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.

Personal Trainer

Personal trainers are nationally certified fitness professionals with advanced knowledge of human anatomy and physiology, nutrition and exercise science. They have the ability to create and lead individual and group exercises that are tailor-made for the health needs of their clients. A Personal Trainer guides their client's step by step throughout their whole routine, whether it’s in a gym or boot camp. They are passionate about health and fitness, and through their work inspire and encourage others to develop healthy habits and routines through the safe delivery of effective programs, instruction, motivation, and education.

What does Personal Trainer do ?

A personal trainer works one-on-one with a client to develop and implement a fitness training regimen that helps them lose weight, get stronger, improve physical performance or maintain their health.

  • Assume the responsibility of training existing clients who are interested in increasing their fitness levels, losing weight and entering competitions.

  • Demonstrating exercises and routines to clients.

  • Talk to members of the gym about their goals and introduce them to our personal training packages.

  • Lead group fitness classes when necessary.

  • Advise clients about important safety concerns and demonstrate exercises or maneuvers as needed.

  • Provide clients with safe, reasonable exercises that they can perform in the gym as well as at home.

  • Assisting clients in exercises to minimize injury and promote fitness.

  • Modify exercises according to clients’ fitness levels.

  • Monitoring client progress.

  • Providing information or resources on general fitness and health issues.

  • Providing emergency first aid if necessary.

  • Collect weekly payments from your clients and turn them over to the accounting department.

Steps for becoming Personal Trainer



The majority of national certification bodies only require candidates to have a high school diploma or equivalent to sit for a certifying examination. Although postsecondary education, in the form of a certificate, training course or formal degree is highly recommended, completing the minimum educational requirement is important.



Because personal trainers may encounter physical emergencies with clients, they should complete a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillator (AED) certification programs. These programs teach trainers how to recognize when a client is having a medical emergency, handle cardiac or breathing emergencies and act swiftly to help a client until professional first responders arrive. AED and CPR certifications are required by nearly every national personal training certification organization.



Before embarking on any form of training, it is important to decide on a career pathway. Prospective trainers can select a specialization that matches their skill sets, personal interests, and professional goals. Once students determine their path, they should review the various fitness certifying bodies and each of their fitness certifications. Select the program that makes the most sense, from a preparation and professional outcome point-of-view.



Once a certification is selected, whether Certified Personal Trainer from the American Council on Exercise or National Academy of Sports Medicine, it is time to prepare for the certification examination. Training options include everything from exam prep courses to multi-session training classes, undergraduate degrees in exercise science to graduate degrees in kinesiology.



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.



Once students have passed their test and are a certified personal trainer, they are qualified for positions in a variety of fitness settings. To get started, the NASM and other fitness organizations have online job postings. Many trainers start by gaining experience by working at their local gym and shadowing an experienced trainer before seeking other opportunities in their area. Others choose to work as independent professionals, building a client roster. Either way, building a portfolio of clients, industry connections and continuing your education can make you more marketable in the long run.

Personal Trainer Salaries

Personal Trainer

Personal Trainer Degree Levels


Certificates are science-based educational programs uniquely designed to prepare graduates for entry-level personal trainer careers. Typically requiring between two and three semesters of study, certificates expose students to the fundamentals of exercise science, nutrition, and human anatomy and physiology. Through this curriculum, students learn about fitness assessment, develop skills in exercise program design, and gain hands-on experience working with clients in an off-campus internship.

Physical Fitness Concepts
  • Preparing for PA & Health Benefits

  • Vigorous Aerobic & Sport Activity

  • Cardiovascular Fitness

  • Exercise methodologies

  • Client Assessment

  • Fitness Plan Development

Introduction to Personal Training
  • Human Movement Science

  • Exercise Metabolism & Bioenergetics

  • Resistance Training Concepts

  • Biomechanics

  • Scientific principles of exercise

  • Motor learning

Methodologies of Personal Training
  • Fitness in recreation and sport for all

  • Body Balance – Technique of stability

  • Step Choreography

  • Ethics and professionalism

  • Trainer communication

  • Fitness planning


These two-year programs allow students to complete a comprehensive course of study in a range of professional areas, such as personal training, exercise science, sports medicine, athletic training or kinesiology. Requiring between 60 and 66 credit hours of study, associate degrees blend general education classwork with career-specific instruction in areas such as sports nutrition, health and wellness, fitness marketing and management, and fitness education.

Exercise Science and Nutrition
  • Fundamentals of nutrition and fitness

  • procedures and techniques in training

  • mechanical factors related to human movement

  • Nutritional planning

  • Energy balance

  • Basic exercises

Exercise Program Design
  • Introduction to the Fitness Profession

  • Concepts of Integrated Training

  • Acquisition and Consultation

  • Weight management techniques

  • Motivational communication

  • Fitness training techniques

Strength and Conditioning
  • Physical Education and Training

  • Sports Medicine

  • Muscle Strength

  • Correct exercise form and technique

  • Resistance training techniques


Bachelor’s degree programs expand upon the scope of certificates and associate degrees and cover a wider array of majors, such as nutrition, exercise science, physical therapy, kinesiology and sports medicine. Students pursuing bachelor’s degrees receive training for employment opportunities not only in personal training but across professional health fields, such as rehabilitation science. Traditionally requiring four years to complete, bachelor’s degree introduces students to broad topics in exercise physiology, nutrition, physical activity and health psychology.

Motor Learning and Development
  • Basics of Good Teaching

  • Technical Skills

  • Cultivating Mental Toughness

  • Theories of motor development

  • Communication and feedback

  • Motor control systems

Nutrition and Physical Activity
  • Chronic diseases and prevention strategies

  • Changing health behaviors

  • Factors Affecting Food Choices

  • Nutritional strategies

  • Individual and community health trends

  • Primary prevention techniques for health problems

Principles in Resistance Training
  • Weight Training Technique

  • Muscular Structure and Function

  • Stretching and Flexibility

  • Resistance training theory

  • Muscle physiology

  • Modes and methods of resistance training principles


Master’s degrees are two-year programs of study that prepare students for leadership and administrative positions in fitness, health, and sports settings. The curriculum covers a range of academic concentrations, from exercise physiology to fitness performance, behavioral science to nutrition. Students gain an understanding of advanced concepts in areas such as fitness programming, clinical nutrition, physical rehabilitation and exercise testing. Graduates can pursue personal trainer careers in careers in orthopedic rehabilitation, exercise physiology, strength and conditioning, and more.

Health Promotion Program Design
  • Planning a Health Promotion Program

  • Implementing a Health Promotion Program

  • Implementing a Health Promotion Program

  • Organizational leadership

  • Grant management

  • Health program administration

Health Behavior Program Evaluation
  • The Context of Program Planning

  • Logic Models

  • Implementation of and Budgeting for a Program Plan

  • Program evaluation techniques

  • Qualitative and quantitative assessment

  • Outcome evaluation

Statistics in Exercise Science
  • Neuromechanical Kinesiology

  • Basic Statistics for Exercise Science

  • Biomechanics

  • Statistical test use

  • Experiment design

  • Interpretation of statistics


Doctoral programs prepare students to pursue research- and academic-focused careers across a variety of settings, including universities, government organizations, and clinical research facilities. Students may choose from different concentrations, such as exercise physiology, kinesiology, nutrition and health promotion, and exercise science. In these programs, students develop scholarly research competencies in specific knowledge areas (e.g. aging, applied physiology, and bioenergetics). These programs culminate with a doctoral dissertation that contributes to the body of knowledge in the student’s chosen field.

Data Analysis in Kinesiology
  • Overview of research fits in kinesiology

  • Nature and purpose of research

  • Using Microsoft Excel and SPSS statistics

  • Statistical principles

  • Research methods used in clinical and laboratory research

  • Statistical software

Approaches to Physical Activity
  • Measuring Physical Activity

  • Physical Activity Surveillance

  • Inactivity: sedentary behavior

  • Universal health policies

  • Community and individual health

  • Environmental policy issues

Exercise and Metabolic Response
  • Nutrition and Energy

  • Physiological Systems: Transportation

  • Muscle Physiology & Training: Energy Out

  • Adapting exercise training

  • Regulating insulin and metabolism

  • Understanding of lipid and protein metabolism