Many colleges and universities offer degree programs for aspiring personal trainers. Associate's degree programs typically last two years and combine health and fitness courses with some general education requirements. Bachelor's-level study usually focuses on various areas of exercise with general core requirements as well. Two-year master's degree programs provide a more comprehensive knowledge of how the human body works. Professional certification is available for personal trainers from any degree level.
An associate's degree program requires a high school diploma, while a bachelor's degree in kinesiology, exercise science or similar area is needed for a master's degree program.
Personal Trainer Associate's Degrees
The most common associate's degree programs for aspiring personal trainers are in exercise science or in fitness and health. The curriculum consists mainly of introductory and fundamental courses in the following areas:
- Anatomy and physiology
- First aid
- Weight training
- Athletic training
Personal Trainer Bachelor's Degrees
Bachelor's degrees in the areas of exercise science, kinesiology or physical education provide foundational training for those aspiring to become personal trainers. These programs provide students with a firm background in human anatomy, wellness, nutrition, strength, physical fitness and other related subjects. Topics addressed in the typical curriculum of these programs include:
- Human anatomy
- Strength and conditioning
- Sports and fitness nutrition
- Theory of exercise
- Fitness and health analysis
- Weight management
Personal Trainer Master's Degrees
While it is not necessary for personal trainers to earn graduate degrees, some master's degree programs in the field do exist. Graduates in these programs draw from knowledge gained at the undergraduate level and apply it to more extensive studies in human movement and functional anatomy. Students learn how to design fitness programs and evaluate health programs. Some typical coursework at this level includes:
- Exercise physiology
- Physical activity for the aged
- Sport psychology
- Applied kinesiology
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Employment of fitness trainers and instructors, including personal trainers, is expected to increase by 8% between 2014-2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) (www.bls.gov). This growth is due mainly to a continued increase in fitness awareness and participation especially in businesses, government, and insurance organizations, the BLS states. In May 2015, fitness trainers and aerobics instructors earned a median annual salary of $36,160, as reported by the BLS.
Popular Career Options
Graduates of programs in exercise science or fitness and health are qualified to work in a variety of positions, in addition to being a personal trainer. Other positions in this field might include:
- Aerobics instructor
- Physical education teacher
- Corporate fitness consultant
- Youth sports coordinator
Continuing Education Information
Many employers require that personal trainers become certified. Personal trainer certification is offered by a number of nonprofit health and fitness organizations. These organizations include the American Council on Exercise (ACE), (www.acefitness.org), National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), (www.nasm.org) and American Fitness Professionals & Associates (AFPA), (www.afpafitness.com).
Students looking for a degree in personal training have various degree options to consider including an associate's, bachelor's, and master's program. While undergraduate programs focus on exercise and nutrition courses, a graduate program advances that knowledge and focuses on human movement and functional anatomy.