How to Become a Certified Personal Trainer: Sure Steps to Take

By | February 16, 2016
How to become a certified personal trainer

You can become a certified personal trainer if you are excited about the idea
of keeping people fit.

How to Become a Certified Personal Trainer: Sure Steps to Take

If you are passionate about seeing other people get fit, then becoming a certified personal trainer may just be the right career for you.

A personal trainer is a fitness pro whose work is to work out exercise plans and rules.

They assess client’s weakness and strength with fitness assessment before the exercise program.

During program they measure client’s progress in physical fitness. They enlighten the client on wellness and positive lifestyle, ensuring sound health of the client.

You can become a certified personal trainer by meeting educational criteria and passing certification course exams.

It will take you a few years to achieve this, but this has the advantage of giving you better job opportunities.

Educational Requirements and Career Pathway to Becoming a Personal Trainer

Educational requirements you need to become a personal trainer include high school diploma or GED, college degree, or another certificate in a certain specialty.

Some high schools include vocational programs in their curriculum for students who would like to acquire personal training credentials before they graduate.

College degree may not be a must-have in getting into the personal training career but having it can place you above others. It can enable you teach your trade to personal trainer students.

Having a college degree or Bachelor’s degree in health-fitness, kinesiology or exercise science will give you higher rating in your career.

Certificate Training Programs for Personal Trainers

Training keeps you fit, and gives you the necessary experience in your career. There are training programs for yoga instructors which could last for a period of two years.

The Yoga Alliance offers a program categorized into coaching skills, philosophy, anatomy, etc.

Each category has a minimum of 200 hours of instruction and certain number of hours for each category of training.

  • Training Fitness Academy: This academy is for those who desire to go into personal training career but do not know what training program to attend.

Training Fitness Academy has two course packages comprising personal training certificate and advanced personal training diploma.

The courses are split into full time, part time and distance. In full time course you attend from 9am-5pm for five weeks; in part time you study one day in a week, while in distance you study at the comfort of your home.

It takes four weeks to complete a certificate-based personal training course with Training Fitness Academy.

  • Premier Training International: They offer a six-week training program which includes Gym Instructor and Personal Trainer courses, with interview arrangement for a job position.

How to Obtain Certification as a Personal Trainer

Majority of employers in the United States require certification from personal trainers.

When choosing a certifying agency you should make sure it is NCCA accredited.

Given below are three certifying bodies in the personal training profession that are NCCA accredited.

Personal training certification requirements are:

  • 18 years of age
  • Becoming CPR certified
  • Working under another certified personal trainer
  • Completing coursework
  • Passing certification exam

ACSM Certification

American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Certified Personal Trainers are fitness pros whose main objective is to impact and improve personal work-out programs in individuals who are interested in health and fitness.

ACSM offers certification training in both clinical and exercise training programs.

ACSM course costs $355 for members and $415 for non-members with inclusion of textbooks and testing.

Personal engagements do not stop one from enrolling in ACSM personal training: you work any time you are free. And test date is fixable by you according to your schedule.

ACSM certification program gives you diversified job opportunities of working in gyms, health facilities, and public or private fitness centers.

It also gives you the opportunity to work on freelance basis, and to be respected by the public.

ACE Certification

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) is globally regarded as the largest and one of the best personal training institutes around.

ACE offers three personal training certification alternatives, two certification exams, and also has NCCA accreditation for four certification programs – Health Coach, ACE Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor, and Medical Exercise Specialist.

The three personal training certification alternatives that ACE offers are:

  • Standard = $499
  • Premium = $599
  • Premium plus $699

The two certification exams that ACE offers are computer-based and paper-and-pencil.

Computer-based is more popular, convenient, and provides instant results whereas paper-and-pencil results take about 4 to 6 weeks.

Requirements for computer-based ACE certification exam

  • You must be 18 years old
  • You must possess up-to-date government-issued photo I.D.
  • You must register ten days before the exam
  • You must be in possession of valid CPR/AED (not online-only)
  • You can register online or by mail

The price for Health Coach and Personal Trainer exams is $399; Medical Exercise Specialist exam is $499; and Group Fitness Instructor exam $249.

The prices remain the same with the two certification exams – computer-based and paper-and-pencil.

Requirements for paper-and-pencil ACE certification exam

  • You must be up to 18 years old
  • You must possess up-to-date government-issued photo I.D
  • You must have proof of up-to-date CPR/AED with live experience for receiving exam results
  • You must register 30 days before exam
  • You can register online or by mail

NSCA Certification

The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) charges $270 for members and $405 for non-members to offer certifications in Personal Training Certification (PTC), strength and conditioning.


There are two categories of accreditation in certified personal training career. Certified personal trainers in health and fitness competently pursue programs that fall into Education Program Accreditation or Certification Program Accreditation.

  • Education Program Accreditation: Education Program Accreditation is an accreditation agency that ensures your educational program meets defined standards of excellence for best practice in education.
  • Certification Program Accreditation: Certification Program Accreditation is an accreditation agency ensuring your certification program meets defined standards of excellence for best performance in determining if you meet requirements to carry out a specific task.

State Licensing of Personal Trainers

Licensing issues in personal training career varies with different states. Georgia and Maryland proposed legislation to make use of the National Board of Fitness Examiners (NBFE) exam in their regulations.

NBFE has further stated that if states want to license or regulate personal trainers they should follow models by some other health careers and make use of one written standard and practical National Board exam.

This would enable personal trainers move from state to state without need for reexamination, and also practice in multiple states.

The NBFE has eliminated irrelevant financial and logistic burdens on fitness pros, proposing the idea of continuing education and practice requirements to remain the same in every state.

The NBFE National Registry helps to safeguard the interest of the public by providing one particular source for validating one-person registered trainers’ process.

Duties and Responsibilities of a Certified Personal Trainer

The duties and responsibilities of a certified personal trainer include educating, motivating, planning, and lecturing to help the client get the best out of their exercise routine.

The trainer helps the client with cv machines, weights, aerobics, walking, and training for flexibility.

He/she monitors and records clients’ progress by testing body fat and heart rate levels. From the result of the test, the personal trainer can easily advise the client about health, nutrition, and negative lifestyle changes.

  • Examination: It is the duty of the personal trainer to examine the client thoroughly to know if he is physically fit for the training. The trainer takes necessary information about the client’s illnesses, medical history, and present health condition. In some cases, the trainer gets a doctor’s report before commencing the training.
  • Client’s personal information: The personal trainer collects some information about the client’s height, weight, age, gender, occupation, sleeping habit, dietary method, recent exercise program and hydration. This information helps the trainer to determine the present health and fitness condition of the client.
  • Body composition test: It is the personal trainer’s responsibility to determine the client’s body fat, muscular strength, and cardio respiratory capacity. He/she tests the body flexibility of the client with less severe training. This will help prepare the client for the full training.
  • Dietary advice: The personal trainer is responsible for providing the client with good dietary information about how to eat foods that are rich in nutrients, and how they can use dietary supplement to help meet certain fitness and health goals. Charts and tables can be provided for the client to follow timed and rationed dietary pattern.
  • Training: The personal trainer structures an exercise routine according to the client’s ability, fitness, weight loss, muscular strength, and endurance. He/she provides instructions about resistance movements and repetitions to perform during each session. The client should be given enough time to recover before continuing.

Job Opportunities for Certified Personal Trainers

Certified personal trainers can look for job opportunities in private or public fitness facilities, at gyms, recreational centers or YMCA.

Sometimes they can find employment opportunities on a contract basis working with individual clients who may like to hire their services. For management positions, students should go for degree in physical education kinesiology.

ACE certified personal trainers work in 83 countries worldwide at universities, hospitals, gyms, and medical departments.

ACE has gone into agreement with some health and fitness companies for interviews with ACE Certified Personal Trainers and Group Fitness Instructors who apply for jobs at nationwide facilities.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor statistics, there will be a thirteen percent increase in job opportunities for personal trainers and group fitness instructors through 2022.

Salary of Certified Personal Trainers

There has been a significant increase in certified personal trainers’ salary over the past several years.

You have to consider the fact that certain factors can influence personal training employment salary.

For instance, employment with health clubs varies immensely with that of private studios.

The Payscale 2015 estimated salary for a personal trainer in the U.S. is $18.66 per hour.

Independent personal trainers earn higher with approximated salary of $35.00 to $65.00 per hour. There is much difference in the salaries of an hourly trainer, an independent trainer, and an employee.

The personal trainer salaries vary according to these factors: Experience; specialization; certifications; education; and location.