Fitness Training Certification to Be a Certified Personal Trainer

Explore the requirements to become a certified personal trainer. Learn about the job description and duties, and review the step-by-step process that can help you start a career in fitness training. View article »

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  • 0:04 Personal Trainers
  • 0:58 Step 1: High School Diploma
  • 1:27 Step 2: CPR Certification
  • 2:10 Step 3: CPT Credential
  • 3:42 Step 4: Experience
  • 3:57 Step 5: Advancement

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Video Transcript

Personal Trainers

Personal trainers lead and motivate individuals or groups through fitness activities that might include stretching, strength training, and cardiovascular exercise. They demonstrate workout routines, adapt exercises to clients' fitness and skill levels, show clients techniques to improve their workouts, and provide first aid when needed. They may also help educate clients about health and wellness. This occupation is physically demanding because of the high level of activity involved.

Personal trainers must have excellent customer service, motivational, and speaking skills. They should also be good listeners and problem solvers. From 2014 to 2024, fitness trainers and instructors can expect an 8%, or fast as average, growth in jobs based on information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). As of May 2015, fitness trainers and instructors earned an average annual salary of $40,970.

Step 1: High School Diploma

Organizations that offer Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) credential typically require a high school diploma or its equivalent as a prerequisite for taking the certification exam. However, some aspiring personal trainers choose to earn an associate's or bachelor's degree in an exercise-related or health-related field, like exercise science, kinesiology, or physical education. An associate's or bachelor's degree is required for advanced certification and may be necessary to obtain a management position.

Step 2: CPR Certification

Along with a high school diploma, prerequisites for taking the Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) exam usually include certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Professional organizations that offer personal trainer certification differ in which types of CPR certification they'll accept. For example, the American College of Sports Medicine asks for adult CPR certification through the American Red Cross, American Heart Association, or Emergency Care and Safety Institute, among organizations. The National Strength and Conditioning Association requires certification courses with a hands-on component. In addition to CPR, some organizations require automated external defibrillator (AED) certification.

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Step 3: CPT Credential

Some of the organizations that offer the Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) credential include the American College of Sports Medicine, National Academy of Sports Medicine, National Council for Certified Personal Trainers, National Exercise Trainers Association, and National Strength and Conditioning Association. The National Certified Personal Trainer credential is also available through the National Council on Strength and Fitness.

The Academy of Applied Personal Training Education offers the Certified Personal Trainer - Exercise Fitness Specialist (CPT-EFS) credential. Requirements include a valid CPT certification or completion of an anatomy course.

Success Tips:

  • Specialize. The National Exercise Trainers Association offers certifications in 'group exercise' or 'personal trainer.' It also offers specialty certifications in Pilates, yoga, indoor cycling, or kettlebell. Personal trainers can take specialty certification workshops for continuing education credits without taking the certification exams.
  • Earn advanced certification. Those who hold a bachelor's degree in exercise science, kinesiology, physical education, or another health-related field can earn the Advanced Certified Personal Trainer credential through the Training and Wellness Certification Commission. A bachelor's degree may serve as a substitute for an approved, 500-hour training program. Other prerequisites include 200 hours of practical experience and CPR and AED certification through programs with a hands-on component.

Step 4: Experience

Certified personal trainers without prior experience can train clients individually or in groups. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, following certification, personal trainers usually works alongside more experienced personals for a period of time.

Step 5: Advancement

Certified personal trainers usually need a bachelor's degree to qualify for a management position. Sometimes a master's degree is required. Advanced positions typically involve hiring instructors and supervising a personal training staff in a fitness center or gym. With the right experience and a solid group of steady clients, some personal trainers open their own fitness centers.

Let's review. You'll need at least a high school diploma and a certification in CPR to sit for the Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) exam. In May 2015, the average annual salary for a fitness trainer and instructor was $40,970.

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