How to Become a Certified Personal Trainer
Have you ever dreamed of making your passion your career? Love helping people, inspiring others, and working out? If so, you could be a great personal fitness trainer.
Certified personal trainers are in demand as more people turn to fitness and a healthier lifestyle. These individuals have the right attitude and want to make changes, but they need guidance. They need qualified, educated, and experienced personal trainers, and that could be you. Here’s everything you need to know to get started.
Personal Training – Is This Career Right for You?
First, make sure you know that this is the right career for you. Who makes the best trainers? Anyone who:
- Likes working with and helping other people.
- Enjoys fitness and working out.
- Is fun and energetic.
- Wants a career with a flexible schedule.
- Wants a job that is fun yet more meaningful than just a job.
- Is genuinely interested in health and fitness.
- Wants control over their own career.
Here’s what you don’t need to have in order to become a certified personal trainer:
- Years of experience working out
- A muscle-bound weight lifter
- A perfect body
- A bachelor’s degree
- Pre-existing experience in the fitness industry
All you really need is the passion and a willingness to go through the training, education, study materials, and exams that will prepare you to do this job well. Most of these personal training programs are online, which makes it even more convenient to start.
The Benefits of Working as a Certified Personal Trainer
There are a lot of good reasons to become a certified personal trainer, starting with the ability to make a career out of what you love doing. Working out, helping others, and promoting health and fitness are what this career is all about, and being able to be a part of it is the greatest reward.
Other important benefits are that you get a flexible career and control over how you work. Make your own schedule, work part time or full time, and set your own rates to determine what you earn. You’ll also have options to specialize; be a general trainer or focus on nutrition, strength, professional athletes, older adults, or people with disabilities. Once a personal fitness trainer, there’s other adjacent careers you might span into. These include becoming a fitness instructor, athletic trainer, weight loss coach, wellness coach, and physical therapy assistant just to name a few. Being a fitness professional opens more than just one door to a new full-time career.
Education for Personal Trainers
Working as a fitness trainer involves much more than just having a love for fitness; it also requires a deep knowledge of how to work out effectively and how to lead and guide others. To become a personal trainer you’ll need to start with your own education. And to enroll in a program, in most cases you only need a high school diploma.
Personal Trainer Programs Online
Completing an online program is a common way to become certified as a personal trainer. You probably already make fitness a big part of your life and have a good understanding of the basics. What you need to learn are more technical details, and that can easily be done through online courses that you finish at your own pace.
When looking for an online program, like the ISSA’s Personal Trainer Certification program keep in mind that they’re not all the same. Look for these important factors when picking a program:
- Any course you choose should be accredited by a reputable organization. ISSA’s programs, for instance, are accredited by the Distance Education Accreditation Commission and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
- Take a look at professional affiliations as well. Online trainer programs should be connected to well-known fitness and athletic groups, like the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association.
- Know the history of the organization that will be training you. There should be information on the website about who leads classes, who founded the program, the experts staffing it now, and the guiding principles and mission.
- Extras like small business training, marketing education, and partnerships with gyms will help you learn the business of training and lead you to your first gig.
- Make sure there’s adequate study materials or instructor led online personal training programs. These types of fitness education programs will help ensure your success.
How Long Does it Take?
One of the benefits of choosing an online program is that you can complete it at your own pace. The ISSA’s basic personal training certification course can generally be completed in less than a year, but really the timeline is dictated by your needs and limitations. You can keep working at your current job and focus on your courses evenings and weekends, which may take longer but will still help you get to your goal.
What are the Costs of Personal Trainer Programs?
The cost of a personal trainer program will depend on which one you choose. Most general programs run between $500 and $1,000. Be sure to find out what is included before you make your choice. There may be extra fees for books, technology costs, certification exam fees, or extra specializations. Many online fitness schools will work with you to make monthly payments too, so you don’t have to pay the entire cost up front.
Continuing Education and Specializations
A basic certified personal trainer program is an excellent place to start your new career. It will teach you all the basics of working with clients:
- Basic anatomy and physiology
- Exercise science and kinesiology
- Assessing fitness, health, and exercise needs
- Creating individualized exercise programs for clients
- Implementing nutrition and dietary changes within a fitness plan
- Working with special populations, like senior clients or prenatal women
- Starting and building a successful personal training business
- Landing a job at a gym
Specialized certification courses will delve more deeply into different aspects of training. These will allow you to help more people and will also benefit your business as clients will come to you looking for the specialized training they need. You can earn specializations right away or take the courses later as a part of your continuing education. Here are some special certifications you may consider working on:
- Fitness nutrition or sports nutrition
- Corrective exercise
- Group fitness
- Exercise as therapy
- Fitness for seniors
- Youth fitness
- Strength and conditioning
Advanced programs can include master trainer and elite trainer. Learn more about what it takes to become an elite personal trainer—and why it’s worth it. Check out the ISSA’s elite program.
What Kind of Certifications Do You Need to Be a Personal Trainer?
State and local governments don’t require that people working as personal trainers have any specific type or degree of training, certification, or licensing. However, employers like gyms may have requirements. And certainly, clients hiring you will want to know that you are certified.
Certifications offered through online schools like the ISSA are only as valid as the school itself. This is why it is so important to choose the right program from a reputable and accredited institution. Not all certifications are the same, so make sure yours is backed up by a real organization that prepares professional trainers.
To get certified you’ll need to take the courses so you can pass the certification exams. You will need to be certified as a general personal trainer at a minimum. But if you choose to specialize in certain areas like nutrition or bodybuilding, you’ll take extra exams for additional certifications.
You may also work toward achieving elite or master personal trainer certification. These certifications demonstrate that you have gone beyond basic training and have more extensive knowledge of fitness and specialty areas.
Interested in working with athletes? Check out the ISSA’s special Strength and Conditioning Certification program.
Now You’re a Certified Personal Trainer – Find a Job
Starting a training business is a great goal to hit, but it can be challenging too. You need to be insured; you may have to register in the state in which you work; and you’ll have to build up a client base.
Instead of starting a business right off the bat you may want to consider getting a job at a gym and putting in a couple years of experience and work with clients before heading off on your own. Some gyms hire and pay personal trainers, while others rent space and time in the gym for you to train your own clients.
Finding that first job can be challenging, but the demand and the need are there. Start with your school and find out if it offers any assistance with job placement. Many online programs are affiliated with gyms and clubs and can get you interviews. Also, strike out on your own to see what’s available. Be prepared to present sample workouts and ideas for how you will train clients with different needs.
Becoming a certified personal trainer is a worthy goal. If you love working out, have a passion for fitness and health, and you enjoy working with and helping people, this is a great career choice. As people become more interested in losing weight and being healthy, qualified and committed professional trainers will continue to be in demand.
Kick start your exciting new career in personal training by checking out what the ISSA has to offer for online programs and certifications.