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5 Simple Steps to Become a Personal Trainer

Reading Time: 5 minutes 30 seconds


Date: 2022-01-10T00:00:00-05:00

Becoming a personal trainer doesn’t require years of education and training. This is a major draw for many people. But don’t let the seeming lack of credential requirements fool you. Becoming a successful, effective trainer requires some preparation.

Consider what it takes to become a personal trainer and then follow these simple steps to begin an exciting, rewarding career in the fitness industry.

Is Personal Training the Right Career for You?

First, are you sure this is the right choice for your career path? With any type of job or career, it’s best to give some considered thought to this question before diving in. Rather than wasting time and resources, know for sure this is the right move for you and your future.

You Need a Passion for Fitness, but Not Necessarily a Fitness Body

This is probably what led you to consider a career as a trainer, and it’s obvious, right? What you may not realize is that you don’t need to be an expert already, have years of experience, or be completely ripped. If you’re a fitness enthusiast who loves physical fitness and health, you can learn to be a certified personal trainer.

You Should be a People Person

Personal trainers love helping people meet their fitness goals and get healthy. To succeed in and enjoy this career, you should have good interpersonal skills and genuinely enjoy working with others.

Beyond this, you also need to be able to communicate with others, which means listening and explaining clearly. You should be prepared to get to know your clients. You also need to be able to sell your services to potential clients and deal with conflicts as they arise.

You Probably Won’t Work 9-to-5

You must be willing to work with client schedules to succeed in this industry. People can’t always make it to a fitness center during convenient hours. The personal training industry does not operate on the standard Monday-through-Friday schedule. In fact, most need early morning, evening, and even weekend sessions.

The Steps to Become a Personal Trainer Take Time

Learning any skill takes time and effort. Can you commit to the process? Technically you can call yourself a fitness instructor right now. But if you’re serious about the career, you need to put in some work first. The proper steps to enter this career take time.

You can complete a certification course in a just few months. But not all of us are fast learners. So, also consider any extra time you may want to learn the material, pass certification exams, learn from a mentor, and build your business and attract clients.

The Important Steps to Become a Personal Trainer

If you’ve given it some thought and feel like you understand what it takes to be a good trainer, you’re ready to follow these simple but crucial steps:

#1. Get Your Prerequisites

There are no official or legal requirements for working as a personal trainer. No state government licenses or registers trainers. However, to be taken seriously, to be hired by a gym, and to get clients, you do need some credentials.

Begin with some basic prerequisites. Again, these are not necessarily required, but they’re good to have before starting a personal trainer certification program. First, you should have earned a high school diploma or GED. It’s also important to be certified in CPR/AED and first aid. You can take a Red Cross course in your area for this important safety credential.

It’s also a good idea to start your own fitness routine if you don’t have one already. Start getting more into fitness with regular gym sessions, by creating your own plan to meet goals, and trying athletic hobbies, like running a 5k or entering a fitness competition.

#2. Choose and Enroll in a Personal Trainer Certification Program

Getting certified really is a must. Some employers won’t hire trainers without certification. Even if you can find work without it, you won’t be well-equipped to help your clients reach their fitness goals. And, if you want to start your own fitness training business, getting those clients signed on will be virtually impossible unless you have credentials.

The second, crucial step in becoming a fitness trainer is to find, enroll in, and complete a certification program. Here’s what to look for:

  • Accreditation. Any program you choose should be accredited by a recognized sports and fitness or higher education accrediting agency.

  • Certification exam. To be certified, you must pass an exam. The exam should also be accredited and included in the course.

  • Exercise science. The right program will have a foundation in the exercise of science. Research informs fitness, and you should be learning about it through your certification program.

  • Specializations. To begin, you only need a general personal training course, but the school should offer specializations. These are continuing education courses you can take to be able to provide clients with additional services in the future.

  • Guarantees. The money and time you spend on certification should mean something. Look for a personal training certification program that offers a money-back guarantee if you don’t find a job within a specified amount of time.

  • Business support. A well-rounded certification program should include information on starting your own business and resources, like a free website.

Don’t be tempted by the “easy” certification programs. They’ll only let you down. Here’s why.

#3. Prep for and Pass Your Certification Exam

The right program will provide an accredited certification exam and prepare you to pass it. Once you’ve finished your coursework, take some time to study. Use practice exams and other provided materials to prepare. When you’re ready, take the exam, and with a passing score, receive your hard-earned certification.

#4. Find a Job

Even if you envision yourself as an entrepreneur and striking out on your own, it’s a good idea to work for a gym or studio first. This will give you valuable experience to bring to your personal training business. Of course, working as an employee indefinitely is also a valid career choice.

It’s also perfectly reasonable to start your own personal training business right away if you feel ready to do so. Your certification program should have taught you some basic business and marketing skills, so you can get up and running as a successful fitness professional.

If you plan to land a job first, start researching gyms and what they require in a fitness trainer. Get your credentials together along with a polished resume and set up interviews. Some gyms will want to see you lead a class or a client training session as part of the hiring process, so be ready for that.

You may also want to consider working with a mentor or shadowing an experienced trainer before getting a job or as you start your first job. You can learn a lot from other trainers and the experience will only make you a better, more successful personal trainer.

#5. Maintain Certification with Continuing Education and Specializations

Once your career is off and running, remember that the learning never ends. The best trainers keep learning and earning credentials. At a minimum, maintain your personal trainer certifications. Renewal requirements vary by school and program, but most likely you will need to take classes periodically.

In addition to getting updates on general training, you may want to earn a specialty certification or two. These add-on programs help you offer more services to clients. Some options include group fitness, senior fitness, exercise recovery, health and nutrition coaching, bodybuilding, weight management, and more–all of which are offered by the International Sports Sciences Association!

Ready To Take The Leap?

Becoming a personal trainer is so much more than simply enjoying fitness and being at the gym. There is a science to working out and training clients. Find the right certification program and do the work it takes to be successful in this career.

The perfect way to begin your career is with the ISSA’s Certified Personal Trainer – Self-Guided Study Program. Learn online, from home, and at your own pace. You’ll get everything you need to start training clients and run your own business.

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