Upon transition from an undergraduate to a graduate degree,

Upon
reading the Professional Degree in Athletic Training, which highlights the
eleven reasons for the emergence of the graduate degree in Athletic Training.
Out of the eleven reasons that were highlighted and discussed, about 3 of them
really stood out to me to discuss. Finding #2 suggests that the transition to
the graduate level of education will evolve the competency requirements to
better reflect the clinical practice requirements for a changing the healthcare
field for the profession1. The current knowledge, skills and
abilities incorporate the common competencies that are commonly recognized by
other healthcare professions, but a greater depth of the competencies would
need to be merged into the professional degree. This would ensure that patients
are receiving appropriate and high-quality care under the Protection and
Affordable Care Act which refers to Finding #3. This reason states that factors
fundamental to providing quality care are likely improved by professional
education at the graduate level1. It was discussed in this article
that BOC passing rates for graduates from a Master’s level program are likely
to surpass the scores needed to just pass the exam than undergraduate programs.
It is also perceived that students from a graduate program would outperform the
undergraduate students on the BOC exam because of the advanced education level
and increase in age/maturity. In other healthcare professions, patient
satisfaction may be regarded higher than patient outcomes. In the world of
athletic training, patient outcomes are the most direct and important
indicators of quality care1. When patient outcomes are met, patient
satisfaction will more than likely follow. The last reason to be discussed
would be finding #4. This highlights that students who graduate with a Master’s
degree will retain more information because they are more committed to pursing
a career in athletic training. They are more apt to using their scientific
knowledge to incorporate critical thinking and decision-making skills into
their clinical experience better than an undergraduate student. Although there
are many reasons that are important for the transition from the undergraduate
to graduate degree in athletic training, these were the three that stood out to
me.

With
change comes some obstacles, but they don’t come without ways to maneuver them.
There has been concern that with the transition from an undergraduate to a
graduate degree, the graduate assistant program would be put to rest. About a
quarter of the jobs posted through the NATA Career Center are positions such as
graduate assistantships or internships2.  Although highly competitive, graduate
assistantships are a great way to get clinical experience right out of college
and the benefits include: getting a graduate degree while
earning a salary (may include being compensated for tuition, book costs, and
living costs) for the university you’re attending. The
NATA Executive Committee for Education is still addressing this concern and
investigating solutions for the best possible outcomes. Another obstacle a
student entering a two-year Master’s Program might be weary of is an increase
in student debt. When comparing ATs with Master degrees to those who don’t, ATs
who continue their education to a graduate level will have more permanence and
have greater opportunities for a full time employment in the profession. Even
though the risk of debt is higher, the student will experience more
opportunities to gain a higher salary with a Master’s Degree and thus have the
ability to reduce the amount of student debt at a quicker rate.

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            Some of the outcomes that are expected to be seen from
the transition are an increase in salary and positively influence the
reputation of the athletic training profession2. Students seeking a
higher level of education when compared to their undergraduate level peers will
likely see an increase in salary pay. A master’s degree in Athletic Training
alone is not a strong indicator for this outcome, but with the accumulation of
additional years of clinical experience, full time employment, the advanced
educational degree and training an increase in salary is a likely outcome.
Another outcome following the transition is the influence on the reputation of
athletic trainers. When making selections for the advanced degree, program
directors will most likely see a greater level of maturity in the students,
better commitment to pursuing a profession in athletic training, and benefit
from a higher level of clinical experience. Data has also shown that the retention of educational information
of ATs who have a Master’s degree is better than those who don’t2. This transition and
graduates from new Master Level cohorts will enhance the public’s perception of
the profession.

            Upon hearing the proposal for the transition to the
graduate level degree in athletic training as a sophomore in college, I
initially saw it as more years of education and dollar signs. Now as graduation
from a degree in Sports Medicine approaches, I see the value in continuing my
education for a Master’s degree in athletic training. Of course, the obstacles
listed above are in the back of my mind (and I’m sure there are others that are
not listed), they seem so insignificant when assessing the positive outcomes
the transition would have to the profession as a whole. I agree with the
transition, and I’m very excited to pursue a Master’s degree in Athletic
Training in the fall.