Physical Trainer School and College Program Information

Programs that prepare students to become physical trainers can be found at community colleges and some 4-year colleges and universities. Students interested in this profession may also purchase self-study materials from professional organizations that offer certification in the field.

Physical trainers, also called personal trainers, use customized coaching and mentoring to improve client fitness levels. Certificate programs, associate's degree programs and self-study materials prepare students to take the necessary certification examinations.

Schools with Physical Trainer Programs

The following community colleges offer certificate and/or associate's degree programs for physical trainers.

College Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition (2015-2016)*
Paradise Valley Community College Phoenix, AZ 2-year, Public Associate's, Undergraduate Certificate $2,046 in-state, $7,830 out-of-state
Onondaga Community College Syracuse, NY 2-year, Public Associate's $5,014 in-state, $9,184 out-of-state
Rockland Community College Suffern, NY 2-year, Public Associate's, Undergraduate Certificate $4,654 in-state, $8,953 out-of-state
Montgomery County Community College Blue Bell, PA 2-year, Public Associate's, Undergraduate Certificate $4,920 in-district, $9,240 in-state, $13,560 out-of-state
Cecil College North East, MD 2-year, Public Associate's, Undergraduate Certificate $3,660 in-district, $6,360 in-state, $7,710 out-of-state
St. Louis Community College St. Louis, MO 2-year, Public Certificate $3,090 in-district, $4,470 in-state, $6,150 out-of-state
Springfield Technical Community College Springfield, MA 2-year, Public Certificate $5,436 in-state, $11,946 out-of-state
Iowa Western Community College Council Bluffs, IA 2-year, Public Undergraduate Certificate $5,216 in-state, $5,376 out-of-state
Harrisburg Area Community College- Harrisburg Harrisburg, PA 2-year, Public Undergraduate Certificate $6,015 in-district, $7,500 in-state, $8,940 out-of-state

*Source: NCES College Navigator.

School Selection Criteria

Consider the following when choosing a physical trainer program:

  • Choose a program that will adequately prepare you to become certified by one of the nationally-recognized agencies, including the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), and/or the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).
  • While a degree is not required to take the certification exam, the added education from a certificate or associate's program may make your experience more marketable.
  • Select a school that includes facilities for hands-on learning and opportunities for an internship.
  • Aspiring personal athletic trainers are likely to need a bachelor's degree, so selecting an associate's degree program may be a good first step.

Self-Study Physical Trainer Program

Many credentialing agencies provide study materials and workshops that prepare students to take certification exams. Self-study materials usually include instruction in biomechanics, nutrition, fitness assessment, and client communication skills.

The materials may include practice tests, online materials and the opportunity to communicate with mentors. Students can register for the exam once they feel prepared. Exam requirements include being at least 18 years old and being certified in CPR. Some exam providers require a high school diploma or the equivalent.

Certificate in Physical Training

Some community colleges offer certificate programs lasting from nine weeks to one year. Students are taught the fundamentals of exercise science, nutrition, client interaction, and first aid and CPR.

An internship of around 30 hours is required. Oftentimes, courses may be transferred to an associate's degree program in physical training. Applicants should have a high school diploma or GED certificate.

Associate's Degree in Physical Training

Associate of Science and Associate of Applied Science in Personal Training programs are offered at community colleges and private vocational schools, and some programs offer online courses. These programs typically take two years to complete. Students learn how to evaluate an individual's fitness needs and apply appropriate programs and techniques to meet a client's goals. State-of-the-art equipment is used, and students are taught proper use of this equipment and learn how to design personalized training programs. Dietary habits are assessed and ways to intervene and develop new habits are discussed. Specific topics covered typically include kinesiology, strength and cardiovascular fitness training techniques, and exercise prescription.

A supervised internship is also typically included. Applicants should have a high school diploma or GED certificate.

Post-secondary education is not absolutely necessary for becoming a physical trainer, but it can help prepare aspiring trainers for certification exams. Also, students may learn other information about anatomy and health that will help them become better at their career.

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