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How to Become a Certified Personal Trainer

Three Parts:Deciding Your Educational PathGetting Your CertificationDeveloping a Training Regimen

Personal training is one of the fastest growing professions in America today. It not only promotes a healthy lifestyle, but can be an enjoyable career to have. If you are interested in becoming a personal trainer, take a few easy steps to get your certification.

Part 1
Deciding Your Educational Path

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    Check your prerequisites. Although going into a certification program doesn't require any prior education in fitness, there are some requirements that must be completed.
    • You must be at least 18 years of age.
    • You must have completed and passed a CPR class.
    • You must have a high school diploma or GED.
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    Choose between formal school and certification. Many colleges and universities offer degrees in kinesiology, sports and fitness education, and exercise science. Getting a full degree in any of these requires several years, but gives you a comprehensive understanding of personal training and fitness. Choosing a certification program requires studying alone on your own time from a textbook, but is much more flexible and takes ¼ of the time a college degree does to complete.
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    Decide on a certification organization. When studying to get certified, you must register with a particular certification group. There are many groups to choose from, all with different study requirements and payments. Just be sure that whatever group you choose is certified by NCCA.[1]
    • ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) has certification programs in physical training and group exercise instructors as well as clinical training certifications. Their most basic course costs $355 for ACSM members or $415 for non-members including textbooks and testing. Their program is a work-at-your-own-pace certification, and allows you to choose your own test date based on your personal time requirements.[2]
    • ACE (American Council of Exercise) goes by the motto that they may not be the cheapest or the fastest certification program, but that they are the best. They are also the largest personal training organization in the world. They offer three personal training certification options: Standard at $499, premium at $599, and premium plus at $699.[3]
    • The NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association) offers specialized certifications in strength and conditioning in addition to personal training certification. Their program costs $270 for the members and $405 for non-members.
    • NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) has the most expensive but arguably most inclusive personal training certification. They offer your textbooks, testing (plus one free retake), live workshops, and a 90-day job guarantee for $1,199. For a charge of $1,999 you can get all of the aforementioned benefits with the addition of associate personal training experience.[4]
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    Choose your work venue. Depending on what you hope to do with your personal training certification, your requirements may change. If you plan on working in a gym or spa, check with those places to see what they require employees to have. Working out of your own home or through a small business may give you more freedom and lenience in terms of what education is expected.
    • In Canada Canadian Fitness Education Services (CFES) certification has been developed as an alternative choice for fitness instructors and personal trainers wanting to join others in the development of more comprehensive, academically credible and practical fitness leadership certification standards; have a national network of fitness professionals connecting with industry peers; and to advance career credentials.

Part 2
Getting Your Certification

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    Study hard. Most certifications require that you work from home, studying from a textbook. Although these are typically work-at-your-own-pace, they do have time limits. Usually, you are given between one month to one year to complete your studying.
    • Set up a strict study routine. This will help keep you from slacking off and promote better learning behaviors. You are more likely to remember what you study if you do so over an extended period of time rather than just cramming at the last minute.
    • Test yourself periodically. Some textbooks come with quizzes and tests, so be sure to do them to see how well you are progressing. If they do not, make flash cards covering the material and have a friend quiz you with them.
    • Practice what you’re learning. Studying physical education isn't nearly as helpful if you aren't physically engaging in the activities. Include time in your study schedule to practice the exercises and training that you've been learning about to ensure your complete understanding of them.
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    Take the test. Some programs have writing centers that you must visit in order to test, while others offer online testing. Research each program to find out what you must do in order to test. If you fail the test, you can typically retake it for a fee ranging from $150-$200.
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    Maintain your certification. Once you've gotten your certification, you must keep it maintained by ongoing studying and learning. Physical education is constantly evolving, so you must be sure that you evolve with it. Some programs require annual re-testing, while others only need proof that you've taken certain online classes or visited personal training seminars.

Part 3
Developing a Training Regimen

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    Develop your own training routine. Acknowledge your personal strengths in training and promote those. Work in your areas of expertise and develop training routines around them. This will help employers to not only see you working at your strongest but place you with people who need help in those areas as well.
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    Specialize your certification further. Look into specialty training in personal fitness such as work in weightlifting/strength training, work with certain specialized machines and yoga. These will not only help you to learn more but make you more appealing as a personal trainer to others.
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    Try group fitness. If you find that you enjoy personal training, teaching classes to a group may be of interest to you as well. Many gyms don’t require extra certification to teach group classes, so it is easy to make this the next step. Some popular classes you might consider include spin/cycling, Zumba/dance, and different cardio workouts.
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    Start your own business. Although it may seem daunting, starting your own personal training business can be rewarding and help you to grow as a trainer. Look into the business requirements in your area and talk to local personal trainers for advice for your venture.[5]


  • Think about your life goals you wish to accomplish with a certification before starting the process of getting certified. This will help to keep you motivated and will make finding a job post-certification easier.
  • Always speak to local personal trainers for help in getting certified and for answering any questions you may have.
  • Decide where you will want to work once you have gained your qualification. Will this be employed within a gym or working as a self-employed trainer for a personal training company.
  • Ask the Company you join what they offer in terms of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and training, as many will subsidize training courses that you wish to attend whilst you work for them.

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Categories: Sporting Careers | Personal Fitness