Training & Credentials Required for Fitness Professions

Instructor: Joshua Bowles

Joshua is a Sports Medicine and Athletic Training Instructor and has a Master's degree in Kinesiology.

In this lesson, we will discuss a few professions within the health and fitness industry. We will also cover the different credentials required and what type of training and education is involved for these professions.

Healthy & Fit

Nowadays living a healthy lifestyle and being physically fit has become increasingly popular. Due to this massive increase in popularity, many new and existing professions have also grown in popularity. Walk in any gym in Main Street, America and you will find a personal trainer. Most larger commercial health clubs also may offer therapy services and even specialized coaching. Many people look to these professions to help become more healthy and even as a possible career choice. In this lesson, we will examine details of these specific professions.


The term coach can refer to many different professions. Most notably a sports coach that works with athletes and instructs them on how to perform better at their respective sport. For these professions, a college degree is required and most will also be required to teach a subject matter, for example English, Math, or Science. This is especially true if the position is located in the high school or collegiate setting. No extra training is usually required for this profession, although many coaches will generally start off with a certain position or smaller sport and work their way up the career ladder.

Another coaching profession within the fitness industry is the Strength and Conditioning Coach.These positions work directly with athletes in many various settings specifically working on the physical strength and reconditioning of athletes. This can even be more specific in terms of certain goals, for example fat loss or muscle building. These positions typically require a college degree and many universities across the country now offer programs geared toward individuals wanting to pursue this career path. Extra training and credentialing will also be required. The most common credential earned by strength and conditioning coaches is the CSCS certification from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), which stands for Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.

Cardio equipment at a fitness center
Cardio gym equipment


The trainer, or more specifically the personal trainer, also sometimes referred to as a fitness trainer, is a profession designed around body composition training. This means that a personal trainer's role in the fitness industry is to work with an individual to help them meet their goals of changing their body shape and overall health and fitness level. There is usually no higher level education requirement for becoming a personal trainer. Although a bachelor's level degree in some form of health and fitness specialization is certainly helpful. Credentialing, however, is a necessary requirement for this profession.

Common organizations that offer certifications for personal training include:

  • NASM: National Academy of Sports Medicine
  • ACSM: American College of Sports Medicine
  • ISSA: International Sports Science Association
  • ACE: American Council on Exercise

And of course the previously mentioned NSCA is another well used organization that also offers a personal training certification. There are many others but these tend to be some of the more popular to date.

Personal Trainer working with athlete
Personal Trainer


There are a few different variations to the therapist profession within the fitness industry. Physical Therapy is a profession within the healthcare field that works to rehabilitate and strengthen individuals that may have suffered injuries. This can be in a clinical setting working with post-surgical patients or with fitness professionals who may have suffered physical injuries from their sport or over-training. A physical therapist must obtain an undergraduate degree and then will attend a physical therapy school and earn a doctorate degree. They must also pass a rigorous certification exam from the state the therapist resides in. Each state has a licencing requirement in order for the therapist to practice, so it is up to the individual to research those requirements.

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