Personal Trainer

The Difference Between an Athletic Trainer and a Personal Trainer: A Detailed Look

The world of fitness and health has seen a significant rise in professionals dedicated to helping individuals achieve their goals. Among these professionals are athletic trainers and personal trainers. While the two titles may sound similar, they represent two distinct professions with different educational requirements, job responsibilities, and clientele. This article aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the differences between these two roles.

Defining the Roles: Athletic Trainers vs Personal Trainers

Athletic Trainers

Athletic trainers are certified health professionals who specialise in preventing, diagnosing, and treating muscle and bone injuries and illnesses. They work with athletes of all ages and skill levels, from school sports teams to professional sportspeople. However, their expertise isn’t limited to athletes; they also work with non-athletes who have suffered musculoskeletal injuries.

Athletic trainers form part of a broader healthcare team, often working under the direction of a physician and alongside other healthcare professionals. Their role involves recognising, preventing, and rehabilitating injuries related to physical activity.

Personal Trainers

Personal trainers, on the other hand, are fitness professionals involved in exercise prescription and instruction. They work one-on-one with clients or in small groups, creating customised workout routines to help them achieve their fitness goals. These goals can range from weight loss, muscle building, improving overall fitness, or training for specific sports or events.

Personal trainers teach clients the correct techniques for exercises and use of gym equipment, provide advice on nutrition and lifestyle changes, and motivate clients to push their boundaries.

Educational Background and Certification

The path to becoming either an athletic trainer or a personal trainer varies considerably, primarily in terms of education and certification.

Athletic Trainers

To become an athletic trainer, individuals must complete a degree from an accredited athletic training curriculum. These programs cover a wide array of subjects, including human anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, and nutrition.

Upon graduation, aspiring athletic trainers must pass the Board of Certification (BOC) Exam to earn their certification and practice as professional athletic trainers. Furthermore, many athletic trainers opt to further their knowledge by pursuing a master’s degree or higher.

Personal Trainers

In contrast, the educational requirements for personal trainers are less stringent. While some personal trainers may hold degrees in fields like exercise science, kinesiology, or physical education, others may only hold certifications from personal training programs.

However, all reputable personal trainers should hold a certification from a recognised body. In the UK, these include the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs) and the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA).

Job Responsibilities and Settings

Athletic trainers and personal trainers work in different settings and have varying responsibilities based on their roles.

Athletic Trainers

Athletic trainers often work in educational institutions, sports medicine clinics, professional sports teams, corporate workplaces, or military installations. Their primary responsibility is to prevent, diagnose, and treat injuries. This might involve applying tape, braces, or bandages to injuries, evaluating athletes before games to ensure they’re fit to play, or developing rehabilitation programs for injured athletes.

Personal Trainers

Personal trainers typically work in gyms, health clubs, or in clients’ homes. Their role revolves around designing and implementing workout routines based on their clients’ fitness levels and goals. They demonstrate exercises, correct clients’ techniques, monitor progress, and adjust workout plans as needed. They also provide advice on health, nutrition, and lifestyle changes to complement the physical training.


While there is some overlap, typically, athletic trainers and personal trainers work with different clientele.

Athletic trainers often work with athletes — from young people participating in school sports to professional athletes. However, their services aren’t limited to athletes. They also assist individuals who’ve suffered from musculoskeletal injuries.

Conversely, personal trainers work with a wider range of clients. From beginners just starting their fitness journey, to seasoned gym-goers looking for a personalised routine, to individuals referred from medical pathways — personal trainers cater to them all.

Comparing the Costs: Athletic Trainers vs Personal Trainers

When it comes to improving fitness, recovering from injuries, or achieving specific athletic goals, working with a professional can make a significant difference. Both athletic trainers and personal trainers offer valuable services in this regard. However, understanding the costs associated with each can help you make an informed decision about which is best for your needs and budget. This article will delve into how much athletic trainers charge versus how much personal trainers charge.

Understanding the Roles

Before we dive into costs, let’s briefly recap what each role involves.

Athletic trainers are healthcare professionals who specialise in preventing, diagnosing, and treating muscle and bone injuries and illnesses. They often work with athletes but their services extend to anyone who has suffered musculoskeletal injuries.

Personal trainers, on the other hand, are fitness professionals who focus on creating personalised workout routines to help individuals achieve their fitness goals, such as losing weight, building muscle, or improving overall fitness.

Factors Influencing Costs

Several factors can influence how much athletic trainers and personal trainers charge for their services:

Experience and Qualifications

As with many professions, more experienced and highly qualified trainers often charge higher rates.


Where the training takes place can also impact cost. Sessions in larger cities or more affluent areas often cost more than those in smaller towns or regions with a lower cost of living.


If a trainer specialises in a certain area, such as sports-specific training or injury rehabilitation, they may charge more for their expertise.

Session Length

Longer sessions will naturally cost more than shorter ones.

Athletic Trainer Costs

Athletic trainers often work in settings like schools, colleges, professional sports teams, or clinics, so their payment structures can vary. Some are salaried employees, while others may charge per session or offer packages of multiple sessions.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for athletic trainers was $49,860 in 2020. However, it’s important to note that this figure includes salaried athletic trainers and doesn’t directly correlate to hourly session costs.

When athletic trainers do charge per session, costs can range widely based on the factors mentioned above. On average, you might expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $150 per session, depending on the trainer’s experience, location, and specialisation.

Personal Trainer Costs

Personal trainers typically charge per session, with rates varying based on the same factors. According to data from the National Register of Personal Trainers, personal trainers in the UK charge an average of £30 to £65 per hour. However, rates can be as low as £20 per hour or as high as over £100 per hour in some regions, especially in city centres or upscale fitness clubs.

Many personal trainers also offer package deals, where you purchase multiple sessions at once for a reduced rate per session.

Making Training More Affordable

Whether you’re considering an athletic trainer or personal trainer, there are ways to make these services more affordable:

Group Sessions

Some trainers offer group sessions, where you share the session (and the cost) with a few others.


As mentioned, many trainers offer package deals. These can provide significant savings if you plan to train long-term.

Sliding Scale Fees

Some trainers offer sliding scale fees, adjusting their rates based on a client’s ability to pay.

Wrapping Up

While athletic trainers and personal trainers both play crucial roles in promoting health and fitness, they represent different professions with distinct education, responsibilities, and clientele. Understanding these differences can help one make an informed decision about which professional is best suited to their needs when seeking guidance and support on their fitness journey. Both professions aim to guide individuals safely and effectively towards achieving their health and fitness goals. Thus, the choice between an athletic trainer and a personal trainer will ultimately depend on an individual’s specific needs and objectives.

The costs for athletic trainers and personal trainers can vary widely based on factors like experience, location, and specialisation. While both types of trainers can provide valuable guidance and support, understanding their costs can help you choose the right professional for your needs and budget. Remember, the most important thing is to find a trainer who can safely and effectively guide you towards your health and fitness goals.