How to Become a Personal Trainer

This article provides in-depth information into What is a Personal Trainer? What Personal Trainer do? Degrees for Personal Trainer, Steps to become Personal Trainer and much more.

What does a personal trainer do?

 A personal trainer is an individual who is nationally certified fitness professional to assist clients with advanced knowledge of human anatomy, nutrition, physiology and general knowledge of fitness including exercise, instruction and prescription.

They work with their clients one-on-one to help them lose weight, get stronger, improve their health and maintenance, establish healthy nutritional behavior by motivating their clients towards success.

They create goals to their clients and train them to achieve those goals with continuous assessment of the health needs of their clients. 

A certified personal trainer can be self-employed, work for a corporation or even at a gym or a fitness center.

Personal trainer salaries

According to 2020 statistics, the salaries offered to a personal trainer in the United States is  $61,034 and typically ranges between $44,000 to $74,976. This vastly depends on the education, experience, certification and the additional skills possessed by the candidate.

Job growth

According to the U.S Department of Labor, The employment opportunities are expected to grow up to a rate of 24 percent from 2014 to 2024, this is recorded faster than an average job with the addition of 23,000 job openings.

The Fitness industry continuously undergoes evolution with new job opportunities and scope, in the coming years it is estimated to have increased the need for fitness experts and personal trainers.

Steps to become a personal trainer

Here are some steps to guide you get one step closer to becoming a personal trainer,

Step 1- Earn a high school degree

To be a certified personal trainer the minimum requirement is to get a high school degree or equivalent to  get nationally certified. You could also get a post secondary education such as a certification course , training course or a formal education is recommended. 

Step 2- Complete AED/CPR Certification

A Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and Automated External Defibrillator (AED) certification program to educate trainers to encounter physical emergencies with clients. These programs teach the trainers to identify the medical emergencies of their clients, and act swiftly during such situations. This national certification is required by every personal trainer to get into this profession.

Step 3- Choose a fitness speciality

Before entering into any training program, you must decide on what career pathway to pursue. You could choose the specialization program based on your personal interest and professional goals. You could choose a group exercise,  individual personal training, fitness program. Once you choose the specialization you want to continue, You review on the various fitness certifying bodies for the certification. Select the program and start preparing for your dream profession.

Step 4- Prepare for certification

Once you select the fitness certifying program, you start preparing to get certified. You could choose the Certified personal Trainer from the American Council on exercise or National academy of Sports Medicine, you prepare for the certification exam. 

The training program includes the training classes with formal education from undergrad degree with the general science to the graduate degrees in kinesiology.

Step 5- Clear certification exam

Choose the certification you want to earn, and apply for the examination. The personal training certification exams are online and it includes objective type questions from 120 to 150. You may be charged a fee to apply for the certification exam.  

The exam conducted by the National Academy of Sports Medicine for a Personal Trainer Certification includes program planning, client consultation and fitness assessment, exercise technique and safety/ emergency issues.

Step 6- Land on a job

After clearing the certification exam, you get nationally certified for a personal trainer and eligible to apply as a personal trainer at a fitness center, gym or  corporation.

Most trainers work at a gym to gain experience under the supervision of an experienced trainer. This gives them a better transition from being a student to a professional, building clients and networking. You could also continue your education to make yourself more marketable while working as a personal trainer, This increases your earning potentials.

Types of degrees for a personal trainer

Personal trainer may only require a high school diploma, for career advancement or a career change,  he can choose the following degrees to become a personal trainer. Learn about the various professional degree programs available to  meet you interest,

Personal training certificate

A certification program for the personal trainers takes only two to three semesters to complete the coursework, and helps the graduates to get an easy transition as a personal trainer or a career change for the entry level training. It includes study of nutrition, general science, human anatomy, Physiology. Through this program students develop knowledge to crack the certification exam.

Associate’s degree in personal training

An associates degree focusing on personal training is a two year degree program with 60 to 66 credit hours.This gives a comprehensive concentration on the professional areas such as sports medicine, kinesiology, exercise.  This also benefits students to carry over the credits and gives foundational skills to enter the to the bachelor's degree

Bachelor’s degree in personal training

A bachelor's degree is a four year program which expands your understanding on the topics such as nutrition, exercise science, therapy, sports medicine. A Student pursuing this program gets to learn both the formal education as well gets training for the for employment opportunities across the professional healthcare centers.

The coursework includes nutrition, physiology, health psychology to prepare you to get nationally certified for the job you want to land on.

Masters degree in personal training

It is a two years program offered to students who want to specialize in a certain course of their interest such as fitness, health, exercise science in individual or a group level. It also induces leadership and administrative skills for challenging positions in various fields.  With the wide range and in-depth academic concentrations, students understand the advanced concepts to pursue careers in orthopedic rehabilitation, physiology, strength and conditioning and other.

PhD in personal training

A doctoral degree focusing on the personal training is pursued by students who want to conduct research and academic focus on various concentrations. Some are physiology, kinesiology, nutrition, health promotion and exercise science. This degree program is completed based on the time taken by the student to complete the research.

Concentrations to be considered by a personal trainer

Academic concentrations: To land on the profession of a personal trainer, they study diverse courses to help them assist their clients in every possible way. Some academic concentration they go through are listed here,

Personal training certification:Certification is important for personal trainer to land on a good earning job.This program gives the foundational knowledge to student to enter into the new professionals a personal trainer, the coursework includes the,

Physical fitness concepts

This course introduces the basic concepts of the health-related topics  such as exercise, nutrition, training. This teaches the concepts behind planning the exercise and how to instruct the clients to follow them.

Skills acquired:

  • Designing the fitness routine according to the conditions and issues of the patient

  • Conducting the pre and post-assessment of the clients

  • Exercise methodology

Introduction to personal training

The course offers the exploration of the basic one-on-one personal training, the various techniques and effectively communicate with the clients and assess them with effective exercise methods.

Skills acquired:

  • Scientific principles behind exercise

  • Learn about the biomechanics

  • Demonstrating the basic methods of exercise

  • Motivating the clients towards healthy lifestyle

Methodologies of personal training

To understand the overview of the role of personal trainer with the concepts of client assessment, feedback and evaluation of the plan being set by the trainer to improve health conditions of the client.

Skills acquired:

  • To prepare the fitness plan

  • Effectively communicate with the clients

  • Professionalism and ethics.

Associate’s degree in personal training: This program is a combination of both formal education classes and gives training on fitness training, instructing, communication and other practical concepts. The coursework offered in his degree program are,

Exercise Science and Nutrition

The course provides knowledge on fitness , health, nutrition and other related disciplines. 

This educated individuals the importance of health and how nutrition affects the body and health.

Skills acquired:

  • Learn the fundamentals of fitness and health.

  • Plan the nutrition requirement according to the body requirements

  • Basic exercises to maintain health

Exercise program design

This program gives an introduction on the fitness programs,planning the fitness routine, focusing on the strength, stamina and flexibility building techniques through exercising.

Skills acquired:

  • Weight management techniques

  • Fitness training techniques

  • Communicate to motivate the clients 

  • Planning the exercise program

Strength and conditioning

This course is to get an understanding on how the muscle physiology helps in resistance training, its effects. How to use exercising techniques  effectively.

Skills acquired:

  • Resisting training techniques

  • Correct exercising technique

Bachelor's degree in personal training

The coursework for a bachelor's degree expands the scope of the certification and associates degree and essential to sit for the national certification examination, some courses are,

Motor learning and development

This course details about the conceptual principles of human movements and developments  at different ages from birth to adulthood.

Skills acquired:

  • Theories of motor development

  • Understand the motor control system

Nutrition and physical activities

This course is to educate students on the chronic diseases and prevention strategies and the various health practices on individual and community level.

Skills acquired:

  • Nutritional strategies

  • Primary precaution techniques for health problem

  • The health trends of the individual and community level

Principles in resistance training

Course to study the fundamentals of resistance training and exploring the topics such as thee biomechanics and biogenetics.

Skills acquired:

  • Theories of resistance training

  • Techniques of resistance training

Masters degree in personal training

 The coursework in this degree level gives advanced knowledge to specialise in the subject  of your interest. With the research skills, students get the leadership and administrative qualities. The courses offered are,

Health promotion program design:

This is a course to learn about the organisation, development and design of disease prevention program based on relevant research theory. To study the interventions which work on the individual, interpersonal, organisational, community level of disease control programs.

Skills acquired:

  • Learn to design the health promotion programs

  • Organizational leadership skills

  • Managing grants

Health behaviour program evaluation

The course helps students to examine the programs to evaluate the models related to health education, decision models and the impact of analysis. It also includes the health promotion programs with several discussed factors and basic statistical techniques.

Skills acquired:

  • Conducting the qualitative and quantitative assessment of models

  •  Examine the applicability of program evaluation with sample size.

  • Conduct survey and examination to analyse the impact of the program

Statistics in exercise science

This course aids students to conduct experimentation the the data using the statistical techniques which covers the modeling in sports science and hypothesis testing. This also includes the distribution of application of exercise science, health with development of research skills.

Skills acquired:

  • Conduct the experimental design on your own data

  • Using the various distributions such as poisson and binomial to test the exercise science and health.

  • Interpretation of the statics on the samples based on sample size

PhD in personal training

 This program allows gaining specific knowledge and research competencies in various areas.This allows students to choose the courses according to their interest and the coursework includes,  

Data analysis in kinesiology

This course gives the students the conceptual idea on the issues related to health, kinesiology, psychology. This gives a prominent understanding on the research and analyses the data using various techniques and softwares.

Skills acquired:

  • Overview of the different possible data derived from health analysis

  • Evaluation of the health related issues

  • Emphasize on the matching research issues

Approaches to physical data

This course helps students to understand how the modern lifestyle makes an impact on human health. The environmental influence and impact of physical activities to reduce the consumption of medicine and gradually improve health.

Skills acquired:

  • Strategies to improve the quality of life with reducing medicine intake.

  • Understand the importance of physical activity

  • Promote healthy lifestyle

  • Recommend physical activities to clients

Exercise and metabolism response

This course details the metabolism activities of the human body and how the exercise is related to metabolism activities. The course includes the study of carbohydrates to the connection between fatigue and metabolism.

Skills acquired:

  • Understand the complex systems of the body such as the nuero-hormonal systems

  • Muscle contractions due to exercise and metabolism 

  • Adaptive exercise training

  • Understand the lipid and protein metabolism 

Job concentrations

The career options for a personal trainer is vast and diverse in the fitness and health industry. A certified personal trainer can choose new career paths as a work area such as nutrition, sports science, exercise medicine, performance. Here are some career concentrations you can consider,

Exercise physiologist:

Exercise physiologists analyse how the patient's body responds to the health treatments by physical activity to maintain good health. They also study the chronic adaptation to exercise and acute responses with enhancing their overall health and physical performance. This career path requires you to have an undergrad degree in Kinesiology or Exercise science along with a certification from the American College of Sports Medicine. For clinical positions, you'll need a Master’s degree and a certification from the American Society of Exercise Physiologists.

This job will fetch you a salary of $32,000 to $67,000 per year.

Sports nutritionist:

A sports nutritionist is a professional expert who advises the athletes about their nutrition regime to enhance their capabilities and how a specific food or fluid affects their stamina and performance. They develop nutrition menus for diverse clients and counsel them on their body requirements. This career path is pursued by earning a bachelor's degree in nutrition and certification from the American dietetics association. You could earn about $36,000 to $82,000 annually.

Group exercise instructor:

A Group Exercise Instructor is a fitness expert who instructs, develops and plans to lead the group of people to personally train them with exercise sessions. The sessions are diverse with various uses of equipment and some classes are aerobics, pilates, yoga, and others. The trainer participates long with the clients and motivates them to ensure exercise safety. A Group exercise trainer requires a certification from the American College of Sports Medicine and earns up to $30,000 as a base salary.

Corrective Exercise specialist: A Corrective Exercise Specialist is specialized in body movement, posture, and mechanics. They keenly observe the client's movement patterns, flexibility issues, and the postures and correct them accordingly with suitable exercise routines. They must be experienced and must be certified by the Corrective Exercise Specialist Certification from the National Academy of Sports medicine. This job fetches an average salary ranging about $50,000 per year.

Strength and conditioning coach

The strength and conditioning coach help clients to improve their athletic performance and train them to reduce injuries. The coach usually works with the sports team but the strength and conditioning training can also be provided to patients at the clinic, fitness clubs, high schools. This training is important to athletes for maximizing their potentials and reducing their susceptibility to injuries. This profession requires you to earn a bachelor's degree and come with practical experience with the certification from the National Strength and Conditioning Association. This job can help you to earn an approximate salary ranging between $32,000 to $67,000 per annum.

Stand out skills for a personal trainer

If you are thinking of having a successful journey as a personal trainer, you must not only have a certificate but also  certain skills to uplift your career. Here are some skills to possess to become an exceptional professional trainer,

Fitness assessment: The primary objective for a personal trainer to conduct assessment of their clients at regular intervals for better optimization of their routine plans.They must be aware  of the various screening techniques and settings to identify and eliminate any risk that could affect the client's health.

Communication: the trainer must make the clients comfortable enough to interact well, an effective communication can result in better response to the treatment provided and maintain a healthy professional relationship.

Leadership: A trainer must instruct the clients in a professional way and make them follow those instructions well. He must also convince the client on what benefit they acquire on following those instructions and also guide them constant motivation to achieve the preset goals.

Analytical thinking: Trainers must always analyse the actions and the behaviour of their clients by their response , they must have the ability to understand the learning pace of their clients and their progress and maximize the exercise they need gradually. 

Exercise mechanism: They must have a vast knowledge on what training to  be considered for their clients and design a menu for their fitness routine to accelerate their improvement. They must recollect their knowledge to include them in the instruction they give to their clients, on what equipment to use and for safe training methods.

Personal Trainer Salaries

Personal Trainer