During my first year at UW-Eau Claire, I was confident that athletic training was something that I wanted to do as a career. While many of my roommates went without a major, flipped majors, or even changed schools, I was able to focus on athletic training from the beginning of my college education and finish in four years.
One thing that I noticed in my four years as an athletic training student, as well as my two years of being a certified athletic trainer, is that there are many common misconceptions about what an athletic trainer does.
While working at UW-Parkside and at Badger High School, I was frequently referred to as a “trainer,” or met with athletes and coaches who failed to notice the difference between athletic trainers and personal trainers.
In order to earn my certification and Wisconsin licensure as an athletic trainer, I had to graduate from an accredited undergraduate university (such as UW-Eau Claire, UW-LaCrosse or UW-Milwaukee) with a Bachelors Degree in Athletic Training, where I took a variety of classes such as First Aid care, Human Anatomy / Physiology, Therapeutic Exercises and Modalities, and Nutrition. From there I had to pass the National Athletic Training Association Board of Certification examination, and had to apply for licensure to work in the state of Wisconsin. Athletic trainers specialize in the assessment, prevention and intervention of acute, emergency and chronic medical conditions, and work in a variety of settings, such as at universities, high schools, hospitals, rehabilitation clinics and the U.S. Military.
Personal trainers, on the other hand, may or may not hold a degree or certificate from higher education, and may or may not need licensure or certification to practice. Personal trainers tend to work at developing, monitoring and changing individuals specific exercise programs.
While both professions are excellent career paths, it is important to notice the differences between the two when choosing a trainer for your own care. The National Athletic Training Association offers an excellent information sheet regarding the differences between the two professions.
So, before you take that first step towards physical fitness — take a step back and understand fully what your trainer is trained, certified and licensed to do for you.