your field.

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