But most importantly you want to help people reach their fitness goals. As a Personal Trainer you will obviously work with clients, so in order to be of service to them you will need a strong background in Exercise Science. A Professional Personal Trainer will know how to guide and instruct clients in group settings or personal meetings. Professionals may work at gyms, country clubs, schools, resorts, hospitals or private studios. A degree in Exercise Science is offered at the 2 year Associate level, 4 year Bachelor level, and at the Master’s level. Depending on where you intend to work you have some choices in your education to make.
Whether you decide on a 2 year, 4 year, or Master’s program, the fundamental core classes will be similar. You’ll do coursework in Anatomy and Physiology, Strength and Conditioning Training, Physical Education, Nutrition, Epidemiology, and even some First Aid Certification classes.
Technically to be a Personal Trainer you do not need a college degree. You can acquire certifications from various national organizations. However, you will be limited to working in gyms or building your own clientele from the ground up. If you do go the college route, you will most likely major in Exercise Science, Sports Medicine, Physical Education, or Kinesiology.
Most often a Personal Trainer will have a specialty if they have a higher education degree. Popular concentrations are:
- Weight management
- Strength training
- Functional movement (similar to Physical Therapy)
- Exercise theory
Graduate Programs will lead you to more of an intense study of your concentration and give you more opportunity such as managing within your fitness focus. For example, you may find a position in Administration at a hospital’s wellness center or as an Athletic Director within a college setting. Without a Master’s degree you will find acquiring these jobs much more difficult.
A certification is an entry level requirement for a Personal Trainer. It is most often non-negotiable to acquire a job. A place of employment will also require continuing eduction as you build your career. Certification is available through various health and fitness organizations. Your place of employment may require one or more certifications from the following: National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), American Fitness Professionals & Associates (AFPA), American Council on Exercise (ACE).
All Certifications require a written exam; some also require a practical part. Many certifying organizations will include study material, such as books or other media for preparation.
The fitness field is booming. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the occupation of Personal Trainer is projected to grow by 13% from 2012-2022. BLS reminds us too that,
“As businesses, government, and insurance organizations continue to recognize the benefits of health and fitness programs for their employees, incentives to join gyms or other types of health clubs is expected to increase the need for fitness trainers and instructors.”
This is all good news for the Personal Trainer. Decide which academic route is best for you – 2 year, 4 year or Master’s – and find success in your career.