Personal training involves helping people to achieve personal fitness and health or, as they say, “a sound mind in a sound body”.
Personal trainers are engaged by people or organizations that fitness train such services. The profession of personal training requires some in-depth knowledge of human anatomy, physical education, nutrition, behavioral sciences, and health sciences.
Individuals and organizations who hire the services of personal trainers (either directly or through outfits offering fitness and health services) pay significant amounts of money and entrust minds, bodies, and lives into the hands of the personal trainers.
For one to entrust the minds, bodies, and entire lives of himself or of his clients into the hands of a personal trainer, one must ensure that the trainer shows reliable evidence of being knowledgeable in the art, science, and skill of personal training and that he meets all the legal, safety, and efficiency standards for personal training. Such reliable evidence comes in the form of clear qualifications that are recognized and accepted in the industry.
A personal trainer cannot make a mark or get engaged by reputable organizations and discerning individuals without the requisite qualifications. Depending on how robust a career one wants to build in personal training, there are basic, continuing, and advanced qualifications, as well as backup qualifications to be acquired.
Basic Qualifications You Need to Become a Personal Trainer
At the very minimum, in addition to certifications in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), First Aid, and Automated External Defibrillator (AED), a Personal Trainer should possess any of the following qualifications:
- Certification in a particular exercise e.g. Indoor Cycling (this is for those who want to train only in a particular exercise).
- Personal Training Certification by national and reputable organizations such as the American College of Sport Medicine (ACSM), American Council on Exercise (ACE), National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), and National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). A number of accredited certifying organizations are available in different countries. Care should be taken to avoid certification by non-reputable organizations.
- First Degree in Exercise Science or Kinesiology, Exercise Sport Science, Physical Education, Sport Management, or physiology.
Facts, science, techniques and technologies involved in personal training are continually evolving. Clients themselves strive to grow and adapt to life. Therefore, the personal trainer has to continually update his knowledge, know-how and skills.
In the personal training industry, it is required that practitioners attend continuing education, which is available in the form of:
- Periodic re-certification
- Annual conferences and seminars
- Weekend refresher courses
Evidence of continuing education by a personal trainer will assure clients that their personal trainer is growing with the times and that they also can continue to benefit from his efforts.
Advanced Qualifications You Need to Become a Personal Trainer
To have a more robust career in personal training, a practitioner needs to acquire additional qualifications that will enable him to practice in specialties that are related to fitness and health. Such areas include medical rehabilitation, nutrition, aerobics, yoga, sports physiotherapy, post-natal fitness, cardiac Rehab, obesity, fitness 50+, asthma, arthritis, and eating disorders.
These further practice areas require skills and knowledge far in excess of those required for basic personal training. To engage in such areas, a personal trainer will have to embark on as many courses as are required for intended specialties. Further qualifications to expand the scope of a personal trainer include:
- degrees in relevant specialties, as addition to basic Personal Trainer qualifications
- Advanced degrees to show improved capabilities
- associate degrees
- additional certifications
The qualifications can be acquired through formal university or school courses, online lessons, internships and certifications. Acquisition of such qualifications will enable a Personal Trainer to stand out of the pack.
Backup Qualifications with Required Qualities
For a personal trainer to succeed in practice, acquired qualifications must be backed up with a display of the right qualities. While the qualifications will show off the personal trainer as an expert, the qualities and traits will sustain his interaction with his clients.
Personal Trainers should be:
- People oriented
- Good in organizational abilities
- Able to motivate
- Leaders by example
- Willing to take constructive criticism
- Be good communicators
- Reliable and honest
- Good listeners
- Always willing to learn, grow, and improve
A personal trainer who is able to put the above qualities into use in addition to his qualifications will be able to cultivate satisfied clients, get referrals and secure the plum appointments in the personal training and allied industry.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Personal Trainer?
You become a personal trainer when you receive a certification in Personal Training (or a first degree in Physical Education, exercise science, nutrition, or kinesiology) plus certifications in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and First Aid. It is also desirable to obtain an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) certification.
Unless you are plying the university degree route, an aspiring personal trainer would have had some personal and physical development before embarking on a certification program. Now, the question then is: “How long does it take to become a certified Personal Trainer?”
Let us compare how long it will take to acquire a university degree for someone who has never been to school with the time it will take another person who has already passed secondary school to acquire the same university degree. Of course, you may not be able to start counting for the former until he has passed through all the stages to obtain a secondary school certificate.
In the same way, the length of time it takes to obtain certification and become a qualified Personal Trainer depends on the existing level of personal and physical development of the aspiring Personal Trainer. This becomes more obvious when we consider the fact that a personal trainer’s role involves assisting people with physical exercise, physical fitness, nutrition, diets and life style.
There are a number of routes through which one can pass towards certification. The route one takes determines the length of period it will take to get to certification. The routes can be put into two broad categories:
- University or vocational school
- Informal courses.
We can now attempt to put figures to the length of period it will take to qualify and become a Personal Trainer.
1. University or vocational school
Bagging a university degree in personal training takes about four years after your admission. With the relevant degree plus certification in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and First Aid, you qualify to be a Personal Trainer. You can equally attend a vocational school. A typical Personal Trainer’s course in a vocational school will take about two years. During the course of the training, you would have been sufficiently prepared to take and pass a certification test.
2. Informal courses
Finding how long it takes to obtain a Personal Trainer’s certification through informal courses could be a little tricky. First, you would have spent a considerable amount of time in physical development circles to attain a high level of physical and personal development that would give you a good degree of confidence. After attaining this level of confidence, you can then embark on the preparation for a certification examination through your choice of an informal course.
You can take an online course which, depending on how much time you devote, can be completed in a minimum of four to six weeks. Such courses are offered by fitness organizations such as the International Sports Sciences Association. An examination is taken on completion of the course. If you pass the examination, you become a qualified Personal Trainer.
You could study on your own by acquiring and working through course materials from a fitness organization to prepare for a certification examination. Once you are adequately prepared for the examination, you apply to a Testing Center. The Testing Center schedules you for a certification examination. And if you pass the test, you become a qualified Personal Trainer. It is possible to complete the whole process in a period of six to eight weeks.
Instead of studying on your own to prepare for the certification test, you could take advantage of workshops offered by some organizations like the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (if you are based in the U.S.). This way, a three-day workshop prepares you for the certification test and the entire process can be completed in about a week.
So, depending on how much you already know, how fast you can learn, and how much time and effort you put in, it could take three months to four years or more to get there but it is actually worth the while.
Personal Trainer Certification, as a validation of your professional competence, is the gateway to one of the fastest growing industries in the world. The awareness and demand for fitness is growing very rapidly and there are opportunities for the personal trainers to work in gyms, their own studios, health clubs, sports outfits, and hospitals.
Opportunities are also available for a properly trained personal trainer to be engaged as a motivator and a rehab technician. Add to that the multiple avenues open to the certified personal trainer to earn money on regular and part-time basis.