What Education Do I Need to Become a Personal Trainer

Are you a fitness enthusiast and want to take up a career as a personal trainer? This article is just the one for you. Read on to know the educational requirements to become a personal trainer.

Updated by Ipsita Meher on 11th May 2020

According to a  blog published in LearnHowtoBecome.Org, Personal training is big business, a $10 billion dollar industry. In fact, according to market research from IBISWorld, It’s a continually evolving industry, one that offers a range of potential career opportunities for individuals interested in becoming personal trainers. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, between 2012 and 2022, employment in the field is expected to increase by 13%. 

Personal training is a vast industry which is growing and blooming at a rapid speed. It is also a very flexible occupation where one can become a freelancer and earn. This industry allows enthusiasts to enter just with a high school degree. To become a personal trainer you must possess a national certificate. However, advanced training, experience and a postsecondary education can give better positions to trainers for a successful career. In this article we shall discuss what it takes to become a personal trainer, what kind of educational programs are available, certifications and specializations.


Following is a step by step guide to becoming a personal trainer

Do your research and choose a study program

 If you are really inclined to fitness and wish to become a fitness coach or a personal trainer, the first step you need to do is to find out a certification program for this course. One of the basic prerequisites is you should be at least 18 yrs old for enrollment in any of the certification courses. Make sure that the program you are choosing is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), considered the gold standard in health and fitness. There are several institutes which do provide NCCA accredited certification programs. Few of them are: 

  • American Council on Exercise (ACE)

  • American Fitness Training of Athletics (AFTA)

  • American Fitness Professionals and Associates (AFPA)

  • International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA)

  • Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFFA)

  • National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)

  • National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)

Earn a High School Degree

In order to get a certification to be a personal trainer you must  first get a high school degree as this is the minimum eligibility criteria. Most of the national certification bodies require candidates to have a high school diploma or equivalent to sit for a certifying examination.

Second important thing is if you have an additional degree or if you have completed post secondary education then it can be an additional advantage for you.

Have an  AED/CPR certification

There might be emergencies while a trainer is teaching certain courses to the client, so the trainer should know some basic treatments. All these training come under two certification i.e. cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillator (AED).  These programs teach trainers how to recognize when a client is having a medical emergency, handle cardiac or breathing emergencies and act accordingly to help a client until professional aid is given. AED and CPR certifications are mostly required by every national personal training certification organization.

Choose your domain of Speciality

 One cannot be the master of all trades. Similarly when you are thinking of building a career in the fitness industry as a personal trainer you need to think, in which domain of fitness, you want to specialise in.

Prospective trainers can select a specialization that matches their skill sets, personal interests, and professional goals. What kind of work you want to do, whether you want to work in group exercise, individualised personal training, or fitness programming, is up to you to decide. Once you are sure about the path you want to go and make a career in it, review and research about the options available for you. Look for different fitness bodies and organisations which can provide you  your choice of certification program. Select the program that makes the most sense, from a preparation and professional outcome point-of-view.

Prepare for a National Certification for Personal Trainer

Once you are clear about your goal and specialisation, the next step is to prepare for the examination. All the reputed training organisations, whether it be American Council on Exercise (ACE) or American Fitness Professionals and Associates (AFPA) will be conducting tests. In order to pass these tests, you have to do your preparation. Training options include a lot of things such as multi-session training classes, undergraduate degrees in exercise science etc.

Take and Pass Certification Examination

The next step is to register for the selected certification examination. Registration typically includes an application and fee. Most personal training certifications are computer-based tests that include between 120 and 150 multiple-choice questions. For example, the Certified Personal Trainer Certification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine has questions across four sections: Program Planning; Client Consultation and Fitness Assessment; Exercise Techniques; and Safety/Emergency Issues.

Apply for Jobs and Build a Portfolio

Once you are done with your certification, then a lot many organisations or fitness training institutes will be ready to take you as their trainer. Some of the organisations which give online job postings are NSAM, ACE and UCAS.


There are other options available as well, you can work as an assistant to a professional trainer and can gain knowledge by assisting him. You can also choose to work as an independent professional or a freelancer. In both ways, make sure to keep in touch with health and fitness  professionals and to build your connection in this industry. Definitely it will help you in shaping your career.

As it is a growing industry, there are a lot of opportunities which lie in this field. You can make an amazing career in this field. We hope the information given in this article will help you in your pursuit of becoming a professional trainer.