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Athletic Training Vs. Physical Therapy

by
author image Tina Hatcher, MS, CPT
Tina Hatcher began writing articles for eHow and LIVESTRONG.com in 2010. Her fitness company specializes in weight loss, sports conditioning, and kids fitness. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in exercise science and a Master of Science degree in cardiac rehabilitation and adult fitness, both from Virginia Tech.
Athletic Training Vs. Physical Therapy
Athletic Training Vs. Physical Therapy Photo Credit Keith Brofsky/Photodisc/Getty Images

While athletic trainers and physical therapists both work with people who have suffered sports injuries, the similarities between the two careers end there. Trainers and therapists have different educations, certifications and work place settings. If you are considering a career in one of these fields, learn what distinguishes them to help make the best choice for your future.

Definitions

Athletic Training Vs. Physical Therapy
Physical therapists help patients to develop, restore and maintain movement. Photo Credit Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images

According to DegreeDirectory.org, athletic trainers are health care professionals who help athletes and other physically active people to prevent and recognize injuries related to physical activity. As an athletic trainer you work with athletes to manage and rehabilitate acute athletic injuries. Physical therapists help patients to develop, restore and maintain movement and physical function. As a physical therapist you work with individuals of all ages and fitness levels with chronic or acute injuries and illnesses.

Educational Requirements

Athletic Training Vs. Physical Therapy
Athletic trainers and physical therapists require different educations. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images

Athletic trainers and physical therapists require different educations. An athletic trainer must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited program and pass a certification test. According to the National Athletic Trainer Association, about 70 percent of athletic trainers continue their education to the master's degree level. Course requirements for an athletic trainer include first aid, injury assessment and analysis, anatomy, physiology, nutrition, and biomechanics. A physical therapist must have a bachelor's degree and an advanced degree from an accredited physical therapy program. A physical therapist needs classes in anatomy, kinesiology, pharmacology, neuroscience, diagnostics, health, chemistry, biology, physics, and human growth and development.

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Working Environments

Athletic Training Vs. Physical Therapy
As an athletic trainer, you work predominantly in the sporting environment with physically active people. Photo Credit Paul Sutherland/Photodisc/Getty Images

As an athletic trainer, you work predominantly in the sporting environment with physically active people. You can consider job placement with high school, college, university athletics and in sports medicine clinics. Highly educated athletic trainers with advanced degrees may work with professional sports teams, though these opportunities are rare. As a physical therapist, you work in a clinical setting with people requiring treatment for injury, illness and chronic diseases. Patients range in age from infants through elders. You find job opportunities in hospitals, clinics, doctor's offices and physical therapy centers.

Athletic Trainer Work

Athletic trainer positions often require long work hours that include nights and weekends to be available at team practices and games. You tape, bandage and brace athletes for injury prevention and rehabilitation. Employers require you to coordinate and carry out the physical rehabilitation of athletes. Often, athletic trainers study, evaluate and recommend new techniques and equipment. You are typically the first one to the scene of a sports injury and consult with a physician to diagnose and treat the athlete. The athletic trainer is responsible for managing and maintaining the athletic training room. You need to be physically fit to bend, lift, squat and run.

Physical Therapist Work

Athletic Training Vs. Physical Therapy
Massage, heat or water therapy, ultrasound and electrical stimulation are tools you may use. Photo Credit Duncan Smith/Photodisc/Getty Images

Physical therapists have more regular office hours than athletic trainers and require a level of fitness that allows for manipulating and lifting patients. As a physical therapist you work on an individual basis with patients over a period of weeks to months. Therapists develop and execute exercises that help improve patient's range of motion, muscle strength, coordination, endurance and motor skills, according to PhysicalTherapist.com. Massage, heat or water therapy, ultrasound and electrical stimulation are tools you may use.

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References

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