Athletic Trainer vs Personal Trainer? Let's get to comparing!
Athletic Trainer vs Personal Trainer? Let's get to comparing!

Ever considered a job in the fitness industry? Worth over $40 billion annually in the United States, the lucrative world of fitness has grown at 4% for the past decade! And those are some impressive numbers, that’s for sure.

The thing is if you wanted to break into this lucrative business, where would you start? In truth, there are many different jobs to choose from, from gym employee, health coach, personal trainer and athletic trainer, to name but a few.

So in this blog, we are going to highlight two popular positions that you could perhaps consider to make your move into the world of fitness. And those two are the athletic trainer and the personal trainer. They may sound similar but although both positions essentially revolve around making people fit, they are very different. Let’s see the differences.

If you are not yet a certified fitness professional, make sure to take the quiz to see which certification best fits your training style or check out my article on the top five certifications.

The menu at the top of this page will answer any question related to personal training that you have. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave me a comment here (I’ll respond within 24 hours). Also, visit the home page for the most recent and popular articles.

Give me an A…

Give me an A...

So what is it exactly that an athletic trainer does?

Well, the world of athletics training can be pretty exciting, that’s for sure. Found mainly at schools, athletics clubs, at hospitals and wellness centers and even in the military and industry, athletics trainers prepare athletes in their chosen discipline primarily.

Do you think Usain Bolt is the fastest person in the world just through natural talent?

While that plays a massive part in his ability to smash world records, his talent has to be honed, to be channeled and guided. And that’s where his athletics trainer comes in.

Of course, Usain Bolt is an elite athlete and a perfect example but athletics trainers are needed in many areas of the athletics and fitness world.

And there is so much more to their job as well.

And in truth, as an athletic trainer, you not going to be working with any mega-athletes on a daily basis. But there is so much more that you will be doing for athletes.

So what is that that an athletic trainer primarily does day to day?

Well, it’s actually a position where you would work in conjunction with others in the fitness and sporting field, for instance, physicians, physiotherapists, and biokineticists. An athletic trainer will do the following:

Help prevent injuries

A major goal of any athletic trainer, no matter what field they work in, is to prevent injury. They do this mostly through education.

In a sporting setup, as an athletic trainer, you would help to show athletes or sports teams the correct ways to warm up before any physical activity. Without a doubt, one of the major causes of injuries is the fact that an athlete has not warmed up their muscles efficiently.

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Athletic trainers will lead teams in warm up routines to help ensure this doesn’t happen.

Help diagnose injuries

Another important role that you as an athletic trainer would play is in diagnosing injuries.

An example of this would be in a public school where athletic trainers normally form part of the staff as decreed by state law.

When an injury occurs, they are often first on the scene and can help diagnose the severity of the injury and how it needs to be treated. They also will make the decision of whether outside help, perhaps in the form of paramedics, need to be called.

And injuries don’t only occur on the sports field. They can occur in the workplace as well, that’s why athletic trainers can even be found in the military or as part of the health units of industrial concerns.

Help treat injuries and aid in rehabilitation

One other major aspect in the life of an athletic trainer is that once an injury has occurred, a person will need to receive specific treatments and then be rehabilitated. This rehabilitation often focuses on the muscle or joint that was originally injured.

Many trainers who specialize in this aspect work in the medical field, often as part of a team, for example at a hospital or wellness center.

There’s more…

As an athletic trainer, preventing, diagnosing and rehabilitating injuries, although a major part of the job, are not the only skills you need to have.

All athletic trainers must also have undergone first aid training, know how to administer CPR as well as the use of an automated external defibrillator.

Let’s get personal!

Let's get personal!

Now you know what an athletic trainer is all about but before you decide which might be the best career path for you, don’t just assume you know what a personal trainer does!

The most obvious place you would have seen a personal trainer is in the gym, working with one of their clients. Here, it’s all about a one on one relationship, helping people to essentially improve their lifestyle and overall health and fitness by getting fitter.

And personal trainers are not only found at your neighborhood gym. The can be employed by many different institutions including schools, universities, wellness centers, hospitals and even by large companies.

But what exactly is it that a personal trainer does on a daily basis?

Evaluate fitness levels

With a personal trainer, its all about a one on one relationship with a client. That begins first with evaluating a clients fitness levels.

And every client is going to be different. Some will have no fitness levels whatsoever, for example, a person who is carrying lots of weight and wants to begin to drop the pounds.

Others will have varying degrees of fitness and may even take part in some form of activity like walking, jogging or cycling.

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Determine their goals

Determine their goals

The next logical step is to determine what it is a client hopes to achieve while under the guidance of a personal trainer.

And people have many different reasons as to why they want to go to a gym or workout.

Some may want to lose weight, others want to change their unhealthy lifestyle for a more healthy way of living while others might want to tone muscle.

The list of reasons is practically endless…

But once you know their motivation, the reason why they have signed up with a personal trainer, its easier to help them set realistic goals that are attainable.

And we not talking about something so easy that they will receive no benefit. These goals must be there to help them, but reachable with a little bit of hard work.

Devise fitness programs

With goals in place, a personal trainer can now devise a fitness program to help their client reach those goals. And that’s were all their training and expertise come in.

Of course, each training and fitness program is unique for each client. There is no “one size fits all” approach here, that’s for sure.

And these programs will change as well, especially as the client’s fitness levels improve.

Monitor and motivate

Lastly, a personal trainer monitors their clients as they go about their training programs.

That includes helping them use the various pieces of gym equipment by demonstrating how they work and then ensuring that they are been used properly.

Motivation is key as well. On some days, your clients won’t exercise as well as they could, or may even want to cancel some training sessions. Your ability to motivate them not to give up, even in times when it’s difficult, is key.

How do you get certified?

How do you get certified?

So you want to become an athletic trainer or perhaps a personal trainer?

Well, the most important thing that you need is to be certified.

Athletic trainer certification

The first important thing that you must know if you want to become an athletic trainer is that you need a bachelor’s degree first and foremost. This is a requirement from almost all employers.

And certification?

Well, 47 states in the United States require athletic trainers to be certified with the Board of Certification (BOC).

Other than their bachelor’s degree, an extensive BOC examination must be passed. Only when you pass this exam can you use the term, “Certified Athletic Trainer”.

Personal trainer certification

In all honesty, there are many more ways to receive certification as a personal trainer.

Organizations such as the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) and the American Council on Exercise (ACE) all offer certification, while a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist certificate also allows you to work in the field.

Let’s take a closer look at the NASM and ACE certification options.

NASM certification


To attain NASM certification as a personal trainer, you will need to have a high school or GED certificate and you must have completed a CPR or AED course.

ACE certification


For ACE certification as a personal trainer, you first need to be 18 years of age and completed high school, holding either that or a GED certificate. As with NASM certification, those wanting to become personal trainers need to have undergone either an AED or CPR course.

Certification is easy… with a little help

To call yourself a personal trainer, you will need to pass the exams as set out by the NASM or ACE, whichever you choose.

There are many organizations in the United States that can guide you towards your certification.

Trainer Academy, for example, will thoroughly prepare you to pass the exam first time by providing essential study materials and preparing you properly by giving you all the essential information that you need.

Opting to use these study materials only makes your task so much easier.

And so…Athletic trainer vs personal trainer conclusion

And so...Athletic trainer vs personal trainer conclusion

If you have not yet done so, take the quiz to see which certification is the best choice for you.

Entering the fitness world isn’t as difficult as it may seem. The important thing is choosing a career path that you see yourself working in for years to come.

And it’s within your grasp.

Simply get accredited to start your journey as either an athletics coach or personal trainer.


  1. The six reasons the fitness industry is booming
  2. The difference between an athletic trainer and fitness trainer
  3. Personal trainer v Athletics and conditioning trainer
  4. What do athletic trainers do?
  5. Injury prevention
  6. National Academy of Sports Medicine
  7. American Council on Exercise

Tyler Read

Tyler Read, BSc, CPT. Tyler holds a B.S. in Kinesiology from Sonoma State University and is a certified personal trainer (CPT) with NASM (National Academy of sports medicine), and has over 15 years of experience working as a personal trainer. He is a published author of running start, and a frequent contributing author on Healthline and Eat this, not that.

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