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Athletic Trainer vs. Personal Trainer: What's the Difference?

A person doing exercises with a trainer

An education in exercise science can provide a solid foundation for anyone with a passion for sports, physical activity, or healthy living. Although both career paths require fundamental knowledge of human anatomy, exercise physiology, and nutrition, athletic trainers and personal trainers generally have very different day-to-day work experiences. Here's how the two roles differ when it comes to the services they offer, the clients they serve, and the environments they frequently work in.

Athletic Trainers

Often working in schools, universities, and professional sports training centers, athletic trainers primarily develop safe and effective training programs that can enhance athletes' performance. Their daily responsibilities may range from testing players for agility, strength, and endurance to designing seasonal training regimens for individual players or teams. Athletic trainers may also be tasked with providing physical rehabilitation services, offering nutritional guidance, and coordinating with physicians and allied health professionals to prevent, diagnose, and treat athletic injuries.

Personal Trainers

Rather than assisting established athletes and sports teams, personal trainers most often work with members of the public who may have significantly different athletic abilities and fitness levels. Working out of gyms, community centers, hospitals, or health clinics, personal trainers develop individualized fitness plans for clients based on their unique needs, goals, and medical histories. Some personal trainers choose to specialize in specific fitness areas, such as yoga, Pilates, or weightlifting, while others offer general exercise guidance for clients who want to lose weight, get into shape, or lead a healthier lifestyle.

Choosing a Career Path

A bachelor's degree in exercise science is often the first and most critical step toward a career as an athletic trainer or a personal trainer. When deciding which path to pursue, it's important to determine one's ideal work environment (a team training center versus a community gym, for example), as well as the types of clients one would prefer to work with. Both career paths may also require additional certifications, training, or specialized knowledge, so there may be further work to do before settling into any one professional role.

If you have a passion for sports and fitness, a career as an athletic trainer or a personal trainer may be the right fit for you. At Tulane School of Professional Advancement, our exercise science program can provide you with essential knowledge of the biomechanical, physiological, and psychological aspects of exercise. Request information to learn more about the program or explore our diverse bachelor's degree options today.

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