Do Personal Trainers Need To Be Certified?

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Sit down. Brace yourself. There are absolutely NO federal or state regulations requiring personal trainers to be licensed or certified in any way. That’s right. I’ll say it again… Personal trainers don’t need to have any special education, licensing, or certification in order to practice in the U.S. Scary thought if you ask me. Just because you’re really good at working out does not mean you’re qualified to give someone else coaching on how to move properly and safely, whether it be sport specific, for weight loss and everything in between.

Does that mean that you should still get certified if you do want to be a personal trainer? ABSOLUTELY! The knowledge that you gain from going through the process of a well established certification program is invaluable.

Does getting certified guarantee you a job? Nope.

The demand for qualified personal trainers is on the rise. But how do you define qualified? Most gyms won’t hire a personal trainer unless they can prove that they have credentials of some kind. If that gym doesn’t require it, you should be asking why they don’t. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the number of employed fitness professionals is predicted to increase more than 13% by 2022. The question you should ask yourself is whether or not you want to be at the top of your game with balanced knowledge of functional exercise, an understanding of anatomy, and business skills to grow a strong client base.

If you do a Google search for “Personal Training Certification” you will find dozens of organizations that offer programs. However, not all are created equal. Unlike with nutritionists and dietitians that have very specific guidelines they must adhere to, there are no regulations for personal trainers. According to IDEA Health and Fitness Association, up to 45% of trainers who claim to be certified are actually NOT. I call bullshit.

Personal Training certifications vary in terms of quality, depth of information, and testing parameters. For instance, ASFA offers a Personal Training Certification for $199. All you need to do is go to their website, take the 100-question test and get the certification IMMEDIATELY if you pass. That’s it. No practical skills training or requirement. This is 100% online, you never have to prove that you can work with (and not break) another human. ACE Personal Training Certification $299, also completely online, is not that dissimilar to the previous. ACE has been around for a while and offers various certifications and will often fill the CEU gap that trainers need to keep their certification up to date, some are even accepted as NASM continuing ed credits. Another recognized certification is through ISSA, offering various basic an advanced certification levels. NASM is a well known program that offers a tiered system for certification with the self-study starting at $699 all the way up to a hands-on program beginning at $1499. The next step up is NPTI which runs about $5900 and goes a giant leap beyond a quick 100-question certification. With the NPTI program, participants leave with a degree in their field. This training is 100% classroom based, hands-on, and recognized as top quality. Their modules are a combination of classroom book-learning and practical skills, hands-on learning in a gym. This is a very small list of many many organizations that offer certifications.

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Now why would someone pay $5900 when they can get the “same” credentials for a fraction of the price? It really depends on what your capacity is. If you’re working a full time job and trying to go to school at the same time, this is a huge challenge. Utilizing online resources is fantastic and cost effective, but it doesn’t give you the hands-on learning. A lot of the hands-on learning comes after you get your certification. You don’t want to be practicing on your clients. A good trainer knows how manage clients, the results that they produce, and it’s obvious in how seriously they take their career. Do you get what you pay for? Hands-on training is far superior in terms of how well you understand the changing landscape of fitness, working with people who’s bodies aren’t perfect and also working with various personalities.

When it comes to your certification you want to make sure that it gives you the appropriate foundation to grow your practice based on the specialty that you’ve selected.

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So what does that mean for you if you DO have a reputable certification? First, pat yourself on the back for taking this profession seriously enough to go through some level of education for it! Wanting to be a genuine, life changing personal trainer takes time, practice, and education. The desire to continue your education and get better at what you do is a huge indicator that you take this career seriously. Are you surrounding yourself with other trainers that you can learn from? Are you researching the interests of your clients? Are you learning more about corrective exercise and functional movements as they apply to your specialty? Always ask your self what it takes to be a great trainer. Living on Instagram and following people that look good in a sports bra… that’s not a personal trainer.