Editor’s note: The story has been updated to clarify that the new doctoral program is in the transition and planning phase and must go through an official approval process before accepting students into the program.
The University of Florida will accept its last undergraduate athletic training students in summer 2019, eliminating the bachelor’s program in athletic training.
The UF Faculty Senate voted unanimously yesterday to terminate the Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training program. The Strategic Alliance, which is made up of four organizations in the athletic training profession, mandated that accredited programs no longer accept students in a bachelor’s-level program after fall 2022. Programs must either terminate their bachelor’s programs or transition to a master’s program, according to Patricia Tripp, the athletic training program director.
“Our profession nationally is moving toward a professional degree at the master’s level,” she said.
Currently, UF offers both a bachelor’s in athletic training and a master’s with an athletic training specialization. UF is in the process of developing a doctor of athletic training program and anticipates enrolling its first cohort in summer 2020.
The doctoral program in development will be a post-professional advanced clinical degree. Students seeking admission to the program must be certified athletic trainers and have completed a professional program at the bachelor’s or master’s level.
The College of Health & Human Performance will continue to offer a 2-year master’s program in advanced physiology and kinesiology with a specialization in athletic training. However, if the doctoral program gains approval for summer 2020 enrollment, Tripp said they plan to start the elimination process for the master’s concentration after the admission of the 2019 cohort.
About 20 students are admitted in each BSAT cohort, and those enrolled in 2019 can expect to receive the same level of education as former students in the program. The termination of the bachelor’s program will have no impact on those students.
“We are externally accredited, so we have to make sure that all of the students are receiving all of what’s required from the accreditation,” Tripp said.
Within the state of Florida, there are 14 athletic training programs. The University of South Florida has already transitioned to a professional master’s program. According to their websites, the University of Central Florida and the University of North Florida are also transitioning to a master’s program.
“Over 70 percent of our profession has a graduate degree or a post-professional degree,” Tripp said. “Usually to practice at the level our students choose to practice, you need to have more experience.”
Tripp said there are more than 300 athletic training programs throughout the country. She said students can expect this landscape to change with the mandate. With a fewer number of programs, athletic training would be more competitive.
If a student attends UF after the transition and wants to pursue athletic training, she can consider the applied physiology and kinesiology program. But, there won’t necessarily be a pre-athletic training program. Tripp also noted that after 2019, students who complete a graduate-level certified athletic trainer program elsewhere would be eligible to apply to UF’s post-professional doctorate program if the program is approved.
“We are going to offer and do have a viable bachelors-level program that will help a student who intends to go into athletic training meet their prerequisites to apply to another program elsewhere,” she said.
Megan Kuehhas, a freshman, chose to attend UF specifically for the athletic training major.
“I was between UF and the University of South Carolina, and when I looked, USC was terminating the program this past summer,” she said. “I didn’t want to go to the school if I couldn’t be in the program.”
Kuehhas, who is from Long Island, New York, said she plans to further her degree by pursing sports medicine or physician assistant school.
“I played sports throughout my whole life,” the 18-year-old said. “So that sparked my interest that I could use medical knowledge to help athletes because I can relate to injuries.”
Although it will not affect her, she had not heard that the program was being terminated.
Antonella Valencia, the vice president of the Student Athletic Trainers’ Organization at UF, started as a pre-health major. After completing observation hours with various sports teams, she applied to the athletic training program.
“I’m hoping that by the time I graduate, I will be a licensed athletic trainer, and then I can go on eventually to physical therapy school,” she said. “Eventually I want to work for some kind of orthopedic center, professional team or a collegiate team.”
Valencia said most professional teams require the athletic training credential and a physical therapy doctorate, so she is exploring that field as well.
“We get to learn about things we are passionate about in class and then we get to apply it immediately at our clinical site,” she said. “I feel like we have two years of experience before we even graduate, so it sets you up really well for the workforce.”