Accelerated PTA Program for Athletic Trainers Gives Graduate Flexibility and Career Advancement

Learn more about the PTA progam for BOC-certified Athletic Trainers

Caitlin Sharman

The passion that led to success and a great job as a certified athletic trainer hadn’t left Caitlin Sharman, but she reached a point in her professional career where she sought to enhance her existing skill set while adding some flexibility to her life.

That led the Vermont native to the Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) Associate of Applied Science accelerated degree program for BOC-certified athletic trainers offered through Kent State University’s College of Applied and Technical Studies at the Ashtabula Campus.

The program is the first of its kind in the United States and allows certified athletic trainers to add PTA skills and credentials in an accredited degree program in as little as 15 months.

Sharman previously earned her bachelor’s degree from Skidmore College and her master’s degree in athletic training from Plymouth State University. She now lives in the Geneva, N.Y., area and has worked as a trainer at both the high school and college level since 2014.

“I love athletic training,” she said, “but I reached a point where I needed a lifestyle change and transition into something more.”

Sharman has a friend who recommended the Ashtabula program after earning her degree a few years ago. “We were talking about my desire to transition away from college and high school athletic training, and she said, ‘hey, I did this program, and it can give you more options.’ There are a lot of similarities between being a trainer and the role of a PT or PTA. It was a bit of a big step for me to build up the courage to say ‘ok, I’m going to do this now.’ But I’m so glad I did.”

The program’s hybrid model allows students like Sharman to continue working while taking online courses on their schedule and pace. There are only two designated on-campus weekends per semester working in Kent State Ashtabula’s modern and advanced PTA labs. Students then complete clinical rotations at sites close to them.

Plus, Kent State Ashtabula offers lower Regional Campus tuition rates starting at under $4,000 per semester – a fraction of the cost of large residential universities and private colleges.

These factors allow the program to attract students from all over the country. In addition to regional students like Sharman, graduates of the PTA program for BOC-certified trainers have come from Florida, Texas and even Alaska.

But, according to Sharman, the key to the program’s success lies in the people.

“The faculty and staff, the core of the program, really make a difference,” she said. “They understand that you’re already professionals with a background and knowledge for doing things. They take that and work with you to build on what you come in with. Instead of just solely focusing on the basics, like muscular and skeletal stuff, they say: ‘you’ve got that part down, we’re going to spend more time and energy on neurological care, cardiac care’ and those types of things.

“They’re amazing to work with.”

Students in the accelerated program are often practicing professionals with years of experience, and some with advanced degrees, in athletic training. But Sharman says there’s still plenty to learn through the PTA program at Kent State Ashtabula.

Ashtabula PTA Grad Caitlin Sharman celebrates a team championship with some of her client school's student-athletes

“This program goes beyond what a lot of people would think an associate degree level program does,” she said. “You’re growing your career and growing yourself. There’s so much beyond just what you learn in class. Athletic training is mostly orthopedic, with some small level of neurology and concussions.

“Now, with my PTA education, I’ve become a better professional because I have a greater knowledge base and background and understanding of all other things that can occur with injuries and conditions. Transitioning to PTA gives you more career options, yes; but it also makes you a better clinician in the long run.

“(You) have to work, put in the time and be organized,” Sharman continued, “but in the end, the outcome of being a better clinical and having a greater understanding is so incredibly worth it. You have such a stronger case of knowledge because of what you gain through this program.”

Sharman completed her coursework during the summer months and was recognized as part of the Fall 2023 graduating class in December. She now plans to move into a new hybrid position at her current sports medicine clinic. This will allow her to move toward more clinical work and physical therapy, but also continue to assist contracted schools with sports coverage when needed or wanted.

“I still have a passion for athletic training, but I’ve added to my skill set and now have greater flexibility to add some scheduling consistency with being a PTA for this point in my life.”

Applications for the accelerated PTA for BOC-certified athletic trainers are now open until March 1. To apply, or to learn more about the program, visit

Apply to the PTA for BOC-Certified Athletic Trainers program


POSTED: Friday, January 12, 2024 09:17 AM
Updated: Friday, January 12, 2024 09:56 AM
Kent State Ashtabula Communications & Marketing