So you want to become a personal trainer, eh? The US Department of Labour declared personal training as one of the fastest growing occupations. How do you start on the path to this dynamic and rewarding profession? There are numerous methods to becoming a personal trainer. This article provides you with a series of methodical steps, or career plan, to guide you through the choices on preparing to become a personal trainer.
Investigate various personal training positions
Visit a variety of locations where trainers work. Locations include but are not limited to:
- Community Centre Fitness Facilities
- Private Health Clubs
- Rehabilitation Clinic (Exercise Therapist)
- Sports Team Conditioning (Strength Coach)
- Hospitals (Cardiac Rehab)
- Athletic Therapy (Athletic Trainer)
When visiting these places see if you can set up an information interview with one of the employees to ask questions (qualifications, nature of the job, typical day etc.) or job shadow. Once you know the area where you would like to work, tailor your education accordingly.
Set up an education plan.
Two ways you can become a personal trainer are:
- Academic Degree and Certification.
- Certification only.
It is obvious that a degree and certification will provide more employment options. Your choice of method to pursue depends on your career goal. Step A should have helped you decide this goal.
1. Academic Education
Local college and university institutions may offer Physical Education, Human Kinetics, Kinesiology, and Human Movement Science programs. These are 3 to 4-year programs, depending on the institution, resulting in a Bachelor's degree. It is becoming increasingly important for trainers to take the academic route, as most employment opportunities require a degree and certification. When researching a post-secondary institution, you should:
- Check out the course descriptions
- Take a look at the textbooks in the bookstore
- Talk to an academic advisor
- Chat with students in the program (ask the advisor about mentors)
This will help you evaluate your interest in the program and its compatibility with your career goals. If you are lucky enough to have two colleges near you with similar programs, check them both out. Some curriculums are quite different in their course offerings (theory vs. application). Look for a nice balance. Once you have found a program you like then look at tuition costs, book costs, time commitment (part-time or full-time student), work and family responsibilities. If your time is limited, look at the possibility of part-time studies and correspondence courses. It will take longer but as Stephen Covey says, "It is not how fast you are going, it is where you're heading that's more important".
Choose certifications wisely - there are a lot out there! You need to evaluate the following:
- Qualifications of the faculty of the certifying body: Look at education levels, experience, and contribution to the field collectively.
- Curriculum: Does it realistically help you work with the population you want to serve? Where it is recognized? Ask the local community/fitness centers for recognized programs in your city, province, or state.
- Realize you will need more than one certification eventually. Investigate specialty certifications you would like to pursue after receiving your base one. Most of the certifying bodies have websites and brochures for you to investigate. Refer to the Base Level Certification Information article on our site for links to the industry's top personal training certifications. After this, check out the Specialty Certifications article for Personal Trainers to further advance skills.
Insurance is important. Fitness activities are unpredictable - even if you have been as careful as possible. Accidents can happen. There is always the risk of legal action. Once you are successfully certified, many of the certification bodies send you information on insurance. Read the brochure!
Once certified, it is only the beginning. To stay current you need to continue to educate yourself. Do this by:
Reading journals such as:
- ACSM Health and Fitness Journal
- IDEA Source and IDEA Personal Trainer
- NSCA Strength and Conditioning Journal and Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research
- Fitness Trainer Canada
- Physician and Sports Medicine
- Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology
- Your local college or university will have many reputable journals where you can photocopy individual articles.
Taking CEC's (Continuing Education Courses)
Every certification requires you to obtain a certain amount of contact hours taking courses to re-certify. This insures that their fitness professionals are continually upgrading and educating themselves. You can take many exciting courses in your local areas or by correspondence. Check them out!
As mentioned above, taking a specialty certification further develops your skills. It also widens the population you can work with. This means greater income potential. It is also a method of continuing your education.
Personal Training is a very rewarding career. You have the opportunity to make an impact on someone's health in a positive way. Good luck with your career path.