Major moves: Gustavus introduces Athletic Training Master’s Degree

Katie Samek-

Gustavus Adolphus College announced the unveiling of its first-ever master’s program, an Athletic Training master’s degree, on campus at the GAC Athletics Open House on Monday, Feb. 19. Hopes are high among several other departments that other master’s degree programs of a similar nature will follow.

Monday’s meeting was headed by Dr. Mary Westby, program director for the Athletic Training master’s degree. Also on the panel were Dr. Wade Green, who is the clinical education coordinator, as well as Junior Joe Schmidt, who is the student advisor for Exercise Physiology majors and the third Gustavus student to be officially accepted into this new master’s program.

“I’m really excited to see how this new program fits into my major,” Schmidt said. “I’m planning to take advantage of the online second-year classes so I can go out of state and hopefully gain some job experience as an AT alongside Olympic athletes – or wherever else my major takes me.”

For students who may not be familiar with the subject, Athletic Training is a multi-faceted healthcare profession with a hands-on clinical approach to patient care. Often confused with coaches and personal trainers, athletic trainers (ATs) are highly qualified, multi-skilled professionals who collaborate with physicians to provide preventative services, emergency care, clinical diagnoses, and therapeutic intervention and rehabilitation of injuries and medical conditions. Whether their patient is an athlete on or off the field, an industrial professional in the workplace, or a military officer on deployment, ATs can find careers in several different areas.

This new master’s program will officially be replacing the old Athletic Training major after 2024, so students interested in pursuing this master’s degree are advised (but not required) to pursue an Exercise Physiology major, as it is considered the best “lead-in” major for this program.

“In this new program, there are two potential tracks that students can pursue: a traditional post-baccalaureate 4+2 track, or the accelerated 3+2 track,” Westby said. “With this approach, students who are unsure of their future plans can have the flexibility to explore their college career before deciding whether or not to pursue the accelerated 3+2 track, or stepping back and continuing the traditional 4+2 track.”

The 4+2 track follows the standard four-year plan for a student’s undergraduate degree, allowing them to pursue any majors and/or minors they wish at a slower pace while also completing the prerequisites for the AT program. After graduating with their undergraduate degree and being accepted into the master’s program, they will undergo the two-year master’s program. The first year will have in-person classes, focusing on clinicals and hands-on patient care both on-campus as well as around the Southern Minnesota area. In the second year, all of the classes are online, allowing students to pursue their career wherever it calls them. This emphasizes longer clinical experiences in the field and classes focused on administration and leadership, as well as the requisite certification exam prep to complete the master’s degree.

The 3+2 program follows much the same approach, with a few key differences. Students on the accelerated track will complete their undergraduate degree in three years, dedicating themself to an Exercise Physiology major in which several prerequisites of the master’s program will be covered. After graduating with their undergraduate degree in the spring and being admitted into the master’s program, they will return in July to begin their first year of the master’s program, following the same format as the 4+2 track.

For students interested in applying for this new master’s program, there is a set list of requirements that must be met. These requirements are as follows: a minimum 2.5 GPA, 2 personal statements (following the prompts provided on the application form), an academic writing sample, a current resume or CV, 2-4 letters of recommendation, a completed technical standards form, 30+ hours of work/volunteer/observation hours with an AT, CPR and First Aid certification, and completion of all MAT prerequisites with a grade of C- or higher. For more specific information on these requirements, as well as the requisite forms mentioned above, go to

While the application date for entry into this year’s class of AT master’s students has already passed, the dates for students to apply for next year are already available, so students interested should keep these dates in mind and start planning. Applications for the 2025 AT master’s program open on Oct. 1st, 2024, and close on April 1st, 2025. There are a total of 20 slots available for this master’s program, with 10 slots reserved specifically for Gustavus students before the program opens up to the general public. The early admission deadline of Nov. 15th, 2024, is for current Gustavus students and alumni wishing to grab one of these reserved slots, as well as for accelerated 3+2 track students who wish to opt out of on-campus housing during their master’s program. For students on the 4+2 track who wish to remain on campus for this program, the early admission deadline is Jan. 15th, 2025. Applications for this program are on a rolling admissions basis, so all applicants will receive confirmation within a few weeks of submitting their application.

“This program offers a level of distinctness that students who don’t go to a liberal arts college may struggle to obtain,” said Green. “Primary healthcare providers such as ATs benefit greatly from the critical thinking skills that the liberal arts provide, allowing them to see an issue from multiple perspectives. It’s a strength that employers love to see.”

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