Master of Science in Athletic Training
March is National Athletic Training month! In 2016, Tarleton State University introduced its new Master of Science in Athletic Training (MSAT) program. Since then, the MSAT program has focused on service, inquiry, and leadership while utilizing curriculum that provides students with the hands-on skills and training to sit for the national certification exam.
According to Dr. Jennifer Lancaster of Tarleton’s MSAT program, National Athletic Training month is about awareness for the dedicated healthcare professionals known as athletic trainers. “We are healthcare professionals, we do have to go through a licensing and a certification process. Our students take a full year of orthopedic assessment coursework as well as a general medical class so that they can confidently assess injuries and illnesses for those under their care. Prevention is another key aspect of what we do. National Athletic Training month is a time for us to help spread the word about who we are and what we do,” says Dr. Lancaster.
Tarleton MSAT students Samantha Arellano (back left), Aaliyah Brown (front left), Danny Lopez (front right) are pictured with patient, Clarence Young, in the on-campus AT lab.
“The best part about the program is that they put us into different rotations and situations every semester so it feels like I get a broader sense of what is out there and how I would handle certain situations,” says Aaliyah Brown.
Danny Lopez (also pictured) adds: “I would say that the courses that we are taking is what has prepared me most for my future career. We are going in-depth and hands-on.”
Annually, Tarleton admits 12 students into its MSAT cohort program, which takes two years to complete. Starting in the summer semester, students learn the skills needed to be able to start clinicals as soon as they return for the fall semester.
During the two years, students have a different clinical rotation each long semester. “Many people think of an athletic trainer as someone who is out at the sports events, but athletic trainers are in the performing arts, NASCAR, and the military. It’s becoming so diverse that we really wanted to create a curriculum where students are exposed and taught to interact with some of those non-traditional populations,” says Dr. Lancaster.
Dr. Lancaster explains: “Content is very important for students to know to become a good athletic trainer, but we want them to be developed as people, too, so there is a required leadership course, and a required study abroad.” Tarleton’s MSAT students also courses in therapeutic exercise, trends in athletic training, research/evidence based practice, and leadership.
Tarleton’s MSAT program is designed to prepare students for the national certification exam, which affords them the ATC credential upon passing. Once students obtain the ATC credential, they can then work at the high school, college, or professional level of athletics, as well as within the non-traditional settings of hospitals, performing arts, industrial settings, and military/public service fields. The diverse experiences of Tarleton’s MSAT program assist students in seeing the potential application of their skills and credentials.
“We have students who are interested in the military setting and students who are interested in rodeo. In the Kinesiology Department, we have the Laboratory for Wellness and Motor Behavior for people with spine or brain injuries, as well as the Better Breathers Club for patients with metabolic and respiratory disorders. Our students have opportunities for real world application and practice of the skills they learn in the classroom while interacting with the participants in these labs. We really try to give students as much hands-on experience as possible and the opportunity to assist with the care for those different populations,” says Dr. Lancaster.
Dr. Lancaster adds: “Three pillars I kept in mind when creating this program were service, inquiry, and leadership. Those three aspects were things I felt were very important to someone in the athletic training profession. We try right off the bat to get our students involved in service in any way we can. They’re required to go to a regional or national athletic training conference so they can experience networking and presenting. Continued education is something athletic trainers have to do in order to maintain our credentials, so we teach students now how to get into that, and how to market themselves at those types of events so they’re ready when it’s time to graduate.”