What Certifications Are Available For A Personal Trainer?

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Personal trainers have the skills, knowledge, and abilities required to create safe and effective fitness programs for people of all ages and levels. They assist people through instruction by helping them reach their health and fitness goals. Personal trainers have various roles and responsibilities for maintaining their professional scope of practice, within the confines of their education and level of certification.

DegreeQuery.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Personal training online certification

Personal training schools are available in physical locations throughout the US, but many of them have come to recognize that students need flexible options to achieve their career goals. Because of this need, online personal trainer certification programs are far more common than they were just years ago.

An online program gives students flexibility in scheduling. They allow adult learners to study outside of a classroom, and students should expect a comprehensive list of classes that focus predominantly on career skills. An associate degree in personal training is also available. However, with this type of degree program, students are also required to complete general education requirements, such as English or history. The following is a list of courses that students of an online program might see in the course list:

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Nutrition
  • Clinical Exercise
  • Kinesiology
  • Weight Management

Students typically access online course materials through an assigned school portal. This student portal might contain the course syllabus, reading assignments, electronic textbooks, and quizzes. Some courses might also provide students with study materials for professional certification exams. Most online personal training certification programs require a commitment of 11 to 12 months for completion.

RELATED: How to Become a Personal Trainer: What Degree Should I Get?

Personal trainers can work just about anywhere. This includes locations from school systems to fitness centers because these individuals are trained for working with different clients and populations with particular needs. Designing specialized fitness routines, personalized programs, and meal planning are just some of the skills.

Some vital information is that a vast majority of the online personal trainer certification programs are not 100 percent online. These programs typically require a hands-on component similar to an internship. During these sessions, students might learn proper weightlifting techniques and exercises. Be sure to research different schools before making a decision. Each school has a slightly different curriculum and requirements.

Best personal training certifications (ACE, ACSM, NASM, ISSA)

  • ACE (American Council on Exercise) This program focuses on personalized training programs for everyone. Students accomplish this through its patented Integrated Fitness Training (IFT) model. A personal trainer certification through ACE works well for those who want to work with all types of clients. The emphasis is on helping clients to meet their long-term health and fitness.

This certification is one popularly accepted by fitness employers. ACE is a highly structured organization and works well for those individuals searching for a solid certification program. They will find easily accessible learning resources and support throughout the process.

  • ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine)- ACSM is distinguished as the biggest sports medicine and exercise science institute.  ACSM certification is highly sought after for its personal trainers by hospitals and wellness centers because of its well thought out fitness and body composition guidelines. These guidelines can be used in clinical settings and universities, and are good for those wanting to work in a clinical environment, medical or healthcare career.
  • NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine)- NASM  uses the evidence-based Optimum Performance Training (OPT) model. This developed research about preventing injuries and performance is integrated into certification. Non-athletes can also benefit from this fitness program

The NASM certification is designed to integrate corrective exercise into the training process among recreational or competitive athletes, clinical patients, and general fitness clientele. NASM’s specializations offer additional training in the areas of functional exercise, nutritional needs, performance, and working with special populations. It is not uncommon for athletic trainers to be NASM certified due to the program emphasis on injury prevention. This program is favored by those students who ultimately plan to specialize in training for clinical populations (orthopedic or musculoskeletal problems) or human performance (recreational or professional athletes). This certification has excellent recognition in the sports medicine field and fitness industries.

  • ISSA (International Sports Sciences Association)- One of the most significant differences with ISSA is that it is officially recognized as an academic institution, like K-12 schools, colleges, and universities. This certification is accepted by most popular fitness center chains (Lifetime Fitness, Bally’s, Gold’s, and Equinox). This program is geared more towards improving the body’s composition, bodybuilding, and the fitness levels in clients that are non-athlete adults.

Personal training certification costs

There is growing popularity within this profession. However, personal training is currently an unregulated industry. Nearly any individual can call themselves a personal trainer, but true professionals have certification, training, and experience.

Obtaining a certification creates credibility as a personal trainer and sets you above the rest. This provides your potential clients’ confidence in your skills and ability. Moreover, many health centers and gyms will not hire a personal trainer without certification. This is even more important if you plan on owning your own business. Many insurance companies will not insure self-employed non-certified personal trainers.

The cost of certification varies by level. Entry-level certification for personal trainers may cost $400-$600, whereas a master certification can cost as much as $2,000 for the study materials and the exam. Specialist certifications are available as well. These certifications are for senior fitness, youth fitness, or strength training on average cost between $400 and $500.

Some certification organizations may also offer a set cost for the exam alone. This cost can range from $200 to $600. Other organizations provide study guides and packages starting around $50 to beyond $2,400. Many of the programs do offer payment plans and financing for individuals who qualify. The costs included in a personal trainer certification program may include:

  • Instructional support
  • Study materials such as e-textbooks, video lessons, and online quizzes/exams. Some courses may offer print textbooks for an additional fee.
  • Expert advice and guidance
  • Certification exam
  • Guides for starting a business
  • Issuance of credentials upon successful completion of program requirements

Additional costs and fees for self-employed personal trainers may include:

  • CPR certification
  • Gym/health center fees
  • Liability insurance
  • Marketing
  • Taxes

Certified personal trainer salary

How much money do personal trainers earn? The potential income for a certified personal trainer has increased substantially in the last few years. However, income levels can vary dramatically from one trainer to another and one location to another. Average hourly rates range from $10 to $50 per hour, and annual salaries can typically range from $28k to $81k. The median annual wage for certified personal trainers in the US is currently $56,875.

There are numerous factors to consider when reviewing annual income for trainers. For example, the type of workplace (commercial health club vs. private studio) can have an enormous impact on salary ranges. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment opportunities for personal trainers and group instructors is projected to grow by as much as 13 percent by the year 2028. Over the past few years, this expected growth rate has been accurate, and employment opportunities continue to grow for certified personal trainers.

Tracy Everhart

Master of Science (M.S.), Complementary Alternative Medicine| American College of Healthcare Sciences

Master of Science (M.S.), Nursing| Yale University

Bachelor of Science (B.S.), Microbiology| Hampshire College

September 2019

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