The Professional Degree

The NATA Board of Directors and the Commissioners of the CAATE, with the full support of the Board of Certification and the NATA Research & Education Foundation, have agreed to establish the professional degree in athletic training at the master’s level.strategicalliance-logoV3

Over the past two and a half years the AT Strategic Alliance (BOC, CAATE, NATA and NATA Foundation), under the lead of NATA and CAATE, have been actively engaged in a critical examination of what the appropriate professional degree level should be to best prepare athletic trainers for an integral role in the evolving health care system.

A special meeting was held to hear final presentations and to deliberate. The NATA Board of Directors and the Commissioners of the CAATE, with the full support of the Board of Certification and the NATA Research & Education Foundation, have agreed to establish the professional degree in athletic training at the master’s level. Download a pdf of the full announcement by clicking here: Strategic Alliance Degree Announcement CAATE

Strategic Alliance Website Now Available

The strategic alliance website is now available to provide information about the professional degree transition to all stakeholders. Visit the Strategic alliance website at to view official statements, additional FAQs, or for the opportunity to submit questions about the professional degree transition.


FAQs regarding the Professional Degree

Who made the decision to change the level of the degree?

The Athletic Training Strategic Alliance consisting of the Board of Directors of the NATA and the Commissioners of the CAATE with the support of the BOC and the NATA Foundation have jointly acted to establish master’s level as the professional degree for athletic training.

What is the timeline for implementation of the master’s degree requirement for Professional Programs?

Baccalaureate programs may not admit, enroll, or matriculate students into the athletic training program after the start of the fall term 2022.

In what year can the last cohort of my undergraduate program graduate from my institution?

A final enrollment year was selected as opposed to a final graduation year to allow each institution to adhere to their own policies and procedures as it relates to students who may need or request a leave of absence for any reason, or students who may require remediation as they complete the program.

Will the Standards for professional program accreditation change?

Yes, in addition to the Standard for the degree, the Commission has asked the Standards Committee to work with our strategic partners, our stakeholders and other groups to examine and evolve the Standards to reflect the added rigor and other key components of quality healthcare education as we move toward implementation of the degree requirement.

Will the educational content change?

The degree change is part of a broader vision to produce providers who are prepared to meet the challenges our patients will face in the future. The educational content will also evolve to provide our students and ultimately their patients with healthcare knowledge and skills that produce a provider who can function as a mid-level (Level II) provider.

A steering committee comprised of representatives from the NATA, the BOC and the CAATE is beginning to work on revision of the professional educational content (Competencies). The working group has been charged that the professional knowledge needs to be reflective of professional programs offered at the master’s degree level.

What are acceptable degree names?

Consistent with the current standards, master’s professional programs must lead to a master’s degree IN Athletic Training. The program must be identified as an academic athletic training degree in institutional academic publications. The degree must appear on the official transcript similar to normal designations for other degrees at the institution. Concentrations, cognates, majors or similar names are not degrees and will not be accepted.

Examples are: Master of Athletic Training (MAT), Master of Science in Athletic Training (MSAT)

What is the process for changing the degree?

The CAATE will continue the use of the existing Substantive Change Process to request a change in the level of the degree. This process is currently available to both professional and post-professional programs in the mid-accreditation cycle that wish to change the level of their degree. It does not require a complete self-study. See the CAATE website for more detailed information

How does the degree change affect my certification?

There is no impact on the BOC certification of currently certified athletic trainers.

How will this impact the Post-Professional Programs in AT?

Until the Professional Programs transition to the master’s degree level, it is anticipated that there will still be a demand for Post-Professional programs at the master’s degree level for several years to accommodate the students that will be graduating with a bachelor’s degree.

The CAATE provides a process by which the Post-Professional Programs may request a change in the level of degree if the program chooses to move to a doctoral degree.

Can we transition our Professional Program directly to the doctoral level?

No. The standard will state that professional programs must result in a Master’s degree. The CAATE is not accepting applications for Professional Programs at the doctoral degree level.

If we are in the group that is being put on probation next year for Standard 11, does that mean that we are not eligible for the substantive change process to request the change in level of the degree?

Programs placed on probation solely for issues related to BOC pass rate will be able to proceed with the substantive change process. Programs placed on probation for violations of other Standards will have to submit a formal appeal and be granted an exemption to proceed with the substantive change process.

If a program is up for re-accreditation and chooses to make the change to the master’s degree at the same time, do they pay both the site-visit fee and the substantive change fee?

There is a reduced fee for the substantive change when completed in conjunction with the self-study/site visit. Please see complete instructions on completing the self-study/site visit and substantive change for level of degree on the CAATE website at

Some believe the decision to change the degree level was determined even before the national, district and state meeting presentations and before other research into the change started. Is that true?
No, the joint decision by the AT Strategic Alliance was made May 17, 2015.  A considerable amount of time and resources went into making this decision. The Strategic Alliance investigated everything possible to determine which outcome was in the profession’s best interest. This was not investigated and decided by a single person or entity. The research included:

  • Program Director focus groups
  • A study by a healthcare economist focused on athletic training education
  • Expert opinion from CAATE Commission physician and administrative members
  • Examination of the current landscape in higher education and the changing health care environment
  • CAATE’s call for open comments
  • Numerous open-discussion sessions at state, district and national meetings
  • A white paper, Professional Education in Athletic Training

I’m in an accredited bachelor’s program now. Will I need to also obtain a master’s degree before I can be eligible for the BOC exam?

Current students enrolled in a program will not have to obtain a master’s degree to be eligible for the exam. When an implementation date is established, future students will know how to select their institutions to ensure they meet the requirements

Can programs accept baccalaureate level students into an existing undergraduate program for the Fall of 2021 and Fall of 2022 even if our site visit is in the 2021-2022 academic year? Will these students be eligible to sit for the BOC examination upon completion of the undergraduate program?

Baccalaureate programs may not admit, enroll, or matriculate students into the athletic training program after the start of the fall term 2022. These students would still be eligible to sit for the BOC exam. Additionally, once a program completes a substantive change of degree to become a master’s program, it can no longer admit students to its previous baccalaureate degree program in Athletic Training. Students already admitted to a baccalaureate program prior to the deadline can complete that baccalaureate program and will be graduates of a CAATE accredited program.  All students who graduate from CAATE accredited professional programs are eligible to sit for the BOC examination.  This means that some graduates of undergraduate programs would be sitting for the BOC exam through at least 2026.

Is there a timeline on when the new Standards will be released?

The Standards Committee is close to completing the first draft of the Standards to be released for open comment and public feedback. There will be two separate initial open comment periods, one for the draft of Professional Standards (minus the curriculum requirement section), and one for just the curricular content section of the Standards. We are anticipating the open comment to begin this spring. An implementation timeline for the new Standards with embedded curricular content (Competencies) has not been determined, but the Commission is able to say that implementation will not be required any earlier than the 2019-2020 academic year.

If the new Standards will be released prior to the Fall of 2022, will the new standards still allow for an undergraduate program?   

The new standards will need to be fully implemented for graduate programs when they go into effect (likely 2019-2020) and would also apply to programs converting to the graduate level at or after that time.  Undergraduate programs, whether they plan to transition to graduate programs or eventually close, will continue under the 2012 standards with some revisions for as long as they remain open at the undergraduate level. An important revision to the undergraduate standards is that undergraduate programs will include the same updated curricular content as the graduate programs. The equivalent curricular content is necessary since graduates of either undergraduate or graduate programs gain eligibility for the same professional credential.   There will be other updates to the UG (2012) standards along the way, but as indicated above, programs can continue to admit UG students until the fall of 2022.

Additionally, the new curricular content will be embedded within the revised standards for the undergraduate programs and in the new standards for graduate programs. There will no longer be a separate “Competencies” document. The new content is still in development and has not yet gone through the public comment or approval process.  Therefore, we do not have a complete list of the curricular content at this time. We expect to circulate the new content for public comment in spring/summer 2016.

If a program’s next comprehensive review occurs in 2021-2022,  do we have to have transitioned to the master’s by the 2021-2022 self-study submission and site visit.

The program’s comprehensive review for 2021-2022 will be on the existing undergraduate program if the program has not transitioned. The comprehensive review and on-site visit is a snap shot of what is currently going on in the program. Therefore, the program would be evaluated on what is currently occurring in the program.

The last undergraduate class would need to be admitted into the athletic training program before the start of Fall term 2022. Baccalaureate programs may not admit, enroll, or matriculate students into the athletic training program after the start of the fall term 2022. Students admitted to a baccalaureate program prior to the deadline can complete that baccalaureate program and will be graduates of a CAATE accredited program.

Will our re-accreditation cover our undergraduate program until the students that begin in the Fall 2022 finish the AT program?

Yes. The Commission could grant continuing accreditation lasting upto 10 years after the program’s comprehensive review. Note however that the accreditation letter would have the stipulation that the program would need to transition to a master’s degree in order to continue to admit students as new undergraduate students may not be admitted past 2022. Undergraduate students admitted to the program prior to the 2022 deadline would still be eligible to graduate from the accredited program and sit for the BOC exam.

If we were still offering an undergraduate program after our 2021-2022 self-study submission and site visit, will we submit a substantive change document when we transitioned to the entry level master’s or would we need to submit another self-study and complete another site-visit? 

The program would complete a Substantive Change-Level of Degree.  This would require the program to submit a substantive change application and a review of 24 Standards. This includes a $3000 review fee. Application for a substantive change does not guarantee the change will be accepted.  After review of materials, the CAATE may deem that an on-site visit is necessary to ensure compliance with the Standards.

If our next comprehensive review is scheduled for 2021-2022, when will the self-study submission be due and when will our next site visit take place? Once continuing accreditation is granted, will the program be evaluated on the phased out undergraduate program and the entry-level master’s or just the master’s program?

The program would submit their already planned self-study July 1, 2021 with an on-site visit taking place sometime between October 2021 and February 2022.Beyond that, the date of the next comprehensive review would depend upon the length of accreditation granted following the 2021-2022 visit.

The comprehensive review and on-site visit is a snap shot of what is currently going on in the program. Therefore, the program would be evaluated on what is currently occurring in the program. Presumably this would be for a master’s program assuming that you plan to transition.  If you did not transition, you would close your undergraduate program once your final cohort of undergraduates (admitted for 2022 or earlier) graduates.


FAQs regarding Voluntary Withdrawal of Accreditation

How long can a program be in the withdrawal phase without having to do a self-study if they are scheduled for one?

A program who has submitted their voluntary withdrawal documentation to the CAATE and has been notified that the withdrawal date and documentation is satisfactory will not have to do a self- study. However, programs going through Voluntary Withdrawal are expected to remain in compliance with the Standards and must continue to submit Annual Reports, submit any Progress Reports, and pay annual accreditation fees until the approved date of withdrawal.

If the institution decided to close the program upon the conclusion of their accreditation cycle (e.g. 2017-2018) would the students graduating in that May be eligible to sit for the BOC?

Yes. A program will need to submit their Voluntary Withdrawal documentation and have it approved by the CAATE.

Would there be a possibility to obtain a one year extension of accreditation after which the program closes?

According to the P & P, once the CAATE approves the programs Voluntary Withdrawal date, the program cannot admit students. So if the program has submitted their Voluntary Withdrawal documentation with teach out plan, the closing date should be after the last class graduates.

Program already has a professional master’s degree program and is phasing out undergraduate program. What is the absolute latest a program could submit the letter of Voluntary Withdrawal and still not have to do a self-study/site visit?  Could a program submit the letter on June 30 and then not submit a self-study (which is due July 1st)?

Voluntary Withdrawal materials must be approved by the CAATE Office.  It is recommended that the program submit documentation for Voluntary Withdrawal by June 1. The program could not accept students for that fall.

Freshmen enroll in the Intro class in the fall and then they are admitted during the spring semester.  They begin the professional phase of the program during the following fall.  If a Voluntary Withdrawal letter is submitted in June (e. g.  2017), could this new cohort begin the professional phase of the program in the fall (2017)?  Is the date based on when they were actually admitted or when they actually begin the professional phase of the program?

Students may not be admitted, enrolled, or matriculated into the program after the Voluntary Withdrawal documentation has been approved by the CAATE.


This site will be updated as more questions are received and answered and as more details become available.