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How to Become a Personal Trainer: A Complete Guide

Trainer and female client talking in gym

If you love working out and helping others, a personal trainer may be the perfect career for you. A personal trainer provides exercise advice to clients to help them reach their fitness goals.

Becoming a personal trainer is possible with online degrees from reputable colleges or universities. We’ll discuss everything you need to know about becoming a certified personal trainer and some of the benefits of this profession!

Who Is a Personal Trainer?

A personal trainer is an individual who helps clients achieve their fitness goals by designing personalized workouts and diets.

Personal trainers develop safe and effective exercise routines, monitor their client’s progress, and provide motivation.

They have the expertise to guide others through workouts safely while building endurance, strength, flexibility, balance, and agility.

What Does a Personal Trainer Do?

A personal trainer helps you achieve your fitness goals by motivating, guiding, and supporting you every step of the way.

They help ensure you are working out safely so that injuries do not occur. Personal trainers assist their clients with anything from dietary changes to exercise routines to reach specific results for each client.

What it Takes to Become a Great Personal Trainer

Most people find that being a personal trainer can be exciting and rewarding.

Passionate about Personal Training

The fitness industry is constantly changing. This means it is essential to keep up with the latest information, which is easier if you are passionate about helping people achieve new levels of wellness through exercise.

Most personal trainers find their work rewarding because they enjoy helping others become more active. You may even get the opportunity to work with clients who have more serious health concerns.

Kind, Caring, & Compassionate

People considering the field of personal training should be kind, caring, and compassionate. When clients like their trainers, they feel more comfortable opening up about their health issues.

It’s crucial to make your clients feel comfortable and confident in their trainer throughout the entire process of becoming more active.

Be Patient

Working as a personal trainer can be very rewarding for people who have patience because you will always encounter unique challenges with each client.

Encouraging people to increase their level of physical activity can be difficult for some clients who are not used to physical activity.

You will also encounter many unique problems with your clientele that you need to solve to help them achieve new levels of wellness.

Therefore, it’s crucial to have a high level of patience.

Well-Read & Educated

Being well-read, educated, and updated on the latest wellness information is essential for personal trainers.

The fitness industry can be complicated because there are conflicting opinions between experts in exercise physiology. Therefore, you must stay informed, so your clients receive accurate advice.

A strong foundation in the basics of exercise physiology will help you explain information more clearly to your clients.

If you have a passion for helping others regain their overall health and wellness, becoming a personal trainer can be very rewarding.

With that in mind, let’s look at how to become a personal trainer.

How to Become a Personal Trainer?

Only a high school diploma is required to become a personal trainer. But if you want to maintain long-term success, attract hundreds of clients, and make a decent wage, you’ll need postsecondary education as well as certification in personal training.

While the employer’s decision is final, many fitness centers and gyms demand at least a two-year degree in a related area such as exercise science or kinesiology before hiring you as a personal trainer. The majority of these degrees will cover the fundamental topics of personal training, while others will specialize.

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Personal trainers can specialize in any of the following areas:

  • Personal fitness
  • Group instruction
  • Sport-specific training
  • Flexibility
  • Nutrition
  • Weight loss
  • Women’s fitness
  • Men’s fitness
  • Youth fitness
  • Elderly fitness
  • Conditioning

After learning personal training, you’ll need a personal trainer certification. Personal training is verified by a collection of private organizations rather than the government, like other industries more heavily regulated by state and federal authorities.

Various organizations issue fitness certifications, including the International Sports Sciences Administration, the National Council of Strength and Fitness, and the National Academy of Sports Training.

With that in mind, here are a few steps you can take to become a personal trainer:

1. Earn a High School Diploma or GED

The first step in becoming a personal trainer is to earn either your high school diploma or the equivalent of a high school education.

You can do so through an online course and by taking exams such as the TASC test, HiSET (formerly known as HSE), or others offered at Testing Centers around the country.

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2. Complete CPR/AED Certification

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) involves offering breathing assistance to a person who has suffered cardiac arrest or some other form of respiratory distress.

The AED stands for an automated external defibrillator, which you can use to shock an individual’s heart back into rhythm after it stops beating unexpectedly.

After earning your high school diploma or equivalent, you will register for CPR/AED certification courses. The American Heart Association, the American Red Cross, or other organizations offer these courses.

You can find these classes at community centers and health clubs throughout your area.

3. Select a Fitness Specialty

While this isn’t a must, it’s recommended to have a specialty as a personal trainer. Fitness specialties can be a wide range of things, including sports training and nutrition counseling.

You will need to decide on the area of interest and make sure an accredited program offers it.

Once you have decided on what specialty interests you most, start looking for online fitness degree courses in those areas.

4. Arrange for Certification

After completing the fitness degree requirements, online or otherwise, arrange to take an exam.

The National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) is the country’s main accreditation body for personal training certifications. The following are other major certifying bodies:

  • American College of Sports Medicine
  • National Academy of Sports Medicine
  • American Council on Exercise
  • National Strength and Conditioning Association

After you’ve decided on the certification you wish, you’ll need to study for the test. Most exams include practice questions that you may complete online and online prep courses.

5. Take the Certification Exams

After completing your training, fulfill any other requirements needed to take the certification test.

The objective here is to pass the certification exam. Make sure you are well prepared for the best chance of passing.

Some of the key questions included in most personal training certification exams are:

  • Exercise Techniques
  • Planning Clients’ Programs
  • Fitness Assessment and Client Consultation
  • Emergency and Safety-related questions

Most certifying agencies require a renewal process every few years. This renewal process includes keeping up with professional development and participating in continuing education.

6. Apply for a Position

Once you have received your training certification, the next step is applying for a job.

Start by looking online and making sure you are focusing on reputable employers.

Make sure you ace the interview questions and convey a sense of enthusiasm during this process.

What You Need to Become Successful in Personal Training

1. Understand Sales and Marketing

As a personal trainer, you should know how to get and retain new clients and referrals from current clients. It will also help you if you know how to market your skills. Marketing your skills, experience, and specialties will help you build your client base by attracting new clients.

2. Time Management is Key

Because you’ll be working with a variety of people, you’ll need to be able to manage your time well.

You will have several clients who depend on you to help them achieve their fitness goals and results. The ability to manage your time well directly translates to having more clients.

3. Be Assertive

You have to be assertive to get results from your clients. Being assertive will help you communicate with your clients, improve your time management, and get things done more efficiently.

4. Friendly and Inspiring

Personal training is all about helping people make fitness a priority in their lives. You have to communicate with your clients and create the right atmosphere to enjoy working out as much as possible.

It will be helpful for you to take an approachable and friendly tone during conversations both online and offline. Be sure to inspire them towards greatness by being an encouraging source of fitness knowledge.

Benefits of Being a Personal Trainer

Being a personal trainer has many benefits, such as making your hours and choosing the clients.

Many people love their jobs because they help others achieve their fitness goals while doing what they enjoy most: working out!

However, there’s more than just good pay and flexible schedules that make becoming a certified personal trainer worthwhile.

Learn more about the benefits of being a personal trainer with an online degree before:

You Get to Help Others

Being a personal trainer means helping others live healthier lives.

You can work with people of all ages and abilities. You get to help them learn how to be more active, feel better, lose weight, or reach their goals for fitness competitions like triathlons.

It is rewarding because you know your guidance has helped someone else improve their fitness and get closer to their goals.

You might even inspire others to live healthier lifestyles, too!

Related Resource: Top 12 Jobs that Help People

Personal Training is a Healthier Career Option

One of the biggest pros for becoming a personal trainer is working in an industry where you will improve your health and fitness.

Working with clients gives you more motivation and helps you stay on top of the latest trends in nutrition and exercise programs.

Many people find their careers in the fitness industry rewarding because they help others live healthier lives while also improving their health.

Do What You Love

If you love working out and helping others, becoming a personal trainer is the perfect career choice for you. It’s a career path that gives you a chance to make money doing something you love while also helping others.

Control Your Earnings

Another benefit of becoming a personal trainer is your control over your earnings. You can work with different clients, take on multiple jobs at once to earn extra money or even start working for yourself if you so choose.


Many people enjoy this freedom and flexibility because it allows them the time they need to spend with their families or pursue their other interests.

You Get to Specialize

While some people choose to work with all types of clients, others may want to specialize in a specific area, such as sports training or weight loss programs. You can get creative and enjoy your job that much more by doing what you love most!

Some Drawbacks of Personal Training

There are some drawbacks to being a personal trainer, like most things in life.

1. Difficult Clients

Working with challenging clients is possible and can sometimes make things difficult.

2. Easily Replaceable

Organizations can easily replace a personal trainer because the current market is saturated.

3. Lack of Stability

Not all gyms and workplaces will welcome or want to employ personal trainers.

4. Over-Saturated Market

It is easy to become a certified trainer, which means the market may be over-saturated for this profession right now.

However, if you can find your niche or target one of many different clients, you can have a lot of success.

These drawbacks shouldn’t overshadow all of the great reasons you should become a personal trainer!

Types of Personal Training Jobs

There are different types of personal training jobs available to those with a degree in physical education or another life science.

These positions include fitness instructors and trainers working for gyms, sports teams, and private companies to strength coaches at universities and professional sporting organizations like the NFL and NBA.

The specific job requirements will vary based on the personal training career you seek. Still, all candidates must possess solid human health and fitness knowledge.


There are two types of personal training jobs available:

1. Working for a Gym or a Health Fitness Center

In this case, you will be working for either a gym or a health fitness center.

Your responsibilities may include designing and implementing exercise programs based on an individual’s goals by offering encouragement or more personalized attention.

Working for a gym is very competitive. You will need experience with different types of exercise equipment and an understanding of the most current fitness research.

A degree in physical education or another life science may help your chances when applying for these positions.

2. Self-Employed Personal Trainer

You can start your own business as an independent personal trainer.

Many people are attracted to this type of career because they completely control their working hours and environment.

However, becoming self-employed is challenging since building your business requires time and effort. It also requires a business license, liability insurance, and possibly other legal documents.

You must have good people skills since clients will rely on you for encouragement and motivation during their workouts.

Both options are viable for personal trainers, but they have very different requirements.

What Education Does a Person Need to Become a Personal Trainer?

Like explained earlier, a high school diploma can be enough to become a personal trainer.

But excelling as a personal trainer requires a lot of training, practice, and experience.

Most fitness experts recommend getting an education in the field of personal training. A two-year associate’s degree is often enough to get someone a position in a given area, but there are no set standards.

A certificate may be enough if you have prior work experience in a similar field. On the other hand, a four-year bachelor’s degree in a related area will undoubtedly help you land better employment and raise your earnings potential.

All of the personal training certificates reviewed here are entirely online.

Personal Training Certificates

Certificates are a fantastic method for quickly getting up to speed in a new profession.

Adding a certificate to your CV can help you break into a new industry and show prospective employers that you are serious about your career change.

If you’re already working in a comparable sector, having a credential on your resume may open new doors and demonstrate your commitment to the field.

Two-Year Personal Trainer Degrees

In most situations, a personal trainer has at least a two-year degree.

There are a few distinct programs to choose from, but most will be taught in exercise science or fitness and health. These lessons will involve a broad range of themes, including weight training, athletic training, aerobics, and fitness.

Additionally, anatomy and physiology are two of the most popular sciences studied.

Popular Pick: Associate in Applied Science in Fitness Trainer Technician from Lake Region State College

Bachelor’s Degree for a Personal Trainer

A bachelor’s degree in personal training is a must for anybody who wants to up their game as a trainer and better understand the body and general fitness.

Several four-year programs offer students a greater understanding of specific subjects.

Personal trainers who want to work in a gym or other physical environment may pursue one of these degrees:

  • Weight management
  • Human anatomy
  • Sports and fitness nutrition
  • Fitness training

Some colleges even provide bachelor’s degrees in personal training as a separate field.

A student will study many of the same themes covered in an associate’s degree, only deeper and with more information.

They can also enroll in courses that improve someone’s training abilities, such as motivational techniques, communication, and marketing.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in personal training or a closely related discipline, a student may work as a personal trainer, gym manager, club director, or performance coach.

Popular Pick: Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology / Health Promotion & Wellness from University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Master’s Degree in Personal Training

Although a master’s degree in personal training is unusual, it isn’t unheard of.

Master’s level courses provide expertise in specific areas such as human movement, functional anatomy, and applied kinesiology.

Students will face more significant challenges, leaving these programs with considerable expertise in designing fitness programs and assessing clients’ health requirements.

Popular Pick: Master of Science in Exercise Science from Concordia University-Saint Paul

Personal Training Certification

It’s now time to get certified after completing your training.

Although certification in personal training is not required by law, it is strongly advised because certified trainers are more likely to be hired and gain customers.

Many organizations provide certifications, and many of them also offer specialty certifications. Ensure a certifying organization is reputable by verifying that the National Commission accredits it for Certifying Agencies.

Personal training certifications are available from these organizations:

  • National Academy of Sports Medicine
  • American Council on Exercise
  • International Sports Sciences Association
  • American Fitness Professionals and Associates
  • American College of Sports Medicine
  • National Strength and Conditioning Association

Although obtaining personal trainer certification isn’t free, it is not extremely expensive. In many cases, it will cost between $100 and $300.

The Benefits of Personal Training Certification

Becoming a personal trainer is more than just being an exercise guru. It’s about providing the best possible care for your clients while encouraging them to be their healthiest selves.

To do that, you need to get certified by one of several reputable organizations out there.

Unlike uncertified trainers, those with certification get more recognition since the industry perceives them as more qualified.

If you’re about to become a personal trainer, here are some of the benefits that come with certification:

  • Certified personal trainers are valued within the industry
  • Trainers with certification tend to make more money than those who aren’t certified or don’t have credentials at all.
  • Certification ensures your clients that you know what you’re doing and can help them reach their goals safely.

How to Build a Long and Successful Career in Personal Training

Earning a certificate in personal training is one way to get started in the field.

Personal trainers work with people of all ages who want to improve their health through exercise. Some personal trainers focus on weight loss, while others help patients recover from injuries or surgery. Personal trainers also help people increase muscle mass and develop healthy eating habits.

The job can be physically demanding.

After getting certified, most people tend to overlook building a business that will keep them busy and bring in a salary.

Below, we’ll look at what you need to build a long and successful career as a personal trainer.

Further Your Education

You don’t need to go back to university. Still, you need to stay current with the latest research and learn about new personal training methods.

You can do this by taking online courses or following industry news through books, magazines, blogs, journals, conferences, seminars/webinars related to exercise science and health promotion.

Be a Lifelong Learner

It’s essential to make learning a priority. Personal trainers must adapt quickly as new trends, information, technologies emerge in health and wellness.

You can become a lifelong learner by attending conferences or seminars. There you can meet other professionals who stay current on industry news and developments through continuing education programs at their local universities or colleges or self-study.

Get Experience

One of the best ways to get experience is working as a part-time instructor at your local fitness facility to meet certification standards and become certified yourself. Getting hands-on experience with different populations is the best way to refine your skillset.

Market Yourself Through Social Media

Social media can be an effective marketing tool for personal trainers who are just starting their careers. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn give you access to a large audience of potential clients at a relatively low cost compared with print or television ads that are mass-marketed.

Competition in the job field is high. Personal trainers must market themselves effectively with a well-written resume and cover letter explaining their unique selling points (USPs).

Personal Trainer Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, personal trainers had a median annual salary of $40,510 in 2020.

In the overall survey, the low 10 percent of personal trainers made less than $21,640 per year, while the top 10 percent earned more than $76,550.

Therefore, there is a wide range of salaries for personal trainers. The more experience you have, the higher your earning potential.

Become a Certified Personal Trainer Today!

Now that you know what it takes to become a personal trainer, are you ready to start your training?

Get started today by checking out an online certification program!

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