How to Become a Certified Personal Trainer: The 5 Necessary Steps

So, you want to become a personal trainer? 

I've got great news for you: The fitness industry is booming, with higher rates of gym membership and a much more engaged public looking for expert opinion and exercise assistance.

Become a personal trainer

But where do you start? How do you get your qualifications to enter the world of health and fitness?

By following these steps, you will be on the path to a rewarding and exciting career as a certified personal trainer:

Step #1: Determine why you want to be a personal trainer

Embarking on a new career can be a terrifying experience, switching careers even more so. But if your mindset is right and you are pursuing a new career for the right reasons, then making the leap can be hugely rewarding. 

When looking at a personal training career, you have to first ask yourself why it is you want to be become a personal trainer?

True, it’s a fascinating and active career option. Yes, there is a lot of freedom, plenty of avenues to explore and it can have great earning potential. But if your motivation is “I love lifting, so maybe I should be a personal trainer”, you might not be suited to the life.

Being a personal trainer is so much more than just lifting weights. A great PT is a good listener and communicator. Clients will form close relationships with you and will unload their thoughts and feelings.  Other characteristics a great PT should have are; patience, high energy, a positive outlook, self-motivation and drive, and a willingness to go the extra mile for clients.

In the video below, an established personal trainer talks about why she became a PT and what it's all about. Does this resonate with you?

A love of lifting, fitness and healthy living is important. But a desire to help others must be your main motivation. Ultimately, seeing someone achieve their goals is the satisfaction most PTs get from their work. These real-life achievements - watching a client lose stubborn weight, or seeing a client gain muscle and strength - give personal trainers a sense of job satisfaction that many other professions lack.

If that’s the feeling you are looking for and you display these characteristics then personal training may well be for you.

Step #2: Speak to others in the industry

If you’re looking at a career as a personal trainer you should consider speaking to other people in the industry to get a feel for what a career is really like. Don’t rely on the overly glamourized world of social media for your insight into the industry.

Next time you're in the gym, speak to the personal trainers and ask them what it really means to be a PT (obviously not during one of their client sessions!).

  • What do they love about being a personal trainer?
  • What do they not enjoy as much?
  • What has surprised them about their career choice?

Additionally, there are plenty of forums out there where you can ask the community the positives and negatives of a life as a PT. And, if you have friends that work in the industry it would be a wise idea to sit down with them and get all the information you can.

The more informed you are the better.

Visiting forums is a great way to find out more information from personal trainers already in the industry.

Step #3: Find the right personal trainer certification course 

Once you have done the initial legwork, research and soul searching, you have to get down to the serious business of finding a course provider and the right personal training course for you.

There are many different personal trainer certifications. Shop around to find the best one for you.

There are many different personal trainer courses out there so take heed of these "Do's & Don'ts" when choosing the one that suits you best:

DO:

  • Pick a course provider that has a good history of delivering courses
  • Look at customer reviews and testimonials
  • Study the course and its content to ensure it's what you're looking for
  • Look at the methods of study (i.e. online, distance ed, in-class)
  • Research the time required to complete the course and costs involved

DON'T:

  • Necessarily opt for the cheapest course
  • Go with a provider that doesn’t have a real person to speak to on the phone (you'll have questions along the way so be sure you can easily get answers)
  • Ignore bad reviews, especially when there are a few of them
  • Be pushed into selecting a course by a sales team - take your time

It’s really important to take your time and do your research.  Don’t jump for the cheapest deal, unless it is a specific promotion from a trustworthy source. Look at the company’s history, reviews and success stories.  This is another opportunity to speak to friends in the industry. Ask where they qualified and if they would recommend their provider.

It takes a bit of research, but in time you will find the right provider for you.

Step #4: Choose a study method that will prepare you the best

You're not getting certified simply to "jump through a hoop" that's necessary to become a personal trainer. You're doing this to learn, to develop new skills, and to build your confidence as new coach.

It's important to ask yourself,

What is going to help me become the best personal trainer?

NOT...

What's going to be the easiest route for me to become a personal trainer?

There are several different study options from which you can choose.

Different providers of personal training courses will have slightly different names for their certifications and they will offer varying study options. But, in general you want to become certified to work with clients one-to-on (and maybe in group classes too), and you should be able to be certified as such within a few weeks.

How you choose to study will depend very much on how much time you can dedicate to a course. The quickest route to becoming a PT is to do a full-time course. This is usually 4-5 weeks, Monday – Friday. If you don’t have other commitments and you want to get to work as a personal trainer ASAP, this is the type of course for you.

If you have commitments such as work or family, you could opt for a part time course. These are either evenings or weekends and will usually take between 8-16 weeks.

Your final option, and one that's growing in popularity, is distance study. Here, the onus is on you to work through the course at your own pace. You will need find the time to study on your own, work through the course and then book into assessment days.

Online is a great way to find a balance between your current commitments and achieving your dream of a job in the fitness sector IF you are disciplined enough to keep moving through the materials without having strict deadlines in place.

Step #5: Get insured

As a newly qualified personal trainer, you don’t legally need to be insured once you begin your career. However, I highly recommend having insurance in place as soon as you qualify and many commercial gyms will require this.

Look at it this way, you’re going to be working in a potentially dangerous environment. Heavy weights, equipment and machines can all present health and safety concerns. If a client were to hurt themselves during one of your sessions, you would be liable for a compensation claim.

There are many different types of personal trainer insurance to protect you from paying exorbitant fees in the event of an accident.

We’re talking paying out for loss of earnings due to injury, medical costs, mental health and physical well-being costs or anything relating to the repair and recovery of the injured party.

Without insurance, all this will have to be paid for by you! This is why we highly recommend insuring yourself, especially since the annual cost can be very inexpensive.

Start by searching "Personal Trainer Insurance in <your country>" in Google to find options that will be applicable to you. Each country has different rules and insurance options, so again do your homework.

Conclusion

Becoming a certified personal trainer can be a step towards a dream career. Just be sure that you follow the right steps so that you know what you're getting into and so that you're prepared to do an amazing job once you begin taking on clients.

Have some more questions on becoming a certified fitness trainer? Leave them in the comment box below!

About the author

Matt Bowen

Matt Bowen

Content Marketing and Communications Manager at TRAINFITNESS. Being surrounded by some of the most experienced and innovative members of the UK health and fitness community inspires and informs my work every day. As keen sportsman I practice what I preach, taking it out onto the field playing hockey in the English Premier League.