How to Become a Certified Personal Trainer: The Definitive Guide

Have you ever gone to the gym and seen other patrons working with a trainer?

Those trainers are certified fitness professionals with advanced knowledge of anatomy, physiology, nutrition, and exercise science to give their clients the best experience possible.

Are you motivated to help other people?

Do you dream of learning about the human body and how to make it healthier?

Look no further, all you need to know about becoming a Certified Personal Trainer is right here.

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What is a Certified Personal Trainer?

A Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) is someone who introduces clients to the act of exercising their bodies, moving their bodies in the correct ways to get the results they want, giving their body the nutrition it needs, and help clients with personal goals that pertain to fitness skills.

CPT’s work in gyms, at homes, or other physical education situations in order to help people achieve fitness goals.

CPT’s help clients to discover what works best for their body, and provide clients with personalized regimens to achieve that body.

Duties

There are many important duties for a Certified Personal Trainer to do, these include but are not limited to:

  • Demonstrate exercise routines to clients
  • Assist with exercise regimens to help minimize injury
  • Modify exercise for each client’s fitness level
  • Mentor and record progress
  • Provide resources for fitness and health issues
  • Provide emergency first aid if necessary

Salary

The average salary for a Certified Personal Trainer in the United States is around $60,000.

The range typically falls between $43,000 and $73,000 per year.

Education, certification, additional skills, and the number of years spent working in the profession can all have an effect on your salary.

There are some things that you can do to make more money as a Certified Personal Trainer.

You can offer in one personal training.

If you are a great teacher you can also host boot camps.

Take it one step further and you can provide personal workouts and meal plans.

Or even create online workouts with subscriptions.

There is no limit to what you can do and achieve.

Average National Salary: $60,236

$43K
10%
$50K
25%
$60K
50%
$65K
75%
$73K
90%
*Salary information last updated 2019

Average Annual Salary by State

State Avg. Annual Salary
Alabama $56,188
Alaska $67,644
Arizona $59,633
Arkansas $55,417
California $67,283
Colorado $60,055
Connecticut $65,476
Delaware $63,247
Florida $57,826
Georgia $58,127
Hawaii $63,427
Idaho $56,851
Illinois $62,061
Indiana $58,850
Iowa $57,525
Kansas $56,399
Kentucky $56,079
Louisiana $57,200
Maine $58,067
Maryland $62,585
Massachusetts $65,536
Michigan $60,838
Minnesota $61,440
Mississippi $52,247
Missouri $57,224
Montana $54,604
Nebraska $55,236
Nevada $62,043
New Hampshire $61,139
New Jersey $66,861
New Mexico $54,784
New York $64,633
North Carolina $57,465
North Dakota $56,019
Ohio $58,730
Oklahoma $56,621
Oregon $59,995
Pennsylvania $60,115
Rhode Island $63,488
South Carolina $55,896
South Dakota $51,381
Tennessee $54,724
Texas $59,031
Utah $57,069
Vermont $58,007
Virginia $59,290
Washington $64,332
West Virginia $53,067
Wisconsin $59,332
Wyoming $53,478

How to Become a Certified Personal Trainer

Step 1Obtain a Diploma or GED

Most accredited organizations that offer CPT credentials require either a high school diploma or a GED.

Sometimes, people would rather get an Associate’s Degree or a Bachelor’s Degree in a related field so that they have more experience and knowledge.

Some type of degree is necessary for advanced certification.

You’ll also need to take and pass an exam in order to become certified as a personal trainer.

There are many colleges and physical education centers that will help you get in contact with the exam providers.

Also, an Associate’s or Bachelor’s is typically required for any type of management position as well.

Step 2Get Certified

It is a requirement that you become certified in CPR to work in most places as a CPT.

Different employers may ask for certain certification like in automated external defibrillators as well.

Just think of it this way, the more certifications you have, the better chances of higher pay.

There are several programs that you can apply to, like the Academy of Applied Personal Training Education, which costs around $295 to take the exam.

The ACTION Certification costs around $190 for the exam.

The American College of Sports Medicine also has an exam that costs around $279.

You have many options, so take a look around your area and see who offers certification exams.

Step 3Acquire a CPT Credential

A CPT Credential will allow you to work in any place that offers the CPT role.

This credential basically means that you know your stuff.

Some of the organizations that offer this credential are:

  • The American College of Sports Medicine
  • National Academy of Sports Medicine
  • National Council for Certified Personal Trainers
  • National Exercise Trainers Association
  • National Strength and Conditioning Association.

The CPT credential is available through the National Council on Strength and Fitness as well.

Step 4Gain Experience

After getting your credentials and certifications all stacked up, getting experience is the next important component.

Those that don’t have much experience usually work alongside CPT’s who do, but it won’t take long before you start to gain your own clientele.

If you want to gain some experience while you are getting your credentials and certifications, try becoming an apprentice.

By doing this, you’ll work with an experienced personal trainer, learn from them, and get the hands-on experience that you need.

Another thing that you can do to gain some experience is to offer free personal training.

This may not be ideal, but think about the advantages that you’ll receive from doing this!

Step 5Advance in Your Career

You have a lot of potential in this area of work.

Make sure that you are using your networking skills to your advantage.

There are plenty of personal trainers out there, so make yourself stand out by introducing yourself to other trainers, especially ones with more experience than you.

Also, go to conventions, meetings, and gym openings to get your name out there!

With the right experience, and a good load of clients, you could possibly open your own fitness center!

If you’re not looking to start your own business quite yet, obtaining a Bachelor’s degree could get you on the way to becoming a manager at a gym or fitness center.


Education

Most CPT’s have a high school diploma or GED.

It is possible to get a Certified Personal Trainer position with a 8-10 week program, but most employers want to see more.

A lot of CPT’s acquire an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree in a related field.

That way they are able to gain the most education for what they want to do.

Some of the things that you will learn when you are going to school to become a Certified Personal Trainer include:

Physical fitness concepts like exercise methodologies, client assessment, fitness plan development.

Introduction to personal training, which includes classes like biomechanics, scientific principles of exercise, and Motor learning.

You’ll also learn about methodologies of personal training.

These classes may help you learn ethics and professionalism, trainer communication and fitness planning.

So, becoming a certified personal trainer isn’t just about knowing how much weight you can life, there is quite a lot of science behind this career.

When you go for your Associates degree, you’ll learn all of the skills above and much more.

These classes that you take to get your Associates can include:

Exercise, science, and nutrition, where you’ll learn about nutritional planning, balancing energy, and basic exercise.

Then, you’ll also be taking classes about exercise program design. Some of the information you’ll gain from these classes are weight gain management techniques, motivational communication, and fitness training techniques.

Also, strength and conditioning is an area that you will definitely study. You’ll learn the correct forms for exercises, and resistance training techniques.

As you move on to obtaining a Bachelors, there are even more classes that you’ll be required to talk.

These include:

Motor learning and development. Where you’ll gain knowledge about theories of motor development, communication and feedback, as well as motor control systems.

Also, nutrition and physical activity is a field you’ll be studying. Where you’ll learn about nutritional strategies, individual and community health trends, and prevention techniques.

Lastly, you’ll take classes about principles in resistance training. These include skills like resistance training theory, muscle physiology, and modes and methods of resistance training principles.

Video About The Career


Certification

One of the biggest certifications necessary to become a Certified Personal Trainer is in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, also known as CPR.

Different employers may ask for different certifications, you’ll want to get in touch with your employer to find out which ones they require.

This is something you’ll want to do before you start working.

The American College of Sports Medicine requires adult CPR certification through the Red Cross, American Heart Association, or Emergency Care and Safety Institute.

The National Strength and Conditioning Association requires certification courses with hands-on experience.

You also may have to get a certification in automated external defibrillators.

Though, those aren’t required in every place of employment, it still looks good to have these types of certifications, though.

Depending on the type of Certified Personal Trainer you want to become, you may need to get a different type of certified.

Take a look at the different certifying organizations to make sure you achieve the proper certification.

Places like the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America, IDEA Health and Fitness Association, National Academy of Sports Medicine, and National Athletic Trainers Associations, all have information on their sites to determine what type of certification you will need.

Lets talk about some of the careers that you can possible do when you gain a certification in personal training.

You can become an exercise physiologist, which is someone who helps people maintain, change, or improve fitness health.

You can also work as a sports nutritionist. This is a person that understands how the body uses food to help with physical activity.

You’ll help people learn how to use food to work with their bodies, and provide meal plans to keep clients on track.

A group exercise instructor is someone who works with a group of people in specific classes, like yoga or Pilates, to teach them skills.

Certification Example:

certified personal trainer certification

Average Training Program Duration: 1-2 Years

There are many ways to get this type of training.

Now a days, you can even do it online.

If you do an online program, it can take between 8-10 weeks to finish training.

You’ll need to be able to pass a final exam and gain credentials as well.

Most people like to get their Associate’s Degree while doing their training, that way they hae education to back up their CPT role.

Popular Degree Programs


Job Outlook

The job outlook for becoming a Certified Personal Trainer is average, and will remain so in the next ten years.

It seems that the market for CPT’s will rise around 10%, which is good for Certified Personal Trainers.

The incentives to join gyms and fitness centers continue to rise, this could be free memberships, extra cash back, or even a boost from your employer.

Not only that, but people want to become healthier, so they are hiring trainers and working with people who actually know how the human body moves.

Also, tons of businesses, offices and other places of employment, are building gyms in their facilities to keep employees healthy.

Employment Growth Projection: 10%

299,200
2016
329,200
2026

That's a higher than average projected growth of 30,000 jobs.

Certified Personal Trainer: Interest Over Time


Should You Become a Certified Personal Trainer?

Overall Satisfaction

Overall Satisfaction: High

Trainers are able to change people’s lives for the better.

This means that a lot of CPT’s love their jobs because they are doing something for the better good of another person.

It’s possible to work in many different settings, like gyms, hospitals, and even corporate wellness centers.

This tends to be a lower stress job with flexibility that makes it great for employees.

If you work as an in-home personal trainer, you can even make your own hours.

This can cut down on a lot of stress, as well.

Average Salary

Average Salary: High

The average salary for a CPT is around $60,000.

When you first start out, you’ll likely make less, but as you gain clients and experience, you can earn much more.

Managers are business owners will make the most in this field.

It’s possible to make more money doing extra things like classes, in-home personal training, and even making work out videos or podcasts.

When you gain more certifications in this field, you’ll likely get more experience in different areas.

This can help grow your clientele and your paycheck.

Job Growth Outlook

Job Growth Outlook: Medium

The job growth looks promising, as people lean toward leading healthier lifestyles these days.

There are also a lot more companies opening fitness and wellness centers.

As well as working in retirement communities, hospitals, and opening your own business.

There will always be a need for CPTs.

This is one of the more important fields the is not medical.

People want to be healthy, especially as they age.

It’s important to try and take in clients who come from diverse backgrounds, that way you’ll be able to work more often.

People who work in offices will only be able to work out at certain times, while moms can work out in the morning etc.

Make sure that you are filling your days with as many clients as possible.

That way, you’ll be able to grow your career.

Education Duration

Education Duration: 1-2 Years

It can take between 8-10 weeks and many years to obtain a degree.

Most people like to get at least an Associate’s degree, which typically takes 2 years.

It is possible to do online programs that only take a couple of months.

You’ll still need on the job training and experience, though.

By getting experience, you’ll open up tons of opportunities for yourself.

Try and work as an apprentice your first couple of months as a Certified Personal Trainer.

This way, you’ll be able to learn from the best in the field, but also make some money.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

Being a Certified Personal Trainer isn’t just knowing which weights to pick up at which time.

It’s also about learning about people, their bodies, and what they can physically do without getting hurt.

Someone who wants to be a Certified Personal Trainer needs to have some specific skill sets, including:

  • Passion for the job
  • Understanding of the body
  • Listening skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Dependability
  • Ability to lead by example
  • Communication skills
  • Great planner


Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the average salary for a Certified Personal Trainer?

The average salary for an experienced personal trainer is $60,000 a year.

Those that are new to being a CPT will make less, but as you gain experience and clients, you can make more.

There are ways to supplement your income when you are just beginning as a personal trainer, or you can teach free classes to help get your clientele higher.

You can do in-home personal training, or even become an apprentice to gain experience.

Q. How long does it take to become a Certified Personal Trainer?

That all depends on the type of training you want to get.

Some training programs take a few months.

Some CPT’s like to get their education out of the way, so they get their Associates degree, which can take a couple of years.

Other CPT’s like to obtain a Bachelor’s and even a Master’s to move on to a management position.

Q. What does a Certified Personal Trainer do?

A personal trainer helps people work out to the best ability of their individual body type.

You will build one on one relationships with clients.

You’ll show them how to move their bodies to gain a better lifestyle.

Certified Personal Trainers work in a variety of different settings, with a ton of different people.

That means you’ll be busy, and you’ll be working out a lot of the day.

Certified Personal Trainers understand muscles, and the way the body moves, to help other people with fitness goals.

Q. What is the demand for Certified Personal Trainers?

The demand for personal trainers is very high.

It is likely the job of a Certified Personal Trainer will continue to rise.

People are becoming more and more interested in their bodies, health, and diet.

There are also employers and schools opening up wellness centers, which means more job prospects.

As a personal trainer, you will be helping a lot of people, so get out there and kick some butt!

Q. How much does it cost to become a Certified Personal Trainer?

That also depends on where you go for your training.

An entry level training program can cost between $400-$500.

More training requires more money.

If you want to get an Associate’s degree or higher, that will also cost you the amount of a college tuition, and that can vary depending on where you go to school.

Ask the school that you are interested in applying to, they will give you a price to better estimate the cost of becoming a CPT.


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