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Difference Between Exercise Physiologist & Personal Trainer

Exercise physiologists and personal trainers work with different types of clients, have different educational requirements and income levels. This article talks about the similarities and differences between these professions.

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Comparing Exercise Physiologist to Personal Trainer

Exercise physiologists and personal trainers both use exercises to improve the health of their clients. One of the primary differences between these professionals is that exercise physiologists work in the medical field and must have a bachelor's degree. On the other hand, personal trainers may not need formal postsecondary training and focus on working with people with personal fitness goals.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary* (2016) Job Outlook* (2014-2024)
Exercise Physiologist Bachelor's Degree $47,340 11%
Personal Trainer High School Diploma; certification is recommended $38,160 (for fitness trainers and instructors) 8% (for fitness trainers and instructors)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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  • Kinesiology and Exercise Science
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Responsibilities of Exercise Physiologist vs Personal Trainer

Exercise physiologists and personal trainers need to know how to safely perform a number of different exercises. They also need to understand the impact those exercises will have on a person's physical health. Exercise physiologists use their knowledge while working with people who have been affected by disease or chronic illness and their objective is to help improve the person's physical health through exercise. They need to perform tests to thoroughly assess their patient's condition before determining what type of program they should follow. Personal trainers don't usually work with people who are ill. They focus on working with clients that have specific fitness goals and teach them exercises that will help them achieve their goals.

Exercise Physiologist

Exercise physiologists primarily work with individuals who have been affected by disease and develop a physical regimen intended to improve their health. It's possible to enter this field with a bachelor's degree in kinesiology or a similar major, and some professionals complete a master's degree to prepare for their career. Exercise physiologists may work at hospitals, doctors' offices or clinics, or they may be self-employed. Since they work with people who suffer from diseases they need to understand how their client's illnesses affect their health and they also need to consider all potential health concerns when preparing a treatment plan for patients.

Job responsibilities of an exercise physiologist include:

  • Meet with patients to discuss their health
  • Conduct tests on patients to assess their fitness
  • Evaluate the patient's medical condition
  • Identify the patient's health goals
  • Show patients how to safely perform exercises
  • Assess the patient's progress

Personal Trainer

Personal trainers primarily work with people one on one, or work with small groups of people with comparable needs and goals. Their objective is to help improve the physical fitness level of the clients they work with in order to stay healthy. Although it isn't necessary for them to have formal postsecondary training, those that obtain certification may find that they have more job prospects. Many personal trainers work for fitness centers, while some work in education and others are self-employed.

Job responsibilities of a personal trainer include:

  • Meet with clients to discuss their fitness goals
  • Develop a training program for their clients
  • Show clients how to do specific exercises
  • Provide clients with nutritional information
  • Lead fitness classes

Related Careers

Since exercise physiologists help patients improve their health through exercise, those interested in this field may also be interested in a career as an athletic trainer and use exercise to help athletes recover from injuries. Like personal trainers, physical education teachers develop fitness plans and teach students how to perform exercises safely, so this is a career field that those thinking about becoming personal trainers may also be interested in.

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