How Can One Become A Personal Trainer?

How can one become a personal trainer? When you exercise consistently it becomes a part of your lifestyle. Now you can turn that lifestyle into a job! Here is some invaluable information on getting certified, benefits and more.

The Question:

When you exercise consistently it becomes a part of your lifestyle. And sometimes that interest may lead into a possible career in the fitness community.

How can one become a personal trainer?

What are some good certifications to become a personal trainer?

What are the benefits and downfalls of being a personal trainer?

Besides personal training, what are some other career choices in fitness?

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There are many opportunities in the fitness industry right now, and personal trainers are on the front line. They are often the faces of the gyms they represent, interacting with clients and working out in the public eye. While it may seem intimidating to be a personal trainer to some people, becoming certified can be an educational and relatively easy process.

Personal Trainers
How Can One Become A Personal Trainer?

The simplest way to become a personal trainer is to purchase a certain organization's fitness manual, study independently, and take an exam. It is possible to get most certifications in this manner. In addition to the manual itself, there are often study guides, seminars, and practice tests available from the organization.

Some colleges also offer courses where you can study and take exams to become a personal trainer. For example, I personally know that Idaho State University offers a course for you to become ACE certified.

Upon hiring, some gyms will take you through their own certification courses, which are often weekend classes or seminars.

All of the above are generally out of pocket expenses.

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It Is Possible To Get Certification
Through Independent Study.

What Are Some Good Certifications To Become A Personal Trainer?

Although some fitness chains require a certain certification, there are several widely-accepted certifications that will get your foot in the door at most gyms. Many certification organizations require CPR certification before allowing you to register for their exams.

What Is CPR?
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is an emergency medical procedure for a victim of cardiac arrest or, in some circumstances, respiratory arrest. CPR is unlikely to restart the heart, but rather its purpose is to maintain a flow of oxygenated blood to the brain and the heart, thereby delaying tissue death and extending the brief window of opportunity for a successful resuscitation without permanent brain damage. Defibrillation and advanced life support are usually needed to restart the heart.

arrow ACE (American Council on Exercise)

ACE offers a relatively simple and straightforward personal training certification that covers the basics needed to train most clients in the general population.

ACE also covers some special populations and injuries as well. The ACE organization requires certified trainers to keep up on the latest information available to the fitness industry through CEC's or Continuing Education Credits, or the certification expires in two years.

You can take scheduled pencil exams at selected locations throughout the county, or register at a designated computer testing facility.

You can visit their website at

arrow ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine)

Slightly more-widely accepted, and slightly more difficult to obtain is the ACSM certification. It is another certification for trainers working with healthy populations, or those with some medical conditions that are cleared to exercise.

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There Are Many Certifications,
Ranging In Cost And Difficulty.

All ACSM exams are offered in computer-based format at designated facilities. There are three different textbooks that are recommended for the ACSM personal trainer certification, as opposed to one manual for the ACE.

There are many other certifications, ranging in cost and difficulty. Some others are the NASM, ISSA, and NCSA just to name a few. Information for these and many more can be found by researching on the internet.

Benefits / Downfalls
What Are The Benefits And Downfalls Of Being A Personal Trainer?

arrow Benefits:

You Get Paid To Do What You Love:

If you love the gym environment, and the type of people you interact with there, then personal training is a great job. Getting paid to work out with others and teach them about fitness can seem like play as much as work sometimes.

You Can Help Change People's Lives:

It can be very rewarding to see the positive changes in clients. Helping people reach their fitness goals and become healthier is a special thing.

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It Can Be Very Rewarding To See
The Positive Changes In Clients.

Possibility Of Flexible Hours, Making Your Own Schedule:

With willing clients, it is possible to set up your work schedule how you want. You can be done early in the afternoon if you start at 5 am, or you can sleep in if you train clients in the evening.

arrow Downfalls:

Only Getting Paid When You Have Clients:

There are only so many potential clients that walk into the gym each month, and these tend to decrease during slow times of the year. It is often up to the personal trainer to find and maintain clients, and there is no guarantee that a personal trainer will be able to train enough hours every month to make a living.

Limited Income:

Not every personal trainer will be able to train movie stars and high-profile, wealthy clients. While it is possible to make a good living as a personal trainer, there are limitations to the type of lifestyle you can live on a personal trainer's income. If you desire to be very wealthy, then personal training is probably not the career choice for you.

Long-Term Security:

While it is possible to do well as a personal trainer for a long period of time, eventually many personal trainers have to "hang it up" before retirement age. Clients will often desire young, fit people as their personal trainers, and it is harder to maintain a youthful level of energy and fitness as we age.

From personal experience, I know that not every gym offers a retirement plan, or even good benefits for that matter.

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Clients Will Often Desire Young,
Fit People As Their Personal Trainers.

Other Career Choices
Besides Personal Training, What Are Some Other Career Choices In Fitness?

There are many other career choices in the fitness field, ranging from professional athlete, to sales. Some require specific degrees and others require none at all.

While it is not possible for most of the population to become professional bodybuilders or fitness athletes, those lucky few can get paid to represent their sport on the stage or playing field.

Another possible way to make a decent living without a fitness-related degree is through sales. Whether it be through gym memberships, fitness equipment, or supplements, there is quite a bit of money to be made in the fitness industry through sales.

There are also many careers in fitness that require a degree, such as physical therapy and sports nutrition.

The fitness industry is growing, and there are only going to be more opportunities to start a career in this exciting and energetic field.

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Anyone who has been working out in the same gym for more then 2 years has seen at least one person there make the progression from fitness nut to personal trainer.

It's always been said fitness is a lifestyle not just a phase in your life. Because of this many people are naturally drawn toward starting a career in the fitness industry.

With the massive amount of people entering the fitness arena with little to no knowledge about how to exercise, a personal trainer is a very sought after person. Personal training can be a very profitable career choice. Many PT's make between 50-150 dollars per one hour session.


Something sparked your interest to help other achieve their fitness goals, but there is certain training that the future PT must obtain before practicing. One must take at least a general personal training certification class and pass the certificate exam.

There are local establishments that teach these classes as well as online classes that one can take and either test online or at a group test that comes around every few months or so.

Your best bet to be a successful trainer is to have your general certification, as well as specialized certification for various things like geriatric training, yoga, sport specific training, etc. In addition to your training certifications it is a good idea to have basic first aid certifications as well such as CPR and First Aid.

The internet age has allowed a person to know much more and about many different subjects then in the past. Because of this one has a better ability to learn the "in's and out's" of training and nutrition.

A down side though is scammers making money off of the less knowledgeable. In this case in the way of "personal training certifications" that are not legitimate. Be wary of organizations that are not well known amongst the other trainers in your area.

A quick sample of legit organizations are as follows:

    • ISSA: International sports sciences association
    • ACE: American council of exercise
    • NSCA: National strength and conditioning association
    • NASM: National academy of sports medicine

There are many many more legit organizations, but this is just a few that are very well known. Large scale gyms usually require an ACE or an ISSA certificate as a minimum to train at their facilities.

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Large Scale Gyms Usually Require
An ACE Or An ISSA Certificate As A Minimum.

Benefits / Downfalls

Like any profession there are benefits and down sides to being a personal trainer. Every client is different and your training protocol has to be as well. This can be a problem for some people to be able to train someone and not push them as hard as they would like to. But a trainer that is creative and knowledgeable can still help the client reach their goals.

Other clients may not be dedicated to their diet and blame their trainer for lack of progression. On the other hand a client that overcomes adversity to reach their goals is a very proud moment.

A personal problem that can develop is lack of motivation for your own training goals, being in the gym for 5-6 hours a day and then trying to push yourself during your workout can prove to be difficult. So only take on as many clients as your body will physically and mentally allow.

Other Careers

There are other careers in the fitness industry that are just as gratifying in their own way. Supplements sales, nutritionists, school coaches, all play critical roles in this lifestyle. This is a multi-billion dollar industry that is only growing larger. A little creativity and motivation can spark the interest to form a career out of what was once just a hobby.

-Mike D.