When I eventually made the decision to become a personal trainer, like many of you, the first thought that came to mind was “what’s the best personal trainer certification?”
With so many certs being advertised these days, it can be tough making a decision.
Also, the fact that personal training is unregulated, there’s no way to find out which certification will give you the most bang for your buck.
All you know is that many gyms require that you have one if you plan on working in their gym.
And if you choose to go the independent route like I did, many insurance companies won’t provide you with the necessary coverage.
But before you take any type of action, you first have to ask yourself, “is getting a certification really worth the money?”
As someone who was a former personal trainer, I would answer that question with a it depends.
The reason I say it depends is because, it really does depend on what you’re trying to make of you personal training career.
Which is why I plan on going over 5 things you need to know before you pay for any certification program.
Thing #1- Your Clients Don’t Care What Kind Of Cert You Have
I’ve worked with quite of few people when it came to helping them get into shape.
And there’s not too many times where I could remember any of them asking if I was certified or not.
The trust usually came with them asking me questions and me being able to answer them in a knowledgeable manner.
Of course the knowledge came from my education in getting certified, but this wasn’t something I revealed to many people unless they asked.
Even if I were to tell them about my certification, it’s rare that I got any type of reaction.
Maybe it provided some comfort to them emotionally, but the main thing they wanted to know was if I could get them results.
You see, all people really care about is if you are able to get them the results they’re looking for.
And as long as you can connect with them on an emotional level, and provide them with high quality service, they will trust you.
Another example of how little people care about certifications, take a look on Instagram.
There are so many so called “fitness professionals” on there with pics of all things fitness related, what type of certification they possess is the last thing that comes to mind.
I mean, for them to look the way they do, they must be doing something right.
So as long as you possess the knowledge and provide great service to your clients, people will respond positively to that.
Thing #2 - Certified Doesn’t Mean Qualified
Like I mentioned earlier, personal training is a very unregulated industry.
Anyone with a passion for fitness can call themselves a personal trainer.
Of course only those with some sort of ambition are able to get certified, which you would think provides some sort of credibility.
But just because someone is certified, doesn’t mean they know what they’re doing.
I can remember when I first got certified, although the knowledge was there, the one thing I lacked was experience.
Yes I was comfortable getting my own body in tip top shape, but I now had to learn how to get different types of bodies into shape.
Not only that, but I had to learn how to make people feel comfortable doing things they’ve never done before.
Of course I was very comfortable in performing most types of exercises, I now had to learn how to get others to feel the same.
So you’re dealing with both the mental and physical part of getting someone into shape.
And there’s no amount of training that can help prepare you for real life experience.
So it’s understandable that when getting into this profession you want to find the best certification.
But more importantly you want to make sure you put yourself in the best position to grow as a trainer.
Whether that means:
- Finding a gym/studio that provides you the support you need when you have questions
- A situation that allows you to get real life experience to make sure you get your feet wet.
Like with anything in life, it will feel awkward at first. But just like exercise, the more reps you do, the more progress you will see.
Thing #3 - CEU’s Can Be Completed In Different Ways
For those that are not aware, CEUs or CECs are continuing education units/credits.
Many of the certifications available today require that you go for renewal every so and so years.
This is a major source of income for many cert programs.
Just before your certification is up, you will get notifications reminding you to renew, and will provide you with courses you can take within their program.
Since I got certified through NASM, I could remember being informed of all the CEUs available to me to take.
But what I learned was that I wasn’t obligated to go through them.
Even though they offered all types of discounts, there were a few ways in which you could go about getting credit for renewal.
As long as it was approved by whichever program you are certified with, you could get it completed.
What many trainers do is attend a seminar that they feel will help benefit their clients and make sure to get a certification showing completion of this seminar.
So don’t feel like you’re required to get renewed through whichever cert program you choose.
Thing #4 - Certs Don’t Determine Your Income
There are a lot of places that will provide you with a personal training salary range depending on the cert you have.
But to be honest, I wouldn’t pay too much attention to it.
Depending on which path you choose to go into, working for a gym or going independent, your income will depend on a few things.
If you decide to go the employee route, your income will depend on which gym/studio you decide to work with in each state.
If you decide to go the independent route, your income will depend on your clientele and how much you decide to charge them.
I won’t go over the pros and cons of employee vs independent, but if you’re interested in learning more about it, then check out my article.
Just know that yes there are some certs that are regarded higher than others, but ultimately it comes down to your experience and knowledge.
If you’re someone that has 10 plus years of experience in the fitness industry, but have certs from some community college, you will most likely make more money than someone with a highly credited cert that’s just getting started.
Also, keep in mind that if you decide to work at a gym, they may decide to employ you and have you go through their certification program.
This will depend on the level of confidence they have in your skill level which of course comes from experience.
Thing #5 - Certs Programs Don’t Teach You About Business
This is probably my favorite topic due to the fact that I happen to be very business minded.
But what I found when I got certified through NASM was that they taught you very little about building your own personal training business.
Obviously this will only matter to those that are interested in eventually taking their knowledge of fitness to the next level.
Even if you aren’t, It’s something you need to think about since the fitness industry provides many opportunities to make money.
But when it comes to these cert programs, rarely do they ever provide you with information to build a business.
Depending on the program, their goal is to provide you with the knowledge to really understand how the body works.
But if you’re someone that has a desire to someday grow a business, I wouldn’t rely on any of these programs.
You have to be creative and think outside the box if you’re serious about building a business.
Is It Worth It To Get Certified?
In my opening paragraph, I said that deciding on which personal training certification is the best depends on what kind of trainer you’re trying to be.
What I mean by that is, if you’re looking to work at a gym, then based on experience, NASM and ACE seem to be the most popular choices.
Both are highly accredited and are accepted by most gyms.
I found the NASM program to be very informative and prepared me very well to take the exam.
They are a bit on the expensive side, but they do provide payment plans and they are definitely worth it.
If you plan on going the independent route like myself, you could probably get away with not being certified.
However, building a legit business will require getting insurance, and most insurances require that you have a certification.
I would probably recommend that you get certified since it shows a level of commitment to providing clients with the best service.
But if you’re very determined to make it work, you can definitely find success without a cert as long as you go independent.
Why I Am No Longer Certified
Like I mentioned throughout this article, I got my certification through NASM. I found their program very informative and very helpful when it came to taking the exam.
Although it can be pretty expensive, I would recommend anyone looking to get certified to go with NASM.
For the four years I was certified, I was probably actively training clients for about two of those years.
The reason being was I didn’t like the fact that my income was dependent on if I was training clients or not.
And in order for me to make more money, I had to either train more clients, or increase my rates. I needed to find a better way to make consistent income.
Being the business minded person that I am, I wanted to find a way to still help people when it came to their health, but also increase my earning potential.
So eventually I decided to bring my knowledge of fitness online where I had the opportunity to increase my reach.
I started back in 2016 and am currently making 5 figures a month recommending health products and services to those searching for it online.
So if you’re interested, you should definitely check out my Bio.