How to Become a Personal Trainer

Perhaps you’ve been a fitness fanatic since you broke speed records on your high school track team. Maybe the fitness bug didn’t take root until you were well into adulthood. Whatever your story, it’s never been a better time to become a personal fitness trainer. With obesity and related health conditions at epidemic levels and rising in the U.S., personal trainers are in high demand. These fitness pros have the power to improve individual lives and be part of a larger effort to improve public health—at AAPT we think that’s pretty exciting. Let’s explore what personal trainers do and what becoming certified entails.

The Role of Personal Trainers

Ultimately, personal trainers help people get and stay fit and healthy. They prescribe fitness programs tailored to the needs of each client, offer nutrition advice and coaching, and they provide ongoing support and motivation. Importantly, personal trainers teach people proper use of exercise equipment and proper form, especially crucial when it comes to weightlifting. Regardless of their work setting, personal trainers help keep clients on track to ensure they reach their fitness, nutrition, and weight loss/maintenance goals.

Steps to Becoming a Personal Trainer

Step 1: Choose a School/Certification

Personal Training School: Many colleges and universities offer degrees in kinesiology, exercise science, and sports and fitness. While these degree programs give students a comprehensive understanding of fitness, nutrition, and personal training, they are typically costly and time-consuming. Conversely, personal training schools like AAPT provide the foundational fitness and nutrition knowledge aspiring personal trainers need in a fraction of the time at a fraction of the cost. AAPT is among the best personal fitness training schools in Boston and New York—we’ve helped hundreds of students launch careers as personal trainers in just three months (300 hours), and we’re the first personal training school in the U.S. to be recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a nationally accredited institution.

Certification(s): If you’re serious about a career as a fitness trainer you’ve probably already done some research online and read again and again that you need to get certified. Leading fitness certification bodies in the U.S. include the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), and the National Federation of Personal Trainers (NFPT).

Which one is the best? The truth is that all of these organizations are reputable—they simply focus on different areas of specialization. Regardless of which certification(s) you choose, all of the organizations mentioned above provide foundational knowledge about fitness and nutrition, which is key to starting your career.

AAPT has chosen to partner with NASM. Here’s why:

  • NASM has developed a solid reputation as a leading certifying body since it was established in 1987.
  • NASM pioneered the Optimum Performance Training (OPT) method—the first science-based training system in the industry.
  • NASM teaches students how to work with both the general population and athletes looking to improve their fitness.
  • NASM offers one of the most inclusive personal training certifications, which includes textbooks, live workshops, testing (plus one free exam retake), and a 90-day job guarantee.

We believe NASM certification is an excellent choice for both those who are just starting out in the field and established fitness professionals who are looking to advance their careers. Preparation for the NASM exam and the exam fee are included in our curriculum, so you don’t have to take additional courses!

Step 2: Commit to a Program, and Work Hard

AAPT’s curriculum is intense but manageable. We offer daytime, evening, weekend, and summer classes to accommodate everyone, regardless of schedule and obligations. Our balanced program consists of equal parts classroom lectures (150 hours) on topics ranging from kinesiology to nutrition to biomechanics, and practical hands-on equipment training (150 hours).

As mentioned earlier our program also prepares you for the NASM certification exam and includes the exam fee. Once you complete our course you’ll receive our AAPT Personal Training Certificate. After passing the NASM certification exam you’ll be awarded the NASM Certification of Academic Distinction as well—putting you at an advantage for getting hired faster and earning more.

Step 3: Decide On a Specialty

Most personal trainers work at gyms or recreational sports centers. Others work in healthcare settings, government organizations, as corporate fitness consultants, at resorts and spas, or in private homes. Is your preference to work one-on-one with clients, or do you see yourself leading high-energy group classes? Whatever your preference, AAPT offers job placement to help you land your dream job if you’re just starting out in the industry.

Step 4: Find a Gym or Studio

Unless you have ample start-up cash to launch your own gym or studio, you’ll likely start out by working as an employee or independent contractor for a gym or fitness center like Equinox, 25-Hour Fitness, or Gold’s Gym. Working as an independent contractor requires considerably more networking, self-promotion, and marketing to build up a clientele, but the advantages of working independently are being your own boss and creating your own schedule—big pluses for those who don’t want to be tethered to an employer.

Step 5: Stay Fit and In the Know

It’s difficult to be a role model for others if you don’t practice what you preach about fitness and nutrition. Stay active and physically fit, and keep up-to-date on the latest in nutrition and fitness science and technique. Become well-rounded in all things fitness, from yoga and Pilates to CrossFit to weightlifting. Doing so will help you build a solid reputation in the industry, boosting your chances of success.

Learn more about what makes AAPT the best choice in personal fitness training, and contact us today to enroll.