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Athletic training is part of allied health, which means the use of scientific principles and evidence-based practice for diagnosing, evaluating, and treating acute or chronic diseases is standard practice in this profession. The athletic training profession is committed to improving patient outcomes and advancing optimum public health.
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Many US universities offer Doctor of Athletic Training degree programs. Some of them are geared towards certified athletic trainers. Most DAT programs offer an opportunity for specialization, with emphasis on concussion and mild traumatic brain injury, among others.
The online learning format of many Doctor of Athletic training programs means that one can easily juggle their professional and personal responsibilities and pursue an advanced degree level that would give them better career opportunities and a salary range that is more than the average.
Most Doctor of Athletic Training degree programs are offered on-campus. This makes it hard for athletic trainers to pursue an advanced education while fulfilling their professional responsibilities.
Luckily, there are a number of higher learning institutions that offer the DAT program through distance learning. The trick is in making the right choice that fits your short- and long-term goals better!
We picked the country's top online DAT degrees because each evidenced these outstanding program features:
- Facilitated mostly through a hybrid learning format to make way for on-campus clinical experience work and week-long residencies,
- Delivers the same comprehensive curriculum and rigorous academic environment as traditional DATs; the only difference is the earning method,
- Utilizes top-rated Learning Management Systems where live lectures and video meetings are hosted, and coursework is conveniently accessed,
- Taught by renowned faculty members with demonstrated experience in sports medicine and health sciences,
- Emphasizes affordability with federal aid or scholarship and other discounts made available to eligible students and candidates,
- Fully accredited by academic groups and recognized by the Athletic Training industry.
Read our Methodology for our DAT program ranking details.
The Best Online Doctor of Athletic Training Programs
The Doctor of Athletic Training at Temple University distinguished itself in several ways. It is offered online through live lecture sessions and web-based activities. It also requires applicants to be certified as athletic trainers. If students are not certified athletic trainers yet, they may apply to the university’s MS in the Athletic Training degree program. This is because the DAT degree program is specially designed with certified athletic trainers in mind.
This advanced program is most suitable for certified athletic trainers who want to further develop their decision-making skills. The curriculum has a strong focus on advanced concepts and practice. One of the things they will learn is learning how to survey and interpret the current research literature. In the process, students are equipped with the necessary experience when using evidence-based techniques with the aim of improving the outcomes for patients.
There are two emphases – mild traumatic brain injury education and concussion. The program also allows them to work in collaboration with interpersonal healthcare teams while developing their leadership and professional skills.
This DAT program features experienced faculty members who are experts in concussion and shoulder injury, among others. Known as one of the only programs of its kind in the country, Temple’s DAT degree is the first to be offered fully online. This gives certified trainers to juggle their personal and professional demands.
Plus, students have the option to earn the Teaching in Higher Education Certificate while earning the DAT program. This will give them the necessary preparation to take on instructional roles in higher education institutions.
Students who wish to earn the DAT program are required to complete a total of 36 credit hours. Usually, they finish the program within two years, with classes offered both in 6 and 15-week sessions.
Another university that offers the Doctor of Athletic Training 100% online is Ohio University. This allows graduate students to earn the program from the comfort of their homes. Delivered across four semesters, the program requires students to complete at least 42 credit hours to graduate. This includes the minimum completion of 12 credit hours devoted to electives.
With its data-driven practice, the program gives two learning tract options. It includes the advanced clinical practice track and the clinical research track. The former focuses on the use of data to inform clinical decisions while the latter is a good preparation for clinicians to collect and analyze data.
The program’s main objective is to produce scholarly clinicians. Some of the courses in the program curriculum include Imaging in Rehabilitation, Sports Injury Risk Assessment, Evaluation, and Quality Improvement in Healthcare, Neuromechanics, and Leadership and Professional Athletic Training, among many others.
To get admitted, applicants must either be a graduate of a CAATE-accredited master’s degree program or a credentialed athletic trainer with a master’s degree in related areas. They must also have a GPA of 3.0 from their master’s degree. The program also requires its students to demonstrate that they have work experience, whether full-time or part-time, as an athletic trainer each semester.
Designed for affordability and for a variety of lifestyles, the DAT degree program offers one of the lowest tuition rates for programs of its kind. Students may also check various financial aid options that they can take advantage of.
A.T. Still University
Those who dream of becoming a leader in the clinical and academic fields as athletic training professionals may want to consider earning a Doctorate in Athletic Training at A.T. Still University. The program is designed to improve athletic healthcare delivery and health outcomes of individuals in the community who are physically active. This program is fully online.
Helping students prepare to become experts in their chosen profession, the DAT program provides the necessary skills, knowledge, and training to mold future clinicians, educators, and administrators. The unique advantage of the program is that it offers ample training that DAT students will be able to readily apply, even when the medium of learning is through online coursework.
The curriculum was designed at the Ph.D. level of critical thinking with real-world clinical applications. Students are encouraged to practice thought leadership with the aim of giving them the ability to influence the standing of the athletic training position within the healthcare system.
There is a strong focus on the emerging trends within the field of athletic training, whether in practice or in education. The program has an affiliation with a private medical and health professions university. Students will be able to customize their degrees by completing graduate certificates that they can choose from according to their interests and preferred specialization.
To earn the degree program, they must complete 69 credit hours. The courses are Health Information Technology, Quality Improvement, Patient Safety, Evidence-based Practice, and more.
For admission, students must have a master’s or higher degree from a regionally accredited institution. They must also present a BOC or Board of Certification as an athletic trainer. However, they can still apply to enter the program even without the GRE scores as it is not included in the admission requirements.
Indiana State University
A public university established in 1865 in the city of Terre Haute, Indiana State University offers a Doctor of Athletic Training degree program that is delivered primarily in a hybrid format.
The program is designed for athletic trainers who have credentials and are seeking to elevate their practice with advanced coursework as well as applied research. Graduates of the Doctor of Athletic Training program are ready to take up roles that provide innovation and leadership when it comes to instruction and advanced practice in the field of Athletic Training.
Indiana State University’s Doctor of Athletic Training program is the first and only DAT degree in the US that’s accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE). It consists of a total of 57 Credit Hours, and being a hybrid program, contains an online learning component that is complemented in turn by intensive hands-on learning.
Students of the program need not fret too much about travel costs, as the required campus visits to the campus are only around 12-15 days every year, which equates to around 4-5 days per semester.
The degree program’s course design is centered on three Points of Distinction, which serve as the basis for student evaluation through a standard set of measurable outcomes. The three Points of Distinction are:
- Advocacy, Education, and Leadership
- Integrative and Inclusive Healthcare
- System-Level Outcomes and Improvement
Indiana State University places special emphasis on a holistic approach to patient care and uses an integrative healthcare model that takes into account prevention, diagnosis, intervention, and administration and improves patient outcomes in the process.
The program is focused on developing skilled practitioners and clinical mentors who act as effective role models to peers, patients, and collaborators, however, students in the program can also develop skills that they can take into classroom teaching roles.
Lastly, in the interest of advancing the practice of Athletic Training, the program emphasizes the development of graduates who are lifelong learners.
The program only allows for full-time enrollment by students and can be completed within 6 semesters or 24 months of continuous matriculation. Interested students who aren’t hampered by distance and other related concerns may also want to opt for Indiana State University’s on-campus Doctor of Physical Therapy degree program.
Moravian University is a private university in the city of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. With its history dating back to its founding by the Moravian Church in 1742, Moravian University is said to be the sixth-oldest college in America.
Through its Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, Moravian University offers its Doctor of Athletic Training degree program in a hybrid format, where primarily online learning is complemented by two (2) week-long residencies.
Graduates of the program are expected to gain the necessary skills to conduct analyses of problems in the field as well as develop and provide practical solutions that go towards the improvement of clinical practice and the delivery of care.
Doctor of Athletic Training graduates will be equipped to be able to ultimately re-envision the place of the discipline and practice of Athletic Training within the greater healthcare landscape.
Moravian University’s DAT degree program is anchored on a number of advanced topics that include the following:
- Evidence-based interventions for Spine, Upper, and Lower Extremity
- Performing Arts Medicine
- Leadership in Athletic Training
- Epidemiology & Informatics
- Psychosocial Issues in Athletic Training
- Clinical Imaging in Sports Medicine
- Advanced Neurologic Evaluation & Treatment
- Advanced Therapeutic Modalities
- Entrepreneurship in Sports Medicine
Meanwhile, one week for each summer semester is dedicated to the on-campus hands-on training component of the program.
Moravian University prides itself on its advanced Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Center, which features modalities classrooms that have a plethora of state-of-the-art equipment that includes therapeutic lasers, diathermy and ultrasound equipment, as well as facilities for shockwave therapy, fluidized therapy, and cryo-compression.
Likewise, the center also has dedicated facilities for Orthopedic Evaluation and Functional Rehabilitation, as well as a research lab, a casting and splitting laboratory, and simulation and virtual cadaver laboratories.
The DAT degree program can be completed in 6 semesters (2 years), and students can start the program during either the Fall, Spring, or Summer admission periods.
Common Courses Offered Under a Doctor of Athletic Training Program
Many DAT degree programs have a clinical or research focus, so the courses included in the curriculum may differ depending on the learning track that one chooses. Often, the clinical research track can lead students into an academic doctoral program.
The courses can sometimes be foundations and theories surrounding patient care. Others will focus on applied research and there will be electives that will prepare for rewarding careers as advanced clinicians and scholars, whether in the field of healthcare or education.
Here are the frequently offered courses within the program.
Often designed to promote the development of clinical decision-making skills, manual therapy teaches one to utilize their hands rather than machines when it comes to improving motion and tissue extensibility, mobilizing tissue and joints, reducing soft tissue swelling, and controlling pain. This course will help one to develop the skills and techniques integral to the treatment of a variety of symptoms and conditions.
There are diverse research methods in master’s and doctoral studies. This course is important in preparing students to evaluate a variety of research methods that they need to use in the research process. It may be composed of quantitative or qualitative methods. It will students learn techniques and conventions in doing research.
Evidence-Based Practice in Patient Care
Since evidence-based practice in the athletic training profession has been more commonly recognized, the use of research evidence, patient values, and clinician expertise are adamant when making clinical decisions. This course teaches students to implement evidence-based practice when it comes to patient care.
Holistic Foundations of Pain in Patient Care
This course is often aimed to help students gain a better understanding of chronic pain and how to address it. Students are expected to develop relevant approaches during patient care, especially when it comes to managing chronic pain.
Advanced Sport Concussion
This course educates students on the importance of proper concussion recognition and management. It highlights the impact of concussions when it happens to athletes and how to manage a suspected case. It will equip practicing athletic trainers with advanced knowledge and skills in the sub-specialty of sports neurology and concussion.
Imaging in Rehabilitation
This course will help students interpret and apply specialized medical imaging to make more informed decisions and come up with better solutions during the patient rehabilitation process. It aims to improve one’s expertise in patient evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment planning.
Sports Injury Risk Assessment
In this course, students are taught to examine concepts associated with recognizing and preventing common injuries from sports-related activities. They may be taught to manage injuries through specialized techniques. This includes assessment and recommendations for appropriate referral.
Terms, Professions, And Disciplines Related To Athletic Training
Athletic training is part of a greater web of interrelated professions and disciplines in the realm of healthcare, and there are a number of related terms and professions that have similar and complementary roles to athletic trainers.
Here are the key ones to keep in mind:
Sports Medicine is a specialized branch of Medicine that is centered on sports and exercise, specifically with regard to overall physical fitness, and more importantly the prevention and treatment of injuries derived from sports and exercise.
Sports Medicine is a relatively recent distinct healthcare field, only solidifying around the late 20th Century. Sports medicine is also considered in some instances as an umbrella discipline for physicians and allied health professionals working in sports, which includes Athletic Trainers.
Physical Therapy is one of the allied health professions in the field of healthcare. Physical Therapy is broadly concerned with the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, and management of various issues related to an individual’s ability to move and perform functional day-to-day tasks, whether through aging, illness, or injury.
Physical therapy itself has a number of further specialties, and physical therapists work in a variety of settings either as independent practitioners or as part of a larger medical team.
Kinesiology is the scientific field that deals with studying human movement, specifically with regard to biomechanics, anatomy, physiology, neuropsychological, and pathological aspects.
As a field of science, findings and advances in this field feed into the ever-changing state of the art of more practice-related fields such as Physical Therapy and Athletic Training, and Athletic Training and related degree programs will incorporate some form or aspect of Kinesiology in its course material.
Aside from clinical rehabilitation and sports science, Kinesiology also extends to the field of ergonomics, education, and health promotion, as well as in policy-related roles.
As a scientific discipline, Sports Science deals with the workings of the human body during exercise, sport, and other related stimuli. Sports Science is a relatively interdisciplinary field since it incorporates many other fields that play into human sporting activities, such as anatomy and physiology, biomechanics and biokinetics, biochemistry, and even psychology.
Sports Science is not only useful for athletes, it also extends to the promotion of health and human body performance through sport and exercise.
The American Occupational Therapy Association provides the following official definition. An Occupational Therapist is someone who “helps people across their lifespan participate in the things they want and/or need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities (occupations)”.
Occupational therapy has a highly patient-centered care aspect, and as such, treatments are based on a patient’s context and used to help enable them to regain quality of life throughout the course of their treatment and recovery.
Occupational therapists go beyond treating a specific injury or ailment, instead focusing on a more overall view of a patient and their individual context and environment, and working with them in a more holistic approach.
Podiatric medicine deals with treating issues and disorders of the foot, ankle, and related leg structures. Podiatry has arguably a great role in the field of sports medicine, despite being a highly specialized profession. A lot of sports rely on the movement of the lower limbs. As such, these areas receive a lot of increased impact, and this is where a lot of injuries in sports (and in some of the performing arts such as dance) manifest.
There is a degree of variance between countries when it comes to the scope of their roles, but Podiatrists generally perform diagnoses and administer either nonsurgical or surgical treatments, with the latter setup often requiring more education and training.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is an Athletic Training?
Considered one of the fastest-growing professions, athletic training has to do with the prevention, examination, treatment, and rehabilitation of athletic injuries or medical conditions.
As an allied healthcare profession, having received recognition from the American Medical Association, athletic training provides various services, encompassing primary care, wellness promotion, emergent care, and therapeutic intervention.
While athletic trainers are often mixed up with personal trainers, the former has a different educational path, job duties, and skills. Athletic training’s curriculum is geared towards the medical model.
Unlike personal trainers, athletic trainers can extend services beyond athletes participating in sports. They often go on to work in educational settings, hospitals, fitness, centers, and physician’s offices. Sometimes, they may also be qualified to work in primary care support and outpatient rehabilitation.
Essentially, athletic training does not only improve functional outcomes in patients. They are also integral to patient education, often with the aim of preventing injury and re-injury.
What can one do with a Doctor of Athletic Training degree?
Athletic training leads to a wealth of job opportunities. Those who earn the Doctor of Athletic Training program will be able to work in various settings, often beyond the field of sports.
Their wide range of choices is supported by the job outlook detailed by BLS with the athletic training profession projected to grow by 23% in the period between 2022-2032, which is much faster than average. The growth is attributed to the widespread awareness when it comes to the serious ramifications of sports-related injuries.
Athletic trainers with a doctorate degree can be clinicians and administrators. They will be able to utilize their advanced knowledge and skills in the analysis, development, and implementation of practical solutions.
Why aim for a Doctorate in Athletic Training?
Athletic training experts are not only valuable in the field of professional sports. They are also quite integral in other settings, such as colleges, universities, hospitals, fitness centers, and physicians’ offices, doing program director work. Athletic trainers are in charge of dealing with muscle and bone injuries and illnesses through prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.
While most athletic trainers only need a bachelor’s degree to obtain an entry-level job, advanced degrees can give them better opportunities in terms of career growth and compensation.
Typically, athletic trainers are also required to have a license or certifications, the requirements of which often differ from state to state. For those who want to expand their learning and acquire a more advanced skill set, earning a Doctor of Athletic Training is an ideal choice.
According to BLS, athletic trainers can earn around $48,420 per year in an entry-level job, armed with a bachelor’s degree.
However, aiming for advanced educational levels will improve their chances of a more rewarding career in the field, and in the process, earn so much more than the entry-level position.
They will not only be simply athletic trainers. A doctorate degree in athletic training can qualify them for advanced career options. This includes certified athletic trainers, clinical athletic instructors, and resident athletic trainers.
What is the timeline of a Doctor of Athletic Training program?
Typical DAT degree programs take at least 2 years to complete with continuous full-time enrollment. Invariably, a certain amount of time will be spent on hands-on training in a university’s dedicated facility, so for hybrid/online degree programs, this will require campus visits for a certain number of days per semester/academic year.
Looking at the bigger picture, however, a DAT is an advanced post-graduate degree program, so it will take several years of previous Undergraduate and Master’s Degree-Level education before one can enroll in a DAT degree program.
What are the prerequisites to enroll in a DAT program?
Most, if not all, Doctor of Atheltic Training degree programs have course designs that cater to the needs of active, credentialed, practicing athletic trainers, with the specific aim of providing them with advanced practice skills as well as the necessary skills to conduct original research that contributes to the overall advancement of the field.
It is a necessity that applicants to these programs already hold the relevant undergraduate and graduate education, and like other medical graduate degree programs, hold current licenses and are actively practicing. Universities will have their own other requirements to determine applicants’ fitness for acceptance, but this is the most basic requirement.
What are the costs involved in a Doctor in Athletic Training degree?
Rates vary between universities, but a ballpark figure for tuition is from around $500-$1,000 per credit hour, and depending on course design, DAT programs can range from 36 to 60 credit hours.
Any additional costs a particular university may charge are added to this, such as administrative fees, fees for use of facilities, as well as the cost of textbooks that may need to be purchased. For distance learners, travel costs will have to be factored in for required on-campus visits.
Financial aid eligibilities also vary depending on the University, but most if not all of them will have some form of arrangement that may help with tuition, such as graduate assistantships, loans, grants, or scholarships, on top of Federal Aid.
- An athletic training program at the doctorate level is the terminal degree for this discipline. Earning one can usher in a wealth of benefits, from equipping graduate students with advanced knowledge to real-world clinical applications.
- Students learn how to conduct proper research methods and utilize solutions that are often rooted in evidence-based practice. It is important that they embody good clinical decision-making when conducting applied research and implementing practical solutions for better patient outcomes.