Have you always wanted to be a personal trainer? Well, that’s one step. Because you need qualifications to become a good personal trainer.
You may have been an unofficial personal trainer in times past, but if you’d want to make a career out of personal training, then you need to have the right qualifications.
More importantly, because you’d be working with different type of people, employers want to be sure their customers are in the right hands.
Find out all you need to know about personal training, the qualifications you need to become a personal trainer, and what the career for personal trainers look like as you read through this article.
Let’s get started.
- Who is a Personal Trainer?
- What does a Personal Trainer do?
- The Pros and Cons of Personal Training
- Characteristics of a Good Personal Trainer
- Personal Trainer Salaries and Job Growth
- What Qualifications Do I Need to Become a Fitness Trainer
- How Long Does it Take to Become a Personal Trainer?
- After Getting My Qualification, What Next?
- Bottom Line
Who is a Personal Trainer?
According to Wikipedia, a personal trainer is an individual who has earned a certification that demonstrates they have achieved a level of competency for creating and delivering safe and effective exercise programs for apparently healthy individuals and groups or those with medical clearance to exercise.
They motivate clients by collaborating to set goals, providing meaningful feedback, and by being a reliable source for accountability.
More so, they introduce clients to individualized exercises that are based upon their personal goals, skill level and needs.
They conduct a variety of assessments beginning with a preparticipation health-screening and may also include assessments of posture and movement, flexibility, balance, core function, cardiorespiratory fitness, and other factors before coming up with an individualized plan.
To be able to deliver the right workout routines, personal trainers must keep up with the latest trends and professional recommendations in fitness and nutrition.
What does a Personal Trainer do?
Personal trainers help their clients achieve their personal health and fitness goals.
Their entire job description includes;
- Setting realistic short-term and long-term goals and planning programs for their clients.
- Educating, motivating, and coaching clients to help them follow their programs safely and effectively
- Giving clients advice on health, nutrition, and lifestyle changes
- Assisting clients with their workouts
- Checking and recording clients’ progress, using methods such as measuring heart rate and body-fat levels
In some cases you might work full-time as a gym instructor and do personal training outside your normal hours of work.
The Pros and Cons of Personal Training
There are lots of great things about personal training. But, before you decide to become a personal trainer, it’s important you analyze every angle of personal training.
Pros of Personal Training
The advantages of personal training include;
- It’s flexible. Personal training allows you to set your schedule for which hours and days you work. You may even be able to set your fees if you work for yourself.
- You get to build relationships. If you’re good with people, personal training gives you a chance to delve into each client’s situation, get to know them, and then use your knowledge and creativity to create workouts that fit them.
- It’s rewarding. There’s nothing more fulfilling than when a client can finally see and feel the difference in their body, all thanks to your special workout routines.
- There is room for growth and variety. Personal training can often be a Kickstarter point for other things like being a fitness instructor, a health writer, or going further in your education.
Cons of Personal Training
The downside to personal training is that;
- Peak hours are the most convenient for the client. Clients may need to cancel or reschedule without much notice. And most will want to train either before or after work, so your busy hours will often be very early or late at night.
- You’ll have to learn to advertise your services. Part of the job of personal training is to advertise your services, especially if you work at a commercial gym.
- There is a wide range in pay. Personal trainers can make anywhere from $15 per hour to more than $100 per hour, depending on where you live and work. In addition to your hourly rate, your income will also be tied to how many hours you work and can fill each week.
- Income may not be stable. Cancellations happen all the time in personal training. One day you may have a full schedule and the next, no one to work with—which means you’re not getting paid.
- There is an increased risk of burnout. Personal training takes a lot of energy, both physically and mentally. It’s easy to get burned out, especially if you’re training all the time.
Characteristics of a Good Personal Trainer
To be a good personal trainer, you have to possess some skills. These skills include being;
Additionally, you should enjoy working with different kinds of people, be self-motivated, and be a good listener.
This is because, on some days you’d face clients who are;
- Are afraid to push too hard or, on the other hand, want to push harder than they should.
- Blame you if they don’t reach their fitness or weight loss goals
- Have all kinds of excuses for why they can’t or don’t exercise
- Are not compliant with the workouts you give them
- Cancel with little or no notice
- Show up without workout shoes or other necessary gear
- Have injuries or other conditions
- Have never exercised and need good modeling for even the most basic of exercises
Every client is different. So you’d need to be able to determine how to handle each one in the best way possible.
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Personal Trainer Salaries and Job Growth
The fitness industry continually evolves as new products and fitness take shape. With this change, comes more employment opportunites.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the fitness industry is projected to grow 15 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations.
Also, the 2019 median pay for fitness trainers in the United States was $40,390 per year, $19.42 per hour.
The number of fitness trainer openings as of May 2019, was 373,700.
As businesses, government, and insurance organizations continue to recognize the benefits of health and fitness programs for their employees, incentives to join gyms or other types of health clubs are expected to increase the need for fitness trainers and instructors.
What Qualifications Do I Need to Become a Fitness Trainer
If you have decided that personal training is for you, then you have to get training, and be certified.
There are lots of professional courses you can take to become a personal trainer, let’s start with the basics first.
#1. Complete your prerequisites
Before you begin your professional personal trainer course, you’ll need to have a few items checked. Some of these include;
- 18 years or older
- High school diploma or GED
- CPR/AED certification
Most personal training certification bodies require these prerequisites first before you are certified.
Also, some may require the Automated External Defibrillator (AED) Certification along with the Emergency Cardiac Care (CPR). But these can be packed together in one course.
You can check with the American Red Cross to get a CPR/AED certification.
#2. Choose the course suitable for you
There are several personal training courses available for personal trainers. But, you don’t have to take all of them. Choose which course best suits you, and stick to it.
To help you make a good choice of which course to take, ask yourself these questions.
- How do I understand new concepts best? Do you learn better when the tutor is in-person, or can you handle it better learning on your own?
- How much time do you have? Are you looking to be certified as soon as possible, or do you want to get a college degree?
Answers to these questions, will help you choose the right certification course.
#3. Education Routes
Personal training education/qualification isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. There are several options to it, including:
- A certification by an accredited US company (self-study)
- Attending a vocational college (in-person)
- University programs with Bachelors or Masters (in-person or online)
- Unaccredited online options (self-study)
- Gym program (in-person)
Each option has its own program curriculum and certification procedures. On completion, you’ll hold a certification that makes you qualified to teach people as a personal trainer.
On the flip side, just the first three options are accredited programs.
Do I Need to Enroll in an Accredited Program to become a Personal trainer?
It’s not compulsory to take an accredited personal trainer program, but its necessary.
Hold on, I’ll explain.
An accredited personal trainer program means that it has been approved by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), National Board of Fitness Examiners (NBFE) or other top accrediting bodies.
While there are other personal trainer program credentialing bodies, the NCCA is considered the gold standard.
Most importantly, NCCA-certified personal training programs are generally recognized at most health facilities. Which means you can be considered, when you go for a job at a corporate gym.
On the other hand, unaccredited personal trainer programs are not approved by any accrediting body.
More so, they are ideal for someone who already has a network of clients who use their training methods, and has no intentions of working at a corporate gym facility.
Majority of personal trainers opt for accredited programs because it provides more in-depth education, and provides greater chances.
Here’s a list of the well-known certification organizations and their accreditations;
- ACE (American Council on Exercise), accredited by NCCA
- ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine), accredited by NCCA
- AFPA (American Fitness Professionals and Associates), not accredited
- IFPA (International Fitness Professionals Association), accredited by NCCA
- ISSA (International Sports & Sciences Association), accredited by DEAC
- NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine), accredited by NCCA
- NCSA (National Strength and Conditioning Association), accredited by NCCA
- NCSF (National Council on Strength and Fitness), accredited by NCCA
- NFPT (National Federation of Professional Trainers), accredited by NCCA
How Long Does it Take to Become a Personal Trainer?
Becoming a personal trainer doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes effort, courses, exams, and certifications.
After you’ve enrolled for that personal trainer program, consider your schedule and obligations before setting your exam date.
Give yourself at least three to six months, depending on your certification, to prepare. Also plan on committing anywhere from 75-100 hours to doing so.
Here’s an estimated study/completion time for each certification organization.
- NCCPT: 80-100 hours is the recommended study time
- NESTA: You must complete the test within 90 days of requesting the exam voucher so study well before this time
- ACSM: 3, 6, 12, or 24-month options
- ACE: Schedule test within 6 months of purchase date, but you can take it before 9 months
- ISSA: 6 months to complete
- NASM: Must complete in under 6 months
- NCSF: Must complete in under 6 months
- NCSA: 120 days after purchasing the exam
- NFPT: 12 Months after purchasing the exam
After Getting My Qualification, What Next?
After you have gotten your personal trainer qualification, what’s the next right thing to do? How do you become a good personal trainer
I’ll tell you.
Personal training is a very flexible profession, as there are variety of things you can do with it. You can decide to work at a corporate gym, health facility or even set up your own gym business.
Let’s go over it in details.
#1. Find a Personal trainer job
After you’ve gotten your certification, the next thing is to find a personal trainer job. If you’re just starting out, you may want to work for a larger health facility and build your portfolio.
Some employment opportunities include:
Working at a large gym is one of the ways to gain experience. However, the downside can be lower pay, working on commission, and lots of having to work long hours doing new member orientations to get new clients.
You can work for a company that offers health and wellness packages to its employees.
You can decide to train clients in their homes. Or have them visit your studio in your home.
Hospital or wellness centers
Many hospitals employ personal trainers to help patients recover from illnesses and conditions. However, they may require a higher degree of qualification because the clients involved have underlying health issues.
Spas and Resorts
Most resorts sometimes hire personal trainers to teach exercise classes.
#2. Have a Specialty
As you practice consistently, you’d discover that there are some exercises you enjoy better than the others, as well as clients you enjoy working with more than the others.
When this happens, consider acquiring further education and specializing in that area.
Specialty options include;
Athletics and Sports
You can help athletes develop their balance, agility, speed, performance, etc.
With this extra certification, you can help clients with the diet portion of their fitness goals, giving them specific advice on how they can eat healthily and lose weight.
You can work with clients who have bone conditions like arthritis.
#3. Improve Your Skills and Education
According to ACSM, continuing education is a requirement for keeping your certification current, but it also keeps you up to date on the latest in fitness, weight management, and health.
Stay on top of your qualifications. Learn more and keep learning. You never get disadvantaged when you continually improve yourself.
#4. Set up your business
As you are working and gaining experience, you may want to decide to start your own business as a sole proprietor, limited liability company (LLC), or corporation.
Maximize your days as an employer to learn the forms of these businesses well, and how to manage a business.
#5. Advertise yourself as a Trainer
If you’re going to set up your business, then you should consider marketing as the most important thing you’ll do.
Create business cards, connect with similar people in the industry, attend conferences, set up social media profiles, have a website, and attend events. Let people know that you are a certified personal trainer.
To answer the question of “do you need qualification to be a personal trainer?” the answer is yes.
If you want to be successful at being a personal trainer, then its even more important to get a qualification from an accredited certification organization.
Goodluck on your journey!