How to Become a Personal Trainer

There are two things absolutely necessary to become a personal trainer: a high school diploma and certification.  Many fitness employers may require a CPR certification as well.  However, an increasing number of employers require fitness workers to have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree related to a health or fitness field, such as exercise science, kinesiology, or physical education. Programs often include courses in nutrition, exercise techniques, and group fitness.  Below is information on how to become certified and degree programs available.



There are several organizations that offer certification programs for personal trainers.  Some of the more popular ones are:

All of these certification programs have an exam that has to BE passed, all have course material available for purchase.  sometimes the material is included in the exam fee, sometimes materials are additional.  There are also online courses, webinars and seminars offered to prepare a candidate for the exam.

Before deciding which organization to go with, a candidate will want to do a little research into the area of personal training being considered to find out which certifications are most commonly accepted.  If the fitness center or gym route is of interest, call around to some of the local gyms and find out if there is a specific certification or organization required.  A personal trainer may actually end up with certifications from more than one organization depending on employment paths.  Different fitness centers may have associations with different accrediting organizations, requiring trainers to get additional certifications.

Personal Trainer certifications need to be renewed as well, usually every three years.  In most cases
the renewal can take place one of two ways:

  1. Retaking the exam – which requires up to date study materials.  This is basically the same process it takes to get certified originally.
  2. Continuing Education Credits (CECs) – ongoing educational seminars and webinars

The process of certification renewal will differ from organization to organization and some programs may even require both a retesting and maintaining a minimum number of CECs over a set time period.

There is one other aspect of certification a person interested becoming a Personal trainer needs to consider: specialties. A personal trainer certification is the broadest certification available in the physical fitness field.  There are many specialties and sub-fields that also require certifications.  Some of the other fitness disciplines that have separate certifications available are:

  • Strength training
  • Sports conditioning
  • Stability ball
  • Post rehabilitation exercises
  • Pre/Post Natal Exercises
  • Children’s Fitness
  • Seniors Fitness
  • Aerobics
  • Yoga/Pilates
  • Aquatics Instruction

Multiple certifications can only benefit a personal trainer and make them more employable by a much more diverse group of institutions and companies.



Although associates or bachelors degrees are not required to enter the field of personal training, it is becoming more common.  Especially if one hopes to move beyond the one to one personal training and enter administration or management.  If a Personal trainer would like to gravitate outside the traditional realms of gyms and fitness centers and move into more professional settings such as sports medicine or health rehabilitation, then a degree will become much more necessary.

There are a variety of options for getting a degree in personal training.  Most colleges and universities, both brick and mortar and online, offer some type of Bachelors of Science in exercise science.  Some of the more common majors offered for a bachelors degree for personal training are:

  • Health Fitness Specialist
  • Exercise Science
  • Health and Human Performance
  • Health and Wellness
  • Health Science
  • Physical education
  • Kinesiology


Exercise has the ability affect other components of wellness including mental and emotional health. This fact has expanded the role of the personal trainer to include emphasis in preventative medicine beyond the basic health-related components of fitness. Preventing disease and health problems is now the defining role of the personal trainer. Colleges and universities have recognized this developing notion and are creating exercise science degree specializations in disease prevention, functional-based training, and corporate wellness programs.

Administrative roles in the fitness industry very often require an accredited certification along with a degree(s) and experience. In some cases, two-years of management experience and an accredited personal trainer certification are necessary for career entry. In other cases a bachelors degree, graduate degree preferred, is listed as the competency requirement for administrative jobs.
Studies in personal training and physical science can go all the way to the doctorate level.  The degree pursued should be determined by the level a personal trainer wishes to achieve.  If a personal trainer is in this field because they enjoy working one on one with people to help them achieve their health and fitness goals then the certifications may be all that is needed.  But if a personal trainer wants to rise into administrative or managerial positions or enter a specialty field, then the degree path may serve them best.

Follow this link and explore the daily tasks of a personal trainer!