LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) -- - UW-La Crosse is known for its athletic training program, but some big changes are on the way.
The current program is being changed into a master's degree program. This change is in response to a national mandate from the Commission on Accreditation of athletic training Education which states all schools must change their four year degree athletic training programs to master's degree programs by 2022.
"We've been required as athletic trainers to carry more and more health care on our own, out in the rural areas and so on. It's incumbent that we have a professional education model," said Mark Gibson, athletic training program director at UW-La Crosse.
Gibson said he's happy about changing the program from a four-year degree to a master's degree.
"In my opinion it is a good thing," Gibson said.
In addition to better preparing graduates for the workforce Gibson said having a master's degree will help students find jobs.
"The last couple of years the job market has tightened up a little bit," Gibson said.
Gibson said changing the program makes sense because around 80 percent of athletic trainers already go on to get their master's degrees. Others switch to another medical field.
"We enjoy watching our alums do great things, all across the country in all different settings," Gibson said.
One of those alums who's switching fields is Jared Buntin
"I came specifically to UW-L because they have a very well-respected program with a lot of very strong connections," Buntin said.
Buntin who is currently enrolled as a grad student in UWL's physical therapy program, also thinks changing the program from a four-year degree to a master's degree is a good idea.
"Having that additional knowledge will definitely help you not only for finding a job but for being better at your job," Buntin said.
Gibson said he's wanted to make this change for years, but the university wasn't in a position to do so.
"The time is right now," Gibson said. We're doing it the best way that we know how and we think that we're going to offer that top notch nationally recognized program."
UWL is one of the first schools in the state making that change to their athletic training program.The class of 2019 and 2020 will still graduate with bachelor's degrees and the first graduate class will start next summer.
Anyone who graduates with a bachelor's degree in athletic training before 2024 will not be required to have a master's degree to work as an athletic trainer.
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