Training Requirements for Personal Trainers

Sep 11, 2019

Personal trainers don't always necessitate a college degree, though many are increasingly opting for one, and employers prefer at least a bachelor's in a fitness or health field. However, many personal trainers hold certification, which can sometimes be substituted for formal education.

Essential Information

Personal trainers provide fitness assessments, instruction and supervision to individuals or small groups of clients. They may be employed by fitness centers or work on a freelance basis. Most personal trainers are certified, and an increasing number of them hold associate's or bachelor's degrees in fields like exercise science or physical education. Personal trainers tend to start their employment by being paired with a more experienced trainer for on-the-job training.

Required Education High school diploma at minimum; degrees are becoming increasingly common
Other Requirements On-the-job training with an experienced personal trainer
Certification Voluntary, but required or preferred by many employers
Job Growth (2018-2028)* 13% for all fitness trainers and aerobics instructors
Median Annual Salary (2018)* $39,820 for all fitness trainers and aerobics instructors

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Training Requirements

There are several different paths one may take to become a personal trainer, though certification and postsecondary education programs are the most common. Certification is not always mandatory in order to work as a personal trainer; however, the vast majority of employers have policies requiring that personal trainers be certified, reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Certification is also beneficial for freelance trainers, who rely on reputation and word of mouth to obtain new business.

Formal Education

The BLS noted that fitness centers and other organizations are beginning to require candidates to have a health or fitness-focused bachelor's degree, although a professional certification sometimes can be substituted. Common courses in these areas include nutrition, exercise physiology and kinesiology. Students may also complete fitness assessments and learn rehabilitation techniques to help clients recover from injuries.

Personal Trainer Certification

Trainers can obtain certification through several professional associations devoted to fitness and related areas, such as the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Council on Exercise or the International Sport Sciences Association. Certificates of proficiency in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) are generally required to enroll. Qualified candidates must then complete training requirements and a certification exam set by the respective accrediting organization. Once certified, the BLS notes that these professionals are typically required to complete continuing education requirements every two years in order to maintain their credentials.

Personal Trainer Career Overview

Personal trainers meet with clients on a one-on-one or small group basis to help them determine, execute and achieve physical fitness goals. They supervise clients in the use of cardiovascular and weight machines, act as spotters for clients using free weights and provide verbal motivation to help clients meet their goals. Some trainers also specialize in specific forms of fitness, such as yoga, and provide personalized instruction to clients who wish to learn or increase their knowledge in those forms of exercise.

Career Outlook

The BLS reported that fitness training and instruction jobs were predicted to increase by 13% from 2018-2028, which was a faster-than-average growth rate. Workers with formal education in health and fitness should see the best job opportunities. Fitness trainers and aerobics instructors earned a median salary of $39,820 as of May 2018, per the BLS.

Personal trainers help people get in shape and live healthier lives. An undergraduate degree in exercise science or a similar field is commonly becoming a requirement for personal trainers, though certification may be an adequate alternative. These professionals can be hired by individual clients or work for exercise or fitness type centers.

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