shutterstock 330214724Today, healthy trends in diet and exercise are hard to keep up with: quinoa and kale, Crossfit and Orange Theory, bone broth and oat milk. It seems as if every year there are new “do’s and don’ts,” new “eat this and not that(s).” For one who loves moving and fueling their body in healthy ways, it can feel pretty overwhelming to decide what to choose to believe, study, or partake of. However, for those who desire a career as a personal trainer, there are some educational choices you can make that will prove beneficial for a very long time.

If you are considering the personal trainer career path, you are likely wondering what the educational and financial implications are of that choice. How do you become a personal trainer? Do you need a four-year degree? Is there a personal trainer degree? Is that degree worth the time and money? Can anything be done online so you can continue to work?

Is There a Personal Trainer Degree?

In today’s wellness industry you do not need a degree to be a personal trainer. You have the option of a certification, a two-year degree, a four-year degree, or an advanced degree program. However, as in most industries, a four-year degree (or higher) will greatly increase your eligibility for advanced positions, give you greater income earning potential, and likely equate to better benefits.

I Want to Get a Bachelor’s Degree: Now What?

If you’ve decided that the time and money investment for a four-year degree is worth it, good for you! But you may still be wondering what your area of focus should be. There are multiple options available to you, but the following are some common wellness degree choices at the bachelor’s level:

  • Kinesiology
  • Sports Medicine
  • Exercise Science
  • Physical Education (PE)
  • Healthcare Science

This list is not all-inclusive. However, it is a great starting point if you are digging deeply into a career in personal training and the educational choices you need to make to get there.

Bachelor’s Degree Programs and Requirements

Kinesiology

Overview: Kinesiology is the study of the mechanics of body movement. Students of kinesiology will learn about strength training, conditioning, nutrition, and the development of fine and gross motor skills. Learning is done through the classroom, laboratory, research, and practicums.

Core Courses:

  • Nutrition
  • Pharmacology
  • Biomechanics and human body
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Exercise and body composition
  • Psychology of sport

Prerequisites: Some programs require a minimum GPA in many science-based courses like physics, chemistry, or anatomy.

Of Note: Kinesiology is often studied as part of a larger degree program (sport medicine, physical therapy, etc.), but is available as a four-year degree as well.

Sports Medicine

Overview: Sports medicine is the study of the impact of exercise and sports on the human body. Students in a sports medicine program will learn in the classroom, the laboratory, fieldwork, and clinical experiences. The relationship between exercise, fitness, and human physiology will be extensively explored, as well as athletic injury prevention, evaluation, and treatment. Sports medicine bachelor programs can look different depending on the department offering them (kinesiology, medicine, physical education, or physical therapy). Students will learn in a variety of settings, including the classroom, practicums, and internships.

Core Courses:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Biomechanics and the human body
  • Sports medicine principles
  • Exercise physiology
  • Therapeutic modalities
  • Injury evaluation and rehabilitation

Prerequisites: Most degree programs require general education courses with a minimum GPA for entry.

Exercise Science

Overview: Exercise science is the multidisciplinary study of human movement. Students will explore components of biological, physical, and health sciences in an effort to understand the functional changes in the body (physiological, biochemical and biomechanical) that contribute to fitness, wellness, and longevity.

Core Courses:

  • Exercise Physiology
  • Biomechanics
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Nutrition
  • Body composition
  • Body psychology

Prerequisites: Some programs require a minimum GPA in general education and prerequisite science courses.

Of Note: Exercise science is often viewed as a “stepping stone” degree. It is a great background for a personal trainer, but if you desire a greater number of career opportunities, you will likely have to pursue an advanced degree.

Physical Education

Overview: PE programs focus on the well being of the human body, exploring the exercise and physical activities that can improve wellness and fitness. These programs often include a student-teaching experience, preparing students for elementary PE teaching, athletic coaching, or athletic director positions.

Core Courses:

  • Nutrition
  • Exercise Psychology
  • Kinesiology
  • Psychomotor Skills
  • Motor Skills Development
  • Injury Prevention/First Aid
  • PE teaching, instruction, assessment and organization

Prerequisites: Typically, PE degree programs require a high school diploma (or equivalent).

Of Note: In addition to a bachelor’s degree, future PE teachers must obtain mandatory licensing by passing a qualifying test and a Praxis exam.

Healthcare Science

Overview: Students of healthcare science will gain a broad understanding of human anatomy and psychology, healthcare delivery, healthcare ethics, and medical terminology. These degree programs usually include a practicum. A bachelor’s degree in healthcare science is an excellent entry point into multiple healthcare related fields, especially for students who are unsure where they will land and want greater professional flexibility.

Core Courses:

  • Medical Terminology
  • Healthcare Informatics
  • Principles of Public health
  • Health, Safety and Ethics
  • Healthcare and Cultural Diversity

Prerequisites: A minimum GPA in general education courses is required for entry into most programs.

Of Note: A healthcare science degree is often coupled with a specialization (like pre-occupational therapy, pre-medicine, or pre-pharmacy).

I Need to Work: Can I Go To School Online?

Yes! As is common today, there are many options to get your bachelor’s degree online. In most programs, students may choose a part-time or full-time track. The length of time it takes to complete the degree is dependent on the track a student chooses. When choosing an online program, it is important to consider prerequisites, time requirements, tuition costs, accreditation status, and specialization options or focuses.

As the health and wellness sector continues to grow, careers in personal training are likely to continue to grow as well. For those who are passionate about their own wellness, the wellness of others, and the relationship that exists between coach and student, a personal training career is likely to bring you joy and health for a long time. The right educational choices will prove to be extremely beneficial as you work towards your ultimate goals.

Laura Mansfield

Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) | Sacred Heart University

Associate’s Degree of Nursing (ADN) | North Seattle Community College

Bachelor of Business Administration (B.B.A.), Marketing, Sales | University of Washington (Seattle)

September 2019

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