How to Become a Certified Personal Trainer

Do you have a passion for fitness and a yearning to make a career out of that passion? Not sure how to turn your dream into a reality? Then you’re in the right place. In this article, I identify how to become a certified personal trainer with five progressive steps that every prospective trainer needs to follow.

Step One: Get a Job at a Gym

If you are really serious about becoming a certified personal trainer, you should apply at every gym in your area for whatever sort of job they are willing to give you. Let them know that you will be training for certification at your own cost, and you are willing to do anything in the meantime. There are many top-of-the-line personal trainers who did just that. They cleaned toilets and put away weights while they studied for their qualifications. This allowed them to demonstrate their work ethic and get the employer familiar with them. Then, when they finally got certified, promoting them to personal trainer was a no-brainer.

A personal trainer and a man on a treadmill in the gym talking about how to become a certified personal trainer.
You Should Apply At Every Gym In Your Area For Whatever Sort Of Job They Are Willing To Give You (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Working at a gym will also allow you to observe and learn from personal trainers and to put into practice some of the things you are learning on your certification course. Don’t be shy about questioning experienced trainers so you can benefit from their knowledge and experience. 

Step Two: Research Personal Trainer Certificate Programs

It doesn’t matter how buff you are or how many years you’ve been hitting the gym; unless you have a recognized personal trainer certification, you will not get a job as a personal trainer. Once you have made up your mind to become a personal trainer, you need to decide which certification body you are going to train under, and then apply yourself to dedicated study and application.

Male personal trainer sparring with female boxer in the gym.
You Need To Decide Which Certification Body You Are Going To Train Under (Image Source: Shutterstock)

There are a large number of personal fitness certification providers available online. The three that are most widely recognized and highly regarded are:

  • National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
  • American Council on Exercise (ACE)
  • National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF)

Do your research to decide which one works best for you on your journey to become a certified personal trainer. Make sure that whichever provider you choose has been certified by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). If you turn up at a gym with a credential that is not NCCA accredited, they may not take you in.

Step Three: Choose Your Fitness Program

Each provider will likely offer a range of course options. You should begin with their most general personal trainer certification. Then, once you have earned it, you can build to become more specialized by taking further courses in areas such as group personal training or strengthening and conditioning training. 

Step Four: Study and Take Your Final Exam

Once you have signed up for a personal certification course of study, you have to dedicate yourself to the study and application required to gain that physical fitness certification. You need to have serious determination to put in the hours to understand the principles of anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics that provide the foundation for your future practice. If you are not well versed in these topics already, you will have to put in the hard yards to get familiar with them. 

Fit woman talking to her trainer at the gym.
You Should Also Make Your Own Flashcards To Help You Learn And Remember Key Terms and Concepts (Image Source: Shutterstock)

As you study to become a certified personal trainer, use as many online study resources as you can. Doing practice tests and sample quizzes on sites like Quizlet can be very helpful in this regard. You should also make your own flashcards to help you learn and remember key terms and concepts. Another very helpful study website is FitnessMentors.

When you take your final 2–3 hour exam, you will not be able to take any notes or textbooks with you. Most courses will allow you to know immediately after taking the test if you have passed. If you don’t pass, you will be able to sign up for a retake. 

Step Five: Get CPR and AED Certified

Most fitness centers will require prospective trainers to be both CPR and AED certified. You should be able to locate local classes in your area that you can attend to gain these certifications. These classes are usually just a couple of hours long and relatively easy to pass. 

Tips for New Personal Trainers

Follow the five steps outlined above and you will, eventually, become a certified personal trainer. You will then be competing with other, more experienced trainers for clients. Here are three tips to help you find success.

Friendly personal trainer shaking hands with a client.
It Will Take Time To Establish A Reputation And For The Word To Spread (Image Source: Shutterstock)

It Takes Time

Don’t be discouraged about how long it takes to build up your client base. It will take time to establish a reputation and for the word to spread that you have something to offer to prospective clients.

It Takes Caring

Show genuine personal interest and personality. Your personality and how much you care about your clients is what is going to set you apart from other personal trainers. People will come back to you and want you to be their personal trainer because of the way you make them feel. Remember that people don’t care what you know until they know that you care! You need to be kind, caring, gentle, and super motivational in a way that makes people want to do better and be better. 

5 Lessons Every New Personal Trainer Should Learn

It Takes Knowledge

Keep learning! Continue to build your skill base in order to offer your clients the very best service you can offer. Don’t be content to rest on your laurels because that’s what everyone else is doing. Strive to learn about the biomechanics of exercise so that you can explain to your clients why they should be doing what you are telling them to do. 

Become the Best Certified Personal Trainer You Can Be

Personal training is a hard, competitive industry. If you are looking to get into it to make a quick buck, you need to seriously reconsider. But if you live, eat, and breathe fitness and are truly passionate about helping other people live more productive, healthier, and more fulfilling lives, then welcome to the fold. Becoming a certified personal trainer will allow you to realize those ambitions.