How do I Become a Fitness Trainer?

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  • Written By: Hillary Flynn
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 01 December 2018
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Fitness trainers possess an expansive body of knowledge in anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology, which enables them to work one-on-one with a varied group of clients to improve fitness levels. To become a fitness trainer, this required knowledge can be obtained through a variety of sources, many of which lead to certification. Certification is not required to become a fitness trainer as fitness training is not regulated, but knowledge is essential to being successful and certification proves competence to clients and employers.

One path to become a fitness trainer is to complete a Bachelor's Degree in kinesiology or exercise science. This offers the widest breadth of information, allows for more advanced specialization, and provides the opportunity to pursue a master's degree to become expert in a specific area of fitness training. Some trainers specialize in improving overall health and combating obesity, some have careers in sports, and some seek employment with the general public. There are numerous options of specialization and many roads can be taken to become a fitness trainer.


A college degree aids in finding employment, however, a degree is not required and a certification program will also suffice as a vehicle for those who want to become a fitness trainer. Program lengths vary just as certifications do. In fact, there are several hundred certification programs. Because the field of fitness training is unregulated, programs should be researched with extra thoroughness. There are no requirements for setting up a fitness certification program, so for those new to the field or beginning with limited knowledge, one of the well-known nationally accredited programs would be a wise choice.

Two of the biggest certification companies are the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). NSCA offers two certifications. The first is certified personal trainer (NSCA-CPT), and the second is certified strength & conditioning specialist (NSCA-CSCS). CPT is the appropriate choice for those intending to work with the general public at commercial health clubs or home gyms. CSCS trainers work with professional athletes and those with more specific training needs.

ACSM offers many certification choices. Personal fitness trainers to the general public would likely choose the Health-Fitness Instructor or Health-Fitness Director options, but certifications in medical and rehab specialties are also available. Other popular programs are the American Council on Exercise (ACE), International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA), American Fitness and Aerobics Association (AFFA), and National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).

Fitness trainers intending to work in commercial gyms will also need CPR training and must be 18. Like any profession, it is important to seek as much information as possible, not just in the process to become a fitness trainer, but as a lifelong learning effort to keep up with new research and data.



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