Although education requirements for this occupation vary widely, certification is key to gaining employment as a physical fitness trainer. Focused certificate programs within the field are available fully online and help prepare individuals for certification in order to begin their career.
There are many online certificate programs in personal fitness training. Students can access lectures, class assignments, texts and tests online. Most certificate courses for physical trainers consist of five courses that the students can complete at their own convenience. Some programs offer an option for an internship in order to gain hands-on experience.
It takes from a few months to two years to complete these physical trainer programs. Most programs include courses in conducting health risk and fitness assessment techniques and designing exercise programs for specific populations. There are also courses in exercise science, which look at human anatomy and physiology as well as kinesiology. Students may also take a course in business management for personal trainers.
Individuals should make sure any online program they are considering qualifies graduates to take a certification examination from a recognized professional trainer organization. There are several certifying agencies for personal fitness trainers, and most require training and passing an exam.
Certificate Program in Personal Fitness Training
An online certificate program in personal fitness training provides individuals with the knowledge and skills needed to begin careers within the health and fitness industry. Studies include exercise science concepts, flexibility development, fitness regimens for weight management, exercise prescriptions and nutrition.
Courses prepare students to perform fitness evaluations, give advice on nutritional needs and help determine the fitness needs of their clients. Upon completion of an online certificate program in personal fitness training, individuals are eligible to sit for the Personal Trainer Certification Exam administrated by the National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF) or other certifying agency.
Program Information and Requirements
This type of online program can be completed in as little as five months or take up to two years to complete. Depending on the program, course requirements typically include five in-depth courses or modules that provide targeted courses relevant to each module's learning objective. All courses are offered online through class discussions, written assignments, textbook readings, projects, quizzes and exams. Some programs also offer an optional field internship for credit towards certificate requirements.
Students are expected to interact with each other and their instructors by phone or email, as well as through online study hours and class discussion forums. Program participants must have access to high-speed Internet and word processing software.
Online Certificate Program in Personal Fitness Training
Certificate programs of this type combine coursework that provides general overviews of concepts and principles of exercise science, physiology, strength and endurance with courses that specifically address how to strengthen targeted muscle groups. Courses in flexibility and injury prevention are also typically included.
Introduction to Exercise Science
This course provides an overview of anatomy and kinesiology, as well as a study on musculoskeletal and functional anatomy. In order to develop safe and effective exercise programs, emphasis is placed on proper body alignment, basic biomechanics, range of motion and kinesiology principles.
Students are introduced to the relationship between calories and energy, including balancing carbohydrates, proteins and fats in a healthy eating plan. Other topics include nutritional needs for men and women, vitamins and minerals, herbal supplements, healthy ingredients, preparation methods and daily water intake.
Designing Exercise Prescriptions
Lessons teach students how to develop exercise prescriptions while considering health implications for normal and special populations, including age, fitness level and medical conditions. Topics include asthma, cardiac conditions, diabetes, pregnancy, children's exercise needs and programs for senior populations. Often research-based, this course emphasizes designing a step-by-step process for creating individualized exercise programs.
Certified personal physical trainers can find employment opportunities in a variety of settings, including public and private fitness centers, public and private school systems, recreation centers, resorts and spas, sport-specific training centers, hospital-based wellness centers and corporate wellness programs. Job opportunities for fitness trainers and aerobics instructors were projected to increase by 8% between 2014 and 2024 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), growing as fast as average for all occupations (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported that as of May 2015 fitness trainers and aerobics instructors in the U.S. earned a median annual salary of $36,160.
Continuing Education Information
Certified personal training credentials can be obtained through a number of certifying organizations, including NCSF, the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) and the American Sports and Fitness Association (ASFA). Most certifying organizations require students to pass a written exam, have a current CPR certification and a minimum of a high school diploma in order to earn certification; however, a practical exam component may also be required.
Certified personal trainers are typically required to renew their certification every two years by completing continuing education courses or attending relevant industry conferences. Although not required for professional certification, graduates may also consider an online associate's or bachelor's degree program in a related area, such as kinesiology or personal training.
The completion of an online physical trainer certificate program is an acceptable training option to prepare for physical fitness trainer certification. Most programs are fully online covering topics such as exercise science, nutrition basics and exercise program design, and students can participate in practical work.