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Personal Trainer Degrees by Degree Program Level

Personal trainers work with clients to improve their fitness levels. Aspiring personal trainers can seek associate's, bachelor's and master's degrees in various sports and fitness programs.

Essential Information

Many colleges and universities offer degree programs for aspiring personal trainers. Associate's, bachelor's and master's degrees in sports medicine, exercise science, kinesiology or physical education are typical paths for this career field. 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 in the areas of exercise science, kinesiology and physical education with general core requirements as well. 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.

  • Program Levels for Personal Training: Associate's, bachelor's and master's degrees
  • Personal Training Program Fields: Sports medicine, exercise science, kinesiology, physical education
  • Prerequisites: High school diploma; bachelor's degree in kinesiology, exercise science or similar area for master's degree program
  • Program Lengths: Two years for associate's degree; four years for bachelor's degree; two years for master's degree

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. These programs combine studies in areas like nutrition and fitness with some minimal general education classes. The curriculum for exercise science and fitness and health programs consists mainly of introductory and fundamental courses in the following areas:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Fitness
  • First aid
  • Weight training
  • Aerobics
  • 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. Courses focusing on exercise techniques and biomechanics are combined with core general education requirements to complete the degree program. 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 comprehensive and 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
  • Biostatistics
  • Epidemiology

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Employment of fitness trainers and instructors, including personal trainers, is expected to increase by 13% between 2012-2022, 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, the BLS states. In May 2014, fitness trainers and aerobics instructors earned a median annual salary of $34,980, 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
  • Coach
  • 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).

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