A change in regulations has Loras at the forefront of Athletic Training Education.
In May 2019, Loras College will begin the first cohort for its new Master of Athletic Training (MAT) program. In an effort to make the degree more attainable, the College is providing multiple paths to earn it.
Students are able to take the traditional route of obtaining a bachelor’s degree in a health science-related field from Loras or a different institution, then enter the graduate program to earn a MAT degree in two years.
They can also get a jumpstart on their careers through the 3+2 route, which allows first- year undergraduate students to earn their bachelor’s and master’s degrees though an accelerated five-year track.
“3+2 is our unique offering where, if you come to Loras as a first-year student, we can assist you in obtaining your undergraduate degree in kinesiology in about three or three-and-a-half years,” explained Molly Figgins, Athletic Training Program Director and Assistant Professor of Athletic Training. “Accepted students start the MAT program their senior year. So you are starting a year early as a senior instead of in a fifth year. In their senior year, they will be taking graduate-level courses and are hopefully just focused on graduate work.”
Despite the shorter timeline, the degree is still attainable, especially since four of those five years are covered by undergraduate tuition.
“Their undergraduate work is more compacted, but it is definitely doable,” Figgins added.
The development of the new program was partly driven by a change in regulations by the Commission for Accreditation for Athletic Training Education (CAATE), the agency that accredited Loras’ undergraduate program.
Its determination that the best way to offer athletic training (AT) education is through a graduate instead of an undergraduate degree forces schools nationwide to rethink their positions. By 2022, all schools will need to have transitioned to a master’s degree program if they want to continue offering AT.
With the MAT program set to kick-off next year, Loras has jumped to the forefront of the new wave of AT education.
“We are one of the first schools in the state and in the tri-state area to offer this program. Thus far, we are the only small, private, liberal arts school in Iowa to make this shift,” Figgins explained.
AT is not new to Loras, but the path to a graduate degree has been an evolving process, with the college starting out offering an internship opportunity in the 1990s before evolving into an accredited baccalaureate program. This latest advancement continues the push to provide the best opportunities for Loras students.
“It really has come a long way,” Figgins said. “There has been a strong increase in academic rigor in the past few years because the staff both past and present have been striving to educate students who will be completely prepared.”
AT is more than just working with injured athletes. It is also providing care to individuals off the athletic field.
“Athletic training is a health care program focused on an active population,” explained Figgins. “Athletes are our primary patients, but it doesn’t have to be just athletes. Athletic trainers are reaching out into a lot of different sectors: industrial settings, performing arts, high schools and other areas.
“Our focus is health wellness and providing quality health care. At the national level, the focus of AT is shifting to a bigger seat at the table with all allied health care providers. We are really looking to educate students to understand how AT fits into the broader health care system, and we can do that through a variety of ways.”
What makes Loras’ graduate program unique is its placement of students in two immersive clinical settings for eight weeks of firsthand experience at a time. During this period, they are out of the classroom and learning directly from licensed health care providers.
In addition to those settings, all students gain clinical experiences through involvement with athletes on the Loras campus, students at local high school athletic programs, the Dubuque Fighting Saints professional hockey team, local ambulance services, orthopedic clinics, operating room surgical procedures, local physical therapy and chiropractic clinics, emergency rooms and general medical clinics.
The initial undergraduate class taking part in the 3+2 program is immersed in its third year this fall, and Figgins is seeing their enthusiasm increase.
“The students are pretty excited about it, and the closer they get to it, the more they realize how much of a benefit this track is to obtain a graduate degree, as they see how much they can accomplish in the five years,” she said.
Despite the unique demands of the path, Figgins knows the students are more than capable of handling them.
“That is the beauty of Loras students,” she explained. “They are hardworking and academically inclined, and they understand the importance of putting academics first and holding themselves to a high standard.”
For more information about the new MAT Program at
Loras, contact Molly Figgins at firstname.lastname@example.org