A Secondary Option

Earning a teaching certificate in addition to your ATC title can help pave the way for a rewarding career in secondary education.

By Jon Almquist

Jon Almquist, ATC, is Chair of the NATA Secondary Schools Athletic Trainers’ Committee, and is Athletic Training Program Specialist for Fairfax County (Va.) Public Schools.

Training & Conditioning, 12.5, July/August 2002, http://www.momentummedia.com/articles/tc/tc1205/secondoption.htm

Today’s college graduates, including athletic training students, face a tough job market. In recent months, the national unemployment rate reached its highest point in nearly a decade, and government aid dollars to high schools and colleges are getting scarce. During these fiscally unsteady times, job seekers who can fill more than one of an employer’s needs become more valuable candidates than single-focus applicants.

This situation is especially true in the secondary school setting, where cash-strapped school boards are often unwilling to hire full-time athletic trainers. As a result, athletic training students who earn both an ATC accreditation and a teaching certificate instantly become more attractive candidates to secondary school administrators. These administrators know their dollars will go farther with an employee who can not only care for student athletes as a staff athletic trainer, but can also teach a class in history, math, or Spanish.

The high school setting represents a challenging career path for recently graduated athletic trainers. A high school ATC’s typical academic year encompasses dozens of sports and hundreds of athletes. It can also include budgeting, administration, and public outreach.

There is just one catch to this dual-certification idea: Teacher education courses are not part of the required curriculum in accredited athletic training programs because NATA requirements appropriately focus on preparing certified athletic trainers for their roles in healthcare. Any added qualifications beyond satisfying the ATC requirements—such as teaching certificates, emergency medical licenses, or additional allied health credentials—are the responsibility of each student.

When considering the secondary school setting as a potential employment destination, athletic training students should plan early in their college careers to fill elective options with education courses. Such early planning will give them enough time to take all needed courses without unduly overloading their academic work loads.

Before choosing courses for teacher certification, athletic training students should also visit with the advisors in their college’s education department and request guidance on what courses would fulfill teaching certificate requirements. They may find that only a few courses are required after the completion of their athletic training education for an additional certificate to teach in secondary school.

Athletic trainers who have already graduated from college may want to consider a master’s degree in education after completing an undergraduate athletic training program. A master’s degree in education may include all requirements for a teaching endorsement and will open many doors to the secondary school setting, and also fulfill requirements where teachers are expected to have a master’s degree in order to obtain tenure.

Looking forward, one piece of good news for athletic training students interested in a secondary school career is that the need for their skills is strong. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United States is home to more than six million high school athletes, with another 20 million youngsters participating in recreational or competitive sports outside of school. However, NATA membership statistics from April 2002 reveal that slightly more than 7,000 certified athletic trainers work with high school students, either as full-time high school employees or as contracted clinic-based professionals. The resulting ratio of one certified athletic trainer for every 850 high school athletes is ridiculously out of proportion.

NATA Hall of Fame inductee Jack Redgren, ATC/L, PT, said the situation seems clear: “We’re finally recognizing that the greatest opportunity for growth is still in the high school market. I think we still have to encourage more of our young athletic trainers to pursue their teaching certificates to make them marketable at the high school level.”