Personal training is a $10 billion industry, and it is constantly evolving. It offers a number of potential career opportunities for individuals who want to become personal trainers. Personal training is a flexible occupation as it allows for easy entry with national certification and a high school degree.
However, experience, post-secondary education, and advanced training can open more opportunities for you. In this guide, we will teach you about how to become a certified personal trainer. We will also discuss types of personal trainer certifications, specializations, and available educational programs.
What Does a Personal Trainer Do?
A personal trainer works with his/her clients for developing and implementing a fitness training regimen. This regimen helps their clients in losing weight, improving physical performance, getting stronger, and maintaining their health. Personal trainers introduce their clients to personalized exercises which are based on their skill level, individual goals, and needs. Personal trainers must keep up with the latest trends and give professional recommendations to their clients regarding nutrition and fitness.
Personal trainers are nationally certified professionals. They have advanced knowledge of human physiology, anatomy, exercise science, and nutrition. Personal trainers can develop and conduct individual and group exercises which are custom-made for the fitness requirements of their clients.
Client assessments are conducted by fitness trainers for developing healthy nutritional behaviors in their clients and motivate them to succeed. Certified personal trainers may work for a fitness center or gym, work for corporations, or may even be self-employed.
Steps to become a personal trainer
For becoming a personal trainer, you will have to follow these steps.
- Earn a high school degree
You only need to have a high school diploma or equivalent to sit for a certifying examination. Most national certification bodies have only this eligibility requirement. However, it is highly recommended that you obtain a post-secondary education, in the form of a formal degree, training course, or a certificate.
- Complete AED/CPR Certification
Personal trainers may have to face a physical emergency with their clients. That is why they must complete Automated External Defibrillator (AED) and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) certification programs.
These programs are aimed at teaching personal trainers to identify when a client may have a medical emergency. Personal trainers are also taught to handle breathing or cardiac emergencies. They are required to act swiftly for helping a client until the professional first responders arrive. CPR and AED certifications are required by almost every national personal training certification organization.
- Choose a fitness specialty
You must decide on a career pathway before embarking on any form of training. You can select a specialization which matches your personal interests, professional goals, and skillsets. You have to determine whether you want to work in group exercise, fitness programming, or personalized individual training. Once you have selected your career path, review the different fitness certifying bodies and their fitness certifications. Choose a program which makes the most sense from a professional outcome and preparation point-of-view.
- Prepare for certification
Once you have selected a certification, whether it is from the National Academy of Sports Medicine or the American Council on Exercise, it is time to prepare for the certification exam.
There are various options for preparing. You can take exam prep courses and multi-session training classes, or go all out with undergraduate and graduate degrees in exercise science.
- Attempt and pass the certification examination
Now you will have to register for the chosen certification exam. You will have to fill out an application and pay some registration fee. The certification exams are mostly computer-based tests which contain 120 to 150 MCQs. The certification exams mostly have questions from the following areas,
- Client Consultation
- Fitness Assessment
- Safety and Emergency Issues
- Program Planning
- Exercise Techniques
- Apply for jobs and build a portfolio
You will be considered a certified personal trainer after passing your certification exam. Now you will be qualified for working in various fitness setting at various positions. You can look for online job postings on the websites of different fitness organizations.
Most personal trainers start by gaining experience. They decide to work at a local gym and shadow an experienced trainer. This allows them to seek better opportunities in their area. Some personal trainers decide to build a client roster and work as independent professionals. Whatever you decide is up to you. Remember to build industry connections, a portfolio of clients, and continue your education for this will help you in the long run.
Certification Programs for Personal Trainers
When you are reviewing all of the possible certifications available by different organizations, then you might get confused. Most certifications sound the same, and it can be difficult to understand the difference between seemingly similar options. Personal trainers are not limited to just one certification. So, you should select a personal training certification which is relevant to your selected career path.
The primary accrediting body for personal training certifications is the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). Most fitness employers prefer accredited candidates, so if you are interested in a personal trainer career, then you should select accredited programs. Following are the four major certifying bodies,
- American College of Sports Medicine
- National Academy of Sports Medicine
- American Council on Exercise
- National Strength and Conditioning Association
Preparing for Personal Trainer Careers
The domain of fitness is constantly expanding. This places a great emphasis on the need for competent, qualified, and skilled personal trainers. There are many academic and occupational paths to consider. You can learn from a number of ways from hands-on practical training through a certifying association to a comprehensive four-year degree program. You should learn about various programs and degrees available to you so that you may better prepare for the selected personal trainer career.
- Vocational/Trade Schools
Technical and vocational schools usually offer short-term personal training programs or courses. These focus on a specific personal training certification program, for example, a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) examination from the National Academy of Sports Medicine.
Programs offered by vocational schools are focused on career. This allows the students to concentrate their studies in a particular area of interest. And they don’t have to fulfill the requirements of an entire degree.
- Community Colleges
Programs offered by community colleges are designed to be professionally oriented, short, and instruction based. These programs prepare graduates to enter their desired career directly.
Students of community colleges can select from several types of training. These include personal training programs, stand-alone certificate programs, and formal associate degree programs in majors like personal training, exercise science, and kinesiology.
Each of these programs is aimed at preparing the graduates for passing the national certification exams.
- Personal Training Certification Courses
Personal training certification courses are offered by various organizations. These courses have different length and time frame. Personal training certification courses include practical instruction and lectures from experienced and certified trainers. Such courses are a great way to prepare for a career in personal training.
If you are looking for a personal training course which prepares you for your selected career, then you should go for the Personal Trainer Certification. This course has been developed by some of the best trainers in the fitness industry. This course also features specialization options like Yoga Instructor, Pilates Certification, and Aerobics Certification which you can obtain in combination with basic learning.
- University Programs
Universities and colleges offer four-year bachelor’s (undergraduate) and masters & Ph.D. (graduate) programs. These are for individuals who are interested in expanding their knowledge of health, wellness, and fitness. These programs have a broad scope and a comprehensive curriculum which covers both specialized areas and general education.
Personal Trainer Career Concentrations
The fitness is quite diverse and large. Hence, there are a lot of personal trainer careers to consider. When you become a certified personal trainer, it opens new fitness career paths. These include nutrition, performance, medicine, conditioning, and sports. Following are some examples of potential specializations to extend your personal training career.
- Exercise Physiologist
Exercise physiologists understand how the body may respond to stress induced by physical activities. They work with a diverse group of people, from world-class athletes to individuals suffering from chronic disease. Exercise physiologists help their clients in maintain, enhancing, or improving their overall health, physical performance, and fitness. If you decide to be an exercise physiologist, then you will need an undergraduate degree and a national certification from the American College of Sports Medicine. And if you decide to work at a clinical position, then you will need a graduate qualification and a board certification from the American Society of Exercise Physiologists.
The average salary for an exercise physiologist is around $36,273 per year.
- Group Exercise Instructor
Group exercise instructors lead, design, and develop group personal training sessions. They give classes which incorporate activities like yoga, cycling, aerobics, and Pilates. Group exercise instructors motivate their clients and ensure that they exercise safely. They also implement transitional patterns from one exercise to the next.
For becoming a group exercise instructor, you will need professional certification from organizations like the American Council on Fitness and the American College of Sports Medicine.
The average salary for a group exercise instructor is around $54,080 per year.
- Strength and Conditioning Coach
Strength and conditioning coaches have the following responsibilities when working with their clients.
- Help improve their athletic performance
- Reduce sports injuries
Strength and conditioning coaches usually work with sports teams, but they may also work with high schools, fitness clubs, and physical therapy clinics.
For becoming a strength and conditioning coach, you will need an undergraduate degree, certification from the National Strength and Conditioning Association, and previous fitness experience.
The average salary for a strength and conditioning coach is around $63,195 per year.
We hope that this guide provided all the information you were looking for and now you know how to become a certified personal trainer. If you are considering a career in personal training, then we have best wishes for you. Your feedback is very important to us for it helps with our improvement. So, we will really appreciate it if you would let us know about your thoughts and opinions in the comments section.