How to Become a Certified Fitness Trainer
EP-C, CPT, NASM, ACSM – to the uninitiated, the world of fitness training certifications can seem like alphabet soup. A quick search online reveals hundreds of certification programs in the U.S. alone, each with their own set of requirements, costs and course schedules. With so many variables, it can be difficult to decide which program is right for you. As a trainer, however, it’s an important decision. Where and how you are able to train clients is often determined by the type of certification that you earn.
Here are some steps to help identify a potential certification program, but keep in mind this is not an exhaustive list, and you must conduct your own independent research to find the right program for you:
1. Check Your Prerequisites
While each certification program has its own requirements, there are a few standards most programs require.
- You must be at least 18 years of age.
- You must hold a current CPR/AED certification with a live skills check.
- You must have a high school degree or GED.
2. Choose Between School or Certification
Once you’ve determined that you meet the prerequisites, you can choose between getting a fitness degree or certification. Exercise science and kinesiology programs can be found at a number of four-year universities and colleges, such as the University of Texas. Completing a degree program can take several years, but offers a comprehensive understanding of fitness training and health.
Certification programs are typically more limited in their scope and usually requiring more independent study, while likely offering more flexibility. Depending on the type of certification you pursue, programs can take as little as a few days or up to a year. You may be able to continue to work part-time or full-time while completing the program on evenings and weekends.
3. Decide How You Want to Train
Your certification requirements may change depending on where you want to work and what type of training you want to offer your clients. There may be additional requirements you need to fulfill if you plan to work at a particular gym or spa that you don’t need for a home studio. A gym may require that you be trained in a variety of exercises or to participate in their in-house programs, adding to the overall cost of your training. Considering that certification programs can run between $350-$2,000, or even higher, these are costs you’ll want to keep in mind.
If you’re interested in a particular type of exercise, such as balance and stability exercises, you can also find certification programs that are focused on just those areas. For example, the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) offers Strength and Conditioning Certification, while the National Council for Certified Personal Trainers (NCCPT) offers an Indoor Cycling Instructor Certification. You will be limited to those exercises and may need additional certifications if you want to expand your offerings in the future, but these focused programs can help you achieve your certification, likely in a shorter timeframe with less expense.
4. Select a Certification Program
When looking for a program that meets your education needs and requirements, you should look for one that has been accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). The NCCA sets standards for how organizations should conduct certification, making sure that all accredited programs meet the following:
- The examination process is fair and unbiased.
- The examination accurately measures the minimal competence of the candidate for the associated profession.
- The public is protected from unqualified or ineffective practitioners.
- The organization has the means to support its professionals.
By working with an NCCA-accredited organization, you’ll be investing time and money in a certification that will be valued by gyms and clients alike. You will also have access to NCCA’s resources to help address any concerns during your training.
While there are a number of NCCA-accredited fitness and wellness organizations available to you, three are widely considered to be the most popular:
- American Council on Exercise (ACE)
- National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
- American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
Each organization offers a few different fitness programs, with varying levels of specialization.
Whichever program you choose, you’ll be joining a fast-growing industry. Demand for fitness trainers and instructors is expected to grow by 10 percent between 2016 and 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s a faster rate of growth than other areas of employment. By getting your certification, you’re embarking on a career path that allows you to find job opportunities, stay fit and help others improve their wellness.
ProSight Global Inc., and its subsidiaries and affiliates (“ProSight”) do not endorse nor recommend any of the certification or degree programs described above. These descriptions are for informational purposes only. ProSight shall not be held liable for your registration or matriculation in any certification or degree program described above nor any payment you make for these certification or degree programs. Visit each certification or degree provider to learn about their specific programs and services and to understand each one’s program, requirements, costs, etc.