4 Ways to Become a Certified Personal Trainer for Free


Get the Basics...

  • There are a few free personal training certifications online.
  • If you work at a gym, your gym might sponsor your training.
  • There are tuition assistance programs available for military members.
  • You may be able to take advantage of community college tuition assistance programs.

You might have goals of becoming a personal trainer, but you may not be able to pay the fee for a personal training certification course. On the other hand, you might just want to get your toes wet before you purchase a certification course.

Fortunately, there are things that you can do to obtain a certification for free.

You may be able to receive help from your employer, take a free certification program, or take advantage of local education opportunities such as community college. While you consider your options, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of going through one of these no-cost routes to earn your personal training certification.

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Begin Working at a Gym

If you work at a gym, you can show them that you’re a valuable employee. You may be able to work at the front desk of a gym and take care of routine things like selling memberships, cleaning equipment, and checking in guests for their visits. Your employment is your chance to show the gym that you’re valuable to the company.

Once the gym owners think you’re a great employee, they may be interested in sponsoring your education. You might have the best chance for an employer sponsorship at a small gym where you can prove yourself to management or at a large gym that has a formal tuition sponsorship program.

If the customers love you, helping you get a personal training certification could be a great move for the gym. After you’ve proven that you’re a great employee, the gym may be willing to sponsor your education.

Use Military Benefits

Some personal trainers find their way to the fitness industry after a career in the military. The military may be a good start for a future career as a personal trainer because you learn some fitness and training techniques in military service. Military members receive education benefits. These benefits are commonly known as the GI bill. The military allows members to use these benefits for some personal training certification programs.

Most certification programs are eager to accommodate military members to help them apply their GI benefits to earn a certification. In addition to accepting GI benefits, some programs offer discounts or scholarships for military members. If you want to use your GI benefits, it’s important to make sure that your benefits apply and arrange for payment before you commit to a program.

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Choose a Free Certification Program

There are a few organizations online that offer free online certification programs. If all you need is any kind of certification to hang on the wall, a free online program can be a way that you can obtain one in as little as a day. Even reputable universities are offering more and more free, web-based education to the public.

It’s important to keep in mind that these programs don’t offer degrees, and the employer you want to work for may not accept them as official certification. In most cases, these programs aren’t as thorough as paid certification programs. However, they may allow you to obtain certification quickly and without having to enter credit card information.

Research Community Education Programs

Some communities offer free education for their residents. For example, Chicago residents that meet certain qualifications can pursue an associate’s degree from a Chicago community college at no charge. City Colleges of Chicago offer several fitness-related programs. Once of them is a certificate as a fitness trainer.

The State of Tennessee has a similar program. You can see if programs available in your area offer a free personal trainer certification program. Even if your community college doesn’t offer free tuition, you can apply for grants and scholarships. Community colleges and even universities offer scholarships and grants that are based on both need and academic merit.

Scholarship and grant awards can eliminate or significantly reduce the cost of your higher education. You can look for information on the organization’s website, or you can make a phone call to ask for the details.

Important Things to Consider

It’s important to consider your career goals when you make a decision about how to pursue your education. Think about where you ultimately want to end up, and then decide if a free personal training certification helps you reach those goals.

Most gyms that employ and contract with personal trainers require all trainers to have a certification. Usually, you’ll need one of a handful of recognized certifications.

If you want to work at a gym, and they don’t recognize your certification, a certification that you get for free might not be helpful to you.

A free certification can teach you about the industry and help you improve your skills, but it might not be what you need to get the job that you want. On the other hand, if your employer only requires you to have any kind of certification, a free certification may meet your needs.

In addition, if you’re just looking to learn more about the industry, the free certification can be an option to learn a little bit about being a personal trainer. In any event, do your research before you choose a program, so that you’re not surprised and disappointed by where it gets you.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Which personal training certification is the best one?

All of the various personal training certifications have different requirements, costs, study materials, exam details, recertification requirements, and continuing education credits (CECs) or units (CEUs). It’s important to do your homework and review all of the details before deciding on which one is best for you. The certifications that have been NCCA-accredited are more reputable than others that are not accredited because they have met a certain level of standards for the certification.

How long should I study for a personal training certification exam?

It varies among individuals. If you recently finished a degree with courses covering most of the content in the exam, you might be able to take it more quickly than someone who does not have that background. With NESTA, once you register for the exam, you have 90 days to complete the exam. Other organizations will vary on their timelines.

How much money do personal trainers make?

This varies depending on location, experience, and how many clients you are training.

Where can I train my personal training clients?

There are a number of places where you could train your clients like a gym, a park, your home, their home, or your own studio.

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