Personal Training Certification Programs in California

Research personal training programs in California, which currently has a number of schools offering programs. Read an overview of certificates, tuition info and program options for nine schools and decide which program is right for you.

Essential Information

The state of California doesn't require personal trainers to become licensed or certified to provide service, but many of the following schools prepare students to sit for certification exams, which are offered by several professional organizations. Certificate programs can vary in length and scope, but potential personal trainers can expect to study basic anatomy and physiology, nutrition, exercise techniques and how to evaluate clients. Some programs also include an internship.

California State University-Dominguez Hills

California State University-Dominguez Hills, located in Carson, offers a personal fitness trainer certificate program approved by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). This course provides 16 hours of lectures, 16 hours of hands-on training and a 30-hour internship. Topics studied include exercise, anatomy, physiology and nutrition, while the training includes client evaluations, equipment usage and exercise techniques.

College of the Canyons

College of the Canyons, based in Santa Clarita, offers a personal training certificate of specialization program. This 10-credit program provides students with fundamental knowledge in kinesiology, resistance training, exercise and conditioning techniques, cardio cross-training and elective courses in anatomy and physiology or nutrition.

College of San Mateo

Located in San Mateo, the College of San Mateo offers a personal training certificate program designed to prepare students for the National Council of Strength and Fitness Certified Personal Trainer Exam (NCFS) exam. This program lasts 6 to 8 weeks and provides students with knowledge in subjects such as basic human anatomy, exercise physiology, health screening and assessment, nutrition and aerobic and anaerobic conditioning.

Diablo Valley College

Located in Pleasant Hills, Diablo Valley College offers a fitness instruction and personal training certificate program. This 21-credit program prepares students for an entry-level position as a personal trainer. Students learn the fundamental principles in exercise program design, exercise techniques, sports medicine, sports psychology, fitness testing and first aid/CPR.

Foothill College

Foothill College, based in Los Altos Hills, offers a personal fitness trainer certificate program. This 27 credit-hour program provides day and evening courses, and can be completed in 3 quarters. This program includes courses such as basic nutrition for sports and performance, strength fitness, prevention of athletic injuries and 2 internship programs. This program also prepares students to become certified through the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), or the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).

Merritt College

Merritt College in Oakland offers a personal trainer certificate program that prepares students for an entry-level career in personal training. This 14.5 credit-hour program includes courses in basic human anatomy and physiology, nutrition, fitness for personal trainers, weight training and interpersonal communication skills.

MiraCosta College

Located in Oceanside, MiraCosta college offers a 1-year personal fitness trainer certificate program that provides 18.5 to 21 credits. Some courses include introduction to kinesiology, exercise prescriptions for special populations, nutrition today, principles in health and an internship. This program also prepares students for ACSM or NSCA certification.

2-year; public; midsize city| Personal Fitness Trainer Certificate of Competence program | $394 to $453 tuition, including health and student center fees (depending on credits completed)*

Rio Hondo College

Rio Hondo College, based in Whittier, offers a fitness specialist certificate program that prepares students for an entry-level position as a fitness instructor or personal trainer. This 1-year full-time program includes course topics such as nutrition, weight control, cardiovascular conditioning and resistance training. It also prepares students for Aerobic and Fitness Association of America (AFFA), NSCA or ACE certification.

University of California - Los Angeles

The University of California in Los Angeles offers a personal fitness trainer certification program designed to provide students with basic knowledge in anatomy, physiology, adaptations to exercise, biomechanics, exercise technique, program design, special populations and adherence and motivation. This 2.5-quarter program teaches through lectures and practical training experience. To complete the program, students must pass the NSCA certification exam.

School Comparison: At a Glance

School Name School Type & Setting Personal Trainer Certificate Programs Offered Undergraduate Tuition (2015-2016)
California State University - Dominguez Hills 4-year; public; midsize city Personal Fitness Trainer certificate program $6,213 (in-state),
$17,373 (out-of-state)*
College of the Canyons 2-year; public; midsize suburb Personal Training Certificate of Specialization program $1,154*
College of San Mateo 2-year; public; small city Personal Training certificate program $1,324 (in-state),
$7,308 (out-of-state)*
Diablo Valley College 4-year; public; large suburb Fitness Instruction and Personal Training certificate program $1,298 (in-state),
$7,542 (out-of-state)*
Foothill College 2-year; public; large suburb Personal Fitness Trainer certificate program $1,551 (in-state),
$8,391 (out-of-state)*
Merritt College 2-year; public; large city Personal Trainer Certificate of Proficiency program $1,156 (in-state),
$6,316 (out-of-state)*
MiraCosta College 2-year; public; midsize city Personal Fitness Trainer Certificate of Achievement program $1,152 (in-state),
$5,952 (out-of-state)*
Rio Hondo College 2-year; public; large suburb Fitness Specialist certificate program $1,360 (in-state),
$6,960 (out-of-state)*
University of California - Los Angeles 4-year; public; large city Fitness Instruction certificate program $12,763 (in-state),
$37,471 (out-of-state)*

Source: *NCES College Navigator

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