Where can I go to become a certified personal trainer? | Exercise.com Learn: Your Fitness Business Resource

Where can I go to become a certified personal trainer?

Tyler Spraul is the director of UX and the head trainer for Exercise.com. He has his Bachelor of Science degree in pre-medicine and is an NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist. He is a former All-American soccer player and still coaches soccer today. In his free time, he enjoys reading, learning, and living the dad life. He has been featured in Shape, Healthline, HuffPost, Women's...

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UPDATED: Jun 30, 2021

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  • There are a handful of personal training certifications that are the most recognized in the industry.
  • Most organizations offer a hybrid of online and independent study.
  • Some organizations offer study and examination completely online.
  • You can go to college or a university to become a personal trainer.
  • Make sure you think long-term when you make your choice.

If you want to enter the personal training profession, you may wonder where to look for a personal training certification. Even if you don’t have to get a personal training certification for your job or self-employment, it’s a good idea to have a formal certification so that you’re competent and confident in your professional skills.

It’s also an important stepping stone as you plan for your future career ambitions. There are a lot of places that you can go if you’re looking for a personal training certification.

In some cases, you can get a personal training certification without ever leaving the comfort of your home. There are also options that allow you to learn in a classroom as part of a college degree program or as part of a class that’s specific for certifying personal trainers.

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Online, Independent Study, and Hybrid Programs

Most certification programs offer a combination of home study and proctored testing. Some organizations offer testing completely online, but most companies require you to go to a testing center to test. Most organizations ship you a book as part of your registration fee.

Others keep their materials completely online. There are a few organizations that are the most known and recognized in the personal training profession.

American Council on Exercise

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) is one organization that offers online and book study. Once a candidate feels they’ve mastered the material, they can sign up to take their certification exam. Candidates may take a computer-based exam, but they must take the exam in person at a testing location. ACE offers applicants access to online resources to help them master the material.

The American College of Sports Medicine

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is another place to look for a personal training certification. They offer testing at many locations throughout the world. The ACSM offers self-guided study with a variety of study platforms that include textbooks and online support.

The National Academy of Sports Medicine

The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) is another reputable certification program. NASM offers both self-study and guided instruction. There are multiple price points depending on what type of certification you’re looking for and what study support you prefer.

Certifications Completely Online

Other organizations offer certification courses that are completely online. These organizations offer the opportunity to both study and test online without a specific date and testing time. An online certification program may be an option for an individual who lives too far to drive to a testing location.

While programs that are completely online may not be as comprehensive as brick and mortar programs, an online program may meet the needs of a person who cannot travel to a testing facility or a person looking for a basic certification to hang on the wall.

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A Community College

Community colleges and universities have programs that certify personal trainers. Unlike online programs, these programs are likely to be in a classroom with live instruction. A certified personal training course from a community college is going to feel a lot like any community college course. It will likely meet several times on a regular basis over the course of a semester.

While some community college personal training certifications are a single course, others are an entire program with a comprehensive set of related classes and coursework. It’s important to make sure that the program you’re looking for meets your needs and gives you the instruction you need.

A University Degree Program

Many major universities offer personal training as part of their majors and programs. Like the community college programs, you may take a single course, or you might take a series of courses that provide a comprehensive background in personal health and fitness. Students may have an opportunity to take the personal training course independently or as part of a degree program in exercise science.

There are a number of different ways that a university degree can allow you to work as a highly specialized personal trainer. For example, a bachelor of science degree in nutrition can help prepare you to prescribe diet plans for clients. With this degree, you can become a certified nutritionist to help clients tackle obesity.

A bachelor of science in kinesiology is another option for a university program that offers a high degree of specialty for individuals looking to find their niche as a personal trainer. Likewise, a bachelor of science in health studies could lead to a career as a physical therapist.

National Strength and Conditioning Association Certification

If you have a college degree, you can go to the National Strength and Conditioning Association for certification as a personal trainer. The certifications that the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) offers are geared toward teaching trainers to help athletes build strength and fitness for athletic competition or bodybuilding.

They have a number of different certifications. The available certifications include a personal training certification. Certifications from the NSCA require all candidates to have at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field.

You Should Also Look For CPR and AED Certification

Most personal trainer certification programs require candidates to have current CPR training and AED certification. Getting CPR and AED certification usually means spending a day taking a first aid class. The American Heart Association is one organization where you can go to look for classes in your area. The Red Cross also offers First Aid training.

Think About the Big Picture

When you’re considering where to go to find your personal training certification, you need to think about your career goals. If you want to become a coach for a college or professional sports team, you should earn your personal training certification as part of your college degree.

If you want to work with individuals in the community, an independent personal training certification may be what you need.

The gym you want to work for may not recognize all personal training certification programs as acceptable for employment. Limitations on what programs employers recognize mean that it’s worth your while to do your research before you select a program.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What certification do most personal trainers have?

Most personal trainers are certified through ACE or NASM.

Can a personal trainer have a certification and be a bad trainer?

Yes; just as a doctor can have a medical degree and still be a “bad” doctor, having a personal training certification does not mean that the trainer is an effective one.

How long does becoming a certified personal trainer take?

It depends on the certification. Some only require a few days or weeks of studying; others require months of study and other pre-requisites like a college degree.

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