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What Are the Education Requirements to Be a Physical Trainer?

To become a physical trainer - also known as a fitness trainer or instructor - you'll need to complete classes leading to professional certification, along with some supervised clinical practice. Athletic trainers typically need to earn a bachelor's degree and obtain state licensure. Keep reading to learn more.

Physical Trainer Education-Overview

Physical trainers are also known as fitness or athletic trainers. Both jobs focus on physical fitness but their goals and responsibilities are different. Most notably, there is significantly more education required to become an athletic trainer than a fitness trainer. Most aspiring fitness trainers seek certification and complete an apprenticeship, while athletic trainers must finish degree program and retain credentials.

Important Facts About Physical Trainers

Fitness TrainersAthletic Trainers
Continuing EducationRequired every two years to maintain certificationRequired every two years to maintain certification
SpecializationsGroup personal training, weight lossCorrective exercise, performance enhancement
Degrees FieldsExercise science, kinesiology, physical educationAthletic training, sports medicine
Common CoursesNutrition, muscle strength and endurance, flexibilityHealth and disability, clinical athletic training, orthopedics
Median Salary (2018) $39,820 $47,510
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 10% growth 23% growth

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Duties & Environment

As a fitness trainer, you'll help clients become healthier through exercise and diet. This type of training usually occurs at a health club, gym, or fitness center. If you work as an athletic trainer, you may work for a college, university, or professional sports team, assisting athletes with physical training, injury prevention, and physical rehabilitation.

Physical or Fitness Training Education Requirements

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), you'll need to gain certification in your area of fitness training, which requires specific coursework and an apprenticeship. Some accreditation programs require at least a year of classes before you can participate in an apprenticeship or be allowed solo instruction.

Athletic Training Education Requirements

To become an athletic trainer, you'll need at least a bachelor's degree in health, physical education, or fitness. A master's degree is not required but is preferred by employers. According to the National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA), about 70% of athletic trainers in the industry possess graduate degrees from accredited athletic training programs (www.nata.org). Many colleges and universities offer bachelor's degree programs in athletic training and require students to complete a pre-athletic training track before taking major courses. Program courses include several human science courses, including biology, anatomy, physiology, rehabilitation, exercise physiology, and biomechanics.

Licensure or Certification

Most states require a Board of Certification (BOC) credential to work as an athletic trainer. This program is for entry-level athletic trainers, according to the BLS. To be eligible for certification, you'll need to earn a bachelor's or master's degree and pass an examination.