Career Details

Athletic Trainer or Exercise Physiologist

Athletic trainers specialize in preventing, diagnosing, and treating muscle and bone injuries and illnesses. Exercise physiologists develop fitness and exercise programs that help patients recover from chronic diseases and improve cardiovascular function, body composition, and flexibility. 

Athletic trainers typically do the following:
  • Apply protective or injury-preventive devices such as tape, bandages, and braces
  • Recognize and evaluate injuries
  • Provide first aid or emergency care
  • Develop and carry out rehabilitation programs for injured athletes
  • Plan and implement comprehensive programs to prevent injury and illness among athletes
  • Perform administrative tasks such as keeping records and writing reports on injuries and treatment programs

Exercise physiologists typically do the following:
  • Analyze a patient’s medical history to determine the best possible exercise and fitness regimen
  • Perform fitness tests with medical equipment and analyze the subsequent patient data
  • Measure body fat, blood pressure, oxygen usage, and other key patient health indicators
  • Develop exercise programs to improve patient health
  • Supervise clinical tests to ensure patient safety

Athletic trainers work with people of all ages and all skill levels, from young children to soldiers and professional athletes. Athletic trainers are usually one of the first healthcare providers on the scene when injuries occur. They work under the direction of a licensed physician and with other healthcare providers, and often discuss specific injuries and treatment options or evaluate and treat patients as directed by a physician. Some athletic trainers meet with a team physician or consulting physician regularly. 

An athletic trainer’s administrative responsibilities may include regular meetings with an athletic director or other administrative officer to deal with budgets, purchasing, policy implementation, and other business-related issues.

Exercise physiologists work to improve overall patient health, and many of their patients suffer from health problems such as cardiovascular disease, or are obese. Exercise physiologists provide health education and exercise plans to improve key health indicators. Some physiologists work closely with primary physicians.

Athletic trainers and exercise physiologists should not be confused with fitness trainers and instructors, including personal trainers.
Personality & Interest

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Athletic trainers and exercise physiologists typically have an interest in the Doer, Thinker and Helper interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Doer interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Thinker interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws. The Helper interest area indicates a focus on assisting, serving, counselling, or teaching other people.

If you are not sure whether you have a Doer or Thinker or Helper interest which might fit with a career as an athletic trainer and exercise physiologist, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Athletic trainers and exercise physiologists should also possess the following specific qualities:

Compassion. Athletic trainers and exercise physiologists work with athletes and patients who may be in considerable pain or discomfort. ATs and EPs must be sympathetic while providing treatments.

Decision-making skills. Athletic trainers and exercise physiologists must be able to make informed clinical de­cisions that could affect the health or livelihood of patients.

Detail oriented. Athletic trainers and exercise physiologists must be able to record detailed, accurate progress and ensure that patients are receiving the appropriate treatments or practicing the correct fitness regimen.

Interpersonal skills. Athletic trainers and exercise physiologists must have strong interpersonal skills and be able to manage difficult situations. They must be able to communicate well with others, including physicians, patients, athletes, coaches, and parents.
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