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Athletic Training Vs. Exercise Science

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Athletic trainers and exercise scientists work in dynamic environments that combines science, health care, athletics and fitness, but have different job responsibilities in each environment. The two fields have similar prerequisite college courses, but each field has job-specific courses that prepare students for a job in athletic training or exercise science.


Someone who has an athletic training or exercise science degree is exposed to a number of sports and athletics, including those of of all ages and ability levels. Those in athletic training and exercise science get to spend time studying exercise and its effects on the body. Athletic training focuses on working with injured or rehabilitating athletes while exercise science typically works with healthy athletes.

Prerequisite Courses

Common prerequisite college courses for athletic training and exercise science include human anatomy and physiology, emergency care, kinesiology, exercise physiology, chemistry and physics. Job-specific courses for athletic training that differ from exercise science can include pharmacology, health care administration, therapeutic modalities and pathology of injuries and illnesses. Additional prerequisite courses for exercise science can include exercise testing, nutritional health, exercise prescription and motor learning and control.

Job Duties

Job duties related to athletic training and exercise science overlap but other duties are different. Athletic training consists of athletic trainers who are certified health care professionals who specialize in athletes, athletic teams or hospitals. Job responsibilities consist of developing injury prevention programs, conducting injury evaluations and coordinating with coaches and strength coaches about conditioning programs. Exercise science studies the function of the human body in response to exercise, programs exercise routines and exercise programming for sports and activities.

Job Settings

Job settings for athletic training are commonly found in high schools, universities, professional athletic teams, health and fitness clubs, physical therapy clinics, hospitals or sports medicine clinics. Most people will associate athletic training to a school setting, but according to the National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA) more than 50 percent of athletic trainers work outside of organized schools. Athletic training works with athletic teams to develop injury prevention programs, conduct injury evaluations and communicate with the coaches and strength coach about conditioning programs. Settings for exercise science can include high schools and universities, health and fitness clubs, and exercise physiology laboratories. Teachers and strength coaches will be found in the school setting and personal trainers commonly work in health and fitness clubs.


Exercise science and athletic training have a promising future. Annual salaries for both are dependent on the level of education, years of experience and number of hours worked each week. According to the NATA, as of 2008, athletic training careers reported an average salary for a full-time employee at $44,235 before bonuses and benefits. Also, according to the NATA, salaries will typically double after 25 years of experience. Salary potential for exercise science has a wider range than athletic training. For example, a part-time personal trainer working in a health club can make an annual salary of $20,000. While a full-time personal trainer working 40 or more hours per week can make over $100,000 annually.


Based in Nebraska, Jeremy Hoefs began writing fitness, nutrition, outdoor and hunting articles in 2006. His articles have been published in "Star City Sports," "Hunting Fitness Magazine" and RutWear field journals, as well as on the Western Whitetail website. Hoefs graduated with a Bachelor of Science in exercise science from Nebraska Wesleyan University.

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