Since I mentioned renewing my personal training certification last month on social media, I have had a lot of people ask me different questions about becoming a personal trainer. Do I have to get certified? How do I get certified? What program is the best for certification? The questions keep coming so I thought I would answer them and some other common questions in a blog post.
Why Get Certified
Do your future clients a favor and do not pursue a personal training career without certification. It doesn’t take that long or cost that much compared to the incredible value that an accredited program offers. Not only are you doing your future clients (and employers) a favor, you’re doing yourself a favor. Before I started studying for my certification test I thought I had a good amount of knowledge to apply to a personal training career. I really thought the certification was just a technicality, for the most part. Then I dove into my study material and I realized just how much I didn’t know. Unless you already have some sort of exercise science or related degree, you’ll likely feel the same way.
Do you have to be certified? In my opinion, that’s a hard yes. Can you get a job as a trainer without a certification? Yes. Like I talked about in a post I wrote about the things you should know if you’re thinking about hiring a personal trainer, there is no single regulatory body for personal trainers. Basically, no one is keeping up with trainers and their qualifications, or lack thereof.
Anyone who has any exercise experience can take people through the workouts they have done themselves. But what works for you won’t work for everyone. An accredited program teaches so much more than writing programs. It teaches anatomy, exercise science, screening procedures, behavior change, scope of practice, and other important aspects of becoming an expert at creating the right course of action for each individual. The bottom line is that personal training is not a one size fits all process for every client. If you don’t have the knowledge to effect real change in people’s lives individually then you will not be successful long term. So if you’re still on board for becoming a personal trainer. Let’s talk about how to get certified.
How to Get Certified
A personal training certification can be obtained through several different, highly reputable organizations with accredited programs. One of those being ACE, the American Red Cross. This must be done before you can schedule your PT certification exam.
How to Get Experience
Looking back now, I wish I had spent some time shadowing an experienced certified trainer. The truth is, that never crossed my mind and I wish someone would have told me that I should do that. So this is me, telling you to spend some time with someone who knows what they’re doing.
Inevitably there will be a learning curve when you start out on your own, but there are a lot of things you won’t have to learn the hard way (like me) if you can position yourself to see the work first hand before you do it. So go ahead and add this step into the above list somewhere at the beginning. The more time you can spend shadowing, the better. It would even be great to shadow more than one person in different training settings, if possible.
To find a certified trainer near you, go to your local gyms and search online for independent trainers. You can use ACE’s find a trainer tool here. The most important thing is to be sure they are certified through an accredited program. Don’t just take their word for it either. You should be able to find them through whatever organization they say they are certified with. Just let them know you’re working on becoming a personal trainer and a good certified trainer will be glad to help you. Also, don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions while you’re shadowing.
Where to Work
Starting out, unless you plan on working independently from the gate, this is going to depend a lot on who will give you a chance without any first hand experience. Gyms are your best bet and it’s not a bad idea to check with the gym where you shadowed a trainer. They already saw your initiative to learn and might be willing to let you get some experience there. Overall, we have several different options as trainers.
- Independent training: you control your schedule, rates, etc. You train in the client’s home, your own home gym, online training, outdoor boot camps, or make a deal with a local gym so you can pay a fee to train your clients there.
- Gym or Community Center employee: your employer controls your rates, usually your hours though they might be flexible. This gives you access to members and the gyms platform for advertising your services.
- Corporate Wellness, Resorts or Cruise Ships, Apartment Complexes: this is going to depend a lot on where you live, but if you have any of these options I recommend looking into them. The hours are typically good and the pay can be above average, especially for corporate wellness and resorts or cruise ships.
- Fitness Writer: once you become educated on the subject, there are endless possibilities when it comes to writing. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of blogs, online magazines, and companies who still do print who are looking for people to write articles for them.
If you take the right steps in the beginning, your training certification can take you in some unexpected and exciting directions. Becoming a personal trainer isn’t easy and working as one has it’s challenges as well, but it is rewarding. Be sure to subscribe to my blog for more on personal training and other every day life related things.