MSU offers new & improved athletic training program

November 6, 2019

Students aspiring to become athletic trainers will be better prepared for their careers through a new master’s degree program launching at Michigan State University in 2020.

Spartan athletic trainers help an injured player on the field.
Spartan athletic trainers help an injured player on the field—one of the career opportunities in which athletic trainers can use their skills.

The Master of Science in Athletic Training features comprehensive, hands-on curriculum that meets new, national accreditation requirements. The program replaces what was previously a bachelor’s degree in Athletic Training—and creates even more opportunities for individuals wanting to become athletic trainers.

Tracey Covassin

“This change is so beneficial for students,” said Professor Tracey Covassin, director of the program. “With this new model, students will be spending more time learning and building a strong clinical foundation for their future careers.”

The Department of Kinesiology program was redesigned to meet the 2020 Standards for Accreditation of Professional Athletic Training Programs. The standards include knowledge and skills students must learn prior to graduation to help ensure all athletic training graduates across the nation are prepared as they embark on their careers. Individuals wishing to become athletic trainers are now also required to earn both a bachelor’s and a master’s in order to be a certified and licensed practitioner.

Updates & improvements

Arrows make up a button that says "Apply"

The MSU curriculum uses a “learning over time” model to advance understanding and skills throughout the program.

Students will spend one semester in a didactic course—curriculum focused on building fundamental knowledge and developing critical thinking skills. The next semester, they will be enrolled in a clinical course to put theory into practice. Though a similar style of curriculum was used in the former bachelor’s-only model, the new programming will allow the students to have a more immersive, hands-on and rich academic experience.

“The curriculum allows students to completely focus on developing knowledge and skills in athletic training because they have already completed their prerequisite work during their undergraduate program,” said Assistant Professor Chris Kuenze.

“Students will be able to complete immersive, clinical experiences in diverse settings to develop these integral skills, while also getting a better feel for what a day in an athletic trainer’s life is like,” he said.

Students receive high-quality, hands-on education in the program, including with practice through a SimMan, a full-size patient simulator.

Following a comprehensive evaluation in 2018, self-study and an on-site visit, the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE) approved the MSU M.S. in Athletic Training program for 10 years of continuing accreditation.

Changes to bachelor’s program

Among the prerequisites for the M.S. in Athletic Training program is a related bachelor’s degree—and MSU made changes there, too.

The internship course for undergraduate Kinesiology students has been expanded to include an option for those wanting to pursue athletic training.

“Students will be assigned to sites within our varsity athletic programs and work with MSU athletic trainers as preceptors or instructors,” said Amy Tratt, assistant director of the Student Affairs Office and an advisor to Kinesiology students. The M.S. program has partnered with MSU Athletics to give students access to learn and practice hands-on patient care with 25 sport teams. “This will provide students with solid, direct observation experience that can help them meet requirements for graduate school.”

What to expect in the program

Spartans in the M.S. program will develop knowledge and applicable skills in emergency care, clinical diagnosis, evidence-based research, therapeutic rehabilitation and more.

At the end of the program—taking roughly two years in the cohort-driven model—students will be prepared to sit for the Board of Certification Exam, and ready to take on careers across education, sports, military, healthcare and even more environments.

The new and improved master’s program in Athletic Training is now seeking applications for admission in May 2020, contingent upon state approval.


Read more

  • Tracey Covassin shared about her research on understanding the impact of injuries in the 2014 College of Education Annual Report.
  • In fall 2019, Shelby Baez joined the faculty in the College of Education, and as part of the new athletic training team.

Photos provided by Professor Jim Pivarnik.