Although both are concerned with fitness, athletic trainers and personal trainers are not the same thing. Athletic trainers focus less on building muscles, weight loss and other personal-fitness goals, and more on preventing and treating injury or illness that occurs during sports or other physical activities. As healthcare professionals, athletic trainers also work with clients who have physical limitations or impairments, with the goal of maximizing their physical potential for the benefit of their overall health. Because of this aspect of the profession, most states regulate and license athletic trainers. Laws do vary from state to state, but most require specific education in athletic training. If you hold a bachelor's degree in biology, you may be eligible for licensure as an athletic trainer in your state, but will need to meet additional requirements.
Review the laws in your state on licensing athletic trainers. Focus on the education and experience requirements to ascertain where your biology degree coursework may be lacking. Many states allow individuals holding a bachelor's in a health- or fitness-related discipline -- such as biology -- to complete additional classes to meet education requirements.
Complete the academic coursework for the requirements you lack. Usually, this will include some form of apprenticeship or internship in athletic training that must be taken during your enrollment in school, so start early.
Submit an application to become a licensed athletic trainer to your state's licensing agency. Provide personal contact and identification information, have official transcripts sent detailing your education and internship or apprenticeship, and submit to a criminal- background check. Depending on your state's procedures, you may also need to submit a personal statement; or attend a personal interview to explain your reasons for requesting licensure and to assert that your combined education and experience has adequately prepared you to practice as an athletic trainer.
Pass the athletic trainer examination required by your state. While most states accept the National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA) certification exam, the NATA requires candidates to possess a degree in athletic training from an accredited program. Since state educational requirements are often less stringent, many states offer an alternative examination if you do not meet NATA eligibility criteria.
Upon completion of your exam and review of your application, your state licensing agency will either issue you a license or send you a denial notice stating the reason, what you can do to correct any deficiencies and information on filing an appeal.
- National Athletic Trainers' Association: Athletic Training
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, Athletic Trainers
- New York State Education Department: Athletic Training License Requirements
- Texas Dept. of State Health Services: Athletic Trainers Licensing Requirements