Personal trainers provide one-on-one instruction, teaching their clients how to adopt healthy lifestyle habits. A personal fitness training certificate often requires 15 credit hours for completion and typically covers the fundamental skills of the field. Some programs are offered both on-campus and online. Two-year associate's programs in health, nutrition and strength training may cover similar topics, alongside general education coursework.
A bachelor's program in kinesiology or exercise science is often more expansive than either a certificate or associate's program. In addition, bachelor's programs can sometimes require students to undertake internships.
Students looking to study a certificate, associate's or bachelor's degree program are required to have a high school diploma or GED. In some cases, placement tests, ACT or SAT scores are also required.
Personal Fitness Training Certificate
While certificate programs in personal training are often starting points for individuals seeking career entry, current health care professionals often decide to expand their knowledge base and gain a foundation in personal fitness training. Students enrolled in a personal trainer certificate program learn to communicate with clients to establish physical fitness goals. As personal trainers, they create individualized exercise schedules, which often involve weight training and cardiovascular exercises. Optional internships may be available. Topics of study include:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Nutrition fundamentals
- Physical evaluations
- Business for self-employed personal trainers
- Developing the fitness action plan
Associate of Applied Science in Strength, Nutrition & Personal Training
Individuals interested in 2-year degrees gain a foundation in general education and personal training. Students study mind-and-body health and exercise basics. They learn to track client progression and train individuals with various health risks. Associate degree programs in personal training also teach students how to market themselves in order to attract and keep clients.
One aspect of the personal trainer program is the emphasis on business and entrepreneurship. In addition, students may take courses on:
- Weight control nutritional strategies
- Psychology for personal trainers
- Flexibility exercises
- Strength training exercises
- Muscle conditioning exercises
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Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science
A bachelor's degree program in exercise science offers future personal trainers a solid foundation in health, science and personal fitness. In fact, many aspiring doctors, physical therapists and occupational therapists pursue this undergraduate degree as preparation for more focused graduate studies. Program concentrations are often available in biomechanics or exercise physiology. Students participate in lectures and labs, studying topics that include:
- Psychology for dealing with elderly patients
- Sports and physical fitness
- Injury prevention and stretching
Graduates of a 4-year degree program in exercise science are not only qualified to work as personal trainers in gyms but are also prepared to undertake roles as hospital exercise specialists.
Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology
Students pursuing a kinesiology degree learn about the science behind movement in the human body. Kinesiology specializations are often available in physical education, fitness and therapy. At the bachelor's degree level, students participate in practica that allow them to work both independently and as team members.
At the 4-year level, first-time college students gain a foundation in liberal arts. They also study:
- Concepts in health and wellness
- Personal training strategies for group sessions
- Computers in the fitness industry
- Cultural foundations in fitness
- Motor-building exercises
Professional Certification Requirements
Industry certifications are paramount for personal trainers seeking employment. Various organizations offer the Certified Personal Trainer credential, including the American Council on Exercise, American College of Sports Medicine and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. In order to qualify for certification, applicants must be at least 18, have a high school diploma or its equivalent, possess CPR and AED certification and pass an exam.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Personal trainers often work nights, weekends and holidays in order to accommodate their clients' schedules, and frequent travel is also part of the job criteria. Between 2014 and 2024, employment of fitness trainers and aerobics instructors, which includes personal trainers, was expected to rise 8% according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Furthermore, as of May 2015, fitness trainers and aerobics instructors earned a median salary of $36,160.
Students looking to study a personal training program can choose from certificate, associate's and bachelor's degree levels. Common courses in anatomy and physiology, strength training, injury prevention and concepts in health wellness prepare graduates for a personal training career.