FHSU adding a master’s in athletic training

FHSU Media Relations

Following a lengthy approval process, Fort Hays State University will begin offering a master of science in athletic training degree this summer.

FHSU received accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE) in March, and enrollment is now open for the first cohort of students in the professional graduate program, which will begin June 7.

Fort Hays State, one of only four athletic training (AT) master’s programs in Kansas currently accredited at the graduate level, began making plans for the transition when the CAATE announced it would begin requiring a master’s degree for eligibility to take the Board of Certification exam.

Students receiving a graduate degree in athletic training will develop competencies (knowledge and skills) in the five domains of athletic training defined by the Board of Certification (BOC) Practice Analysis. Upon graduation, they are eligible for certification by the BOC and licensure by the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts.

Some institutions opted to phase out their AT program rather than make the transition, but Fort Hays State began moving forward with steps to develop the master’s level program.

“We felt our program was strong enough to get the resources needed to continue our history of teaching athletic trainers,” said Dr. David Fitzhugh, director of FHSU’s athletic training program and an associate professor in the Department of Health and Human Performance. “We already had a strong program at the undergraduate level, and moving to a master’s has a lot of pros.”

Fort Hays State upgraded its curriculum to meet the master’s level standards and created a lab space for the AT program. The program will feature both excellence and uniqueness, Fitzhugh said.

FHSU will begin a muscular-skeletal diagnostic ultrasound class, an intra-professional course with the diagnostic ultrasound students in the Department of Allied Health. The AT students also will get to work with a new therapeutic laser used to treat pain and inflammatory conditions. 

The new CAATE standards require institutions to employ three full-time faculty who are dedicated specifically for teaching in the AT master’s program. Joining current FHSU faculty members Fitzhugh and Jason Graham will be Dr. Jeffrey Bonacci, who developed a graduate athletic training program at the University of Arkansas more than 20 years ago.

Fitzhugh, in his 14th year at FHSU, is looking forward to the transition.

“This profession has so many options, and more than 70 percent of all athletic trainers have a graduate degree,” he said, “so we are really pleased that we will be offering this master’s degree at Fort Hays State.”

Besides the traditional athletic training careers with athletic teams and school settings, there are numerous other professional options for AT graduates, including orthopedic clinics and hospitals, law enforcement and military, occupational and industrial settings, and even the performing arts.

The last cohort of students to enroll in the current bachelor’s AT program at FHSU was the fall 2018 semester.

Students can still work on a bachelor’s program under the new model by enrolling in a pre-professional program and majoring in health and human performance within the sport and exercise therapy concentration. After earning their bachelor’s degree and meeting admission standards, students can easily apply and get into the master’s AT program.

To learn more about Fort Hays State’s AT program, visit https://www.fhsu.edu/hhp/ms-in-athletic-training.