If you have been wondering what the best personal training certification is, chances are you are either looking to get into the field of personal training or you are already a personal trainer who wants to improve his or her credentials. This question is not as easily answered as one might hope.
There are a lot of factors to consider when addressing the topic of which personal trainer certification is the best. In this article I will cover a number of facets to consider when it comes to this very important topic.
When I was starting out in the personal training field, I struggled to find information on the best personal training certification. In hindsight, I wish I had had a resource like the one I am now writing here. What I am going to cover in this article is based on my experience over the last half decade as a personal trainer. My hope is that in doing so, you will be able to make a more informed decision that will help you become the best personal trainer possible, both for yourself and for your future clients. Most personal training certifications are not cheap to get, so you want to make sure you end up attaining a good certification. Having said that, let’s begin looking at some of the criteria that will help you get the best personal training certification.
A Word About The Industry
The personal training industry is for the most part completely unregulated. That is why people get certified and not licensed. If someone wants to wake up one day and call him or herself a personal trainer, they can do so without any formal education or credential. The lack of regulation has led to literally hundreds and hundreds of organizations that “certify” personal trainers. Some of these organizations are well recognized and reputable. Many of them are not. Most organizations claim to have the best personal trainer certification in the industry. Obviously, hundreds of organizations cannot all have the best personal trainer certification. It then falls on the would-be personal trainer to then research and ask around to find out what truly is the best personal training certification. In this article I will attempt to help you nail down which personal training certification is the best for you.
I don’t start off talking about cost because it is the most important factor. I have chosen to start off talking about cost because it is often the first thing aspiring personal trainers, or personal trainers looking to get certified think about. Getting certified through a good organization that is well recognized and respected throughout the industry is not cheap. On the low end, between study materials, and the cost of actually taking your exam, you will spend at least five hundred dollars. Many people will spend more in the range of seven to eight hundred dollars to ensure that they have adequate study materials to pass the exam on the first try. That brings us to an important point. The most reputable certifying organizations don’t have a money back guarantee. If you don’t pass the exam, you don’t get your money back. Many however do have a reduced fee for those attempting to retake the exam. If five to eight hundred dollars seems like a lot of money, consider the cost of going to college for one semester. After one semester at college will it qualify you to go off and work in the field of your choice? Probably not. A good personal training certification however will open up many doors for you.
When deciding what the best personal trainer certification is, it’s important to assess how well recognized the organization is that you are considering getting certified through. An organization may have a great program and a very thorough certification process. If nobody in the industry recognizes the organization you are certified through however, that is a problem. Having a certification that people in the industry immediately recognize is important. The last thing you want is to work hard for a personal training certification and then have a prospective employer tell you he or she has never heard of that organization before.
One way that you can identify organizations that are well recognized throughout the industry is do a search on any of the major job posting websites. When you look through the various job postings, take a look at what personal trainer certifications they are looking for and accept. Another way to identify certifications that are well recognized in the industry is to begin looking at the profiles of personal trainers of gyms, recreation centers, and personal training studios. By engaging in both of the above-mentioned activities, you will very quickly begin to get a feel for what the most well-known and accepted personal training certifications are. One final piece of advice I have for those who do this is to make sure that you take the time to look at a lot of job postings and profiles. Don’t just look at a few job postings and a few personal trainer profiles. The field of personal training has so many certifying organizations out there that you will want to make sure to do a lot of research before deciding for yourself what the best personal training certification is for your needs.
As I mentioned earlier, there are literally hundreds of organizations out there that will “certify” personal trainers. Unfortunately, many of these organizations have very low standards and operate as little more than a means of generating income from those who go through there certification process. In fact, many organizations will “certify” you in a weekend seminar or even less. Contrast this with the more reputable organizations that require on average six months or more of study in order to pass their exam.
Profit Vs. Non-Profit
Relating to the previous topic, organizations that certify personal trainers fall into either profit or non-profit. There are only a couple of non-profit organizations in the industry that I am aware of. These organizations also happen to be the most well respected and well known in the industry. The issue of profit vs. non-profit may not seem important, but relating back to the issue of industry respectability, it is. Consider a for-profit organization that certifies personal trainers. By it’s nature, the company exists to generate a profit. One of the ways it does so is by certifying personal trainers. One way to do this is by creating a great company that is well known and respected in the industry with high standards. Prospective personal trainers will naturally be drawn to this company over time, it will be respected, and revenue will increase. Another not so good way to make a profit is to make testing procedures easy so more and more people pass, thereby generating greater revenue for the organization. Do not make the mistake in thinking that all for-profit personal training organizations are only out for the money and that they therefore dumb down there testing standards in order to get more people to spend money on their certification program. There are a number of great for-profit organizations that have some of the best personal trainer certification credentials out there. They are well known and well respected. The reason I mention profit vs. non-profit is because unfortunately in the unregulated personal training field, some organizations exist to generate revenue even if it means creating a bogus certification that few people if anyone recognizes. Be on the lookout for this type of thing and spend your time and money wisely to pursue a personal training certification that is both well recognized and reputable.
Testing Standards And Procedures
When you test for your personal training certification, you are most likely going to go about it in one of two ways. The first way is to go to a testing center. These testing centers test people for all kinds of certifications in various fields. The testing is typically done on a computer, although paper and pencil exams are also offered by many personal training organizations. The testing environment is strict. You may be videotaped while you take the exam, and no materials are allowed with you in the testing environment. This ensures a reliable test is taken whereby the results are valid and trustworthy. On the other end of the spectrum, some organizations have an online personal trainer certification method. This is an open book, no time limit testing format. In this case, the person taking the test simply logs in from whatever computer they choose, and takes the exam utilizing however much time they need using whatever materials they want. I mention testing standards and procedures because some gyms and training studio owners will consider testing format in regards to what certification they will accept. Then again, some won’t. This goes back to the principle of reputation, which I spoke of earlier.
Third Party Accreditation
In the field of personal training, third party accreditation is a big plus, and sets apart many of the top organizations from the pack. Third party accreditation involves an outside organization that is impartial and which bears no profit incentive with the testing organization in question. This organization comes in and reviews the other organizations testing procedures. If the personal training organization passes, then they are accredited by the certifying organization. The main organization that accredits in the personal training industry is the National Commission For Certifying Agencies, or NCCA.
Some in the fitness industry contend that third party accreditation is irrelevant or does not really mean that much. Such people contend that the outside accrediting organization does not ensure the level of difficulty of the test, but rather that the testing procedures are sound and valid. My personal opinion is that outside accreditation adds to the reputation of the organization that administers the test. Having an outside organization whose sole purpose is to review testing standards and procedures only adds to the strength of a personal training certification. Does this alone determine the best personal trainer certification? No, but it is a plus and should be factored in when weighing everything.
Identifying Your Intentions
The best personal trainer certification for you is going to require that you ask some questions of yourself. The field of personal training is diverse. Some personal trainers focus on working with athletes. Some personal trainers focus on working with youth. Some assist bodybuilders and fitness competitors in preparing for shows. Some personal trainers work with powerlifters. Some personal trainers focus on working with senior citizens, special populations, or those trying to recover from an accident or physical problem. As you can see, the range of people a personal trainer works with and the goals that they may have can be quite diverse. One personal trainer might be working with the next world class bodybuilding champion. Another personal trainer might be working with a senior who wants to keep his strength up so he doesn’t have to go into assisted living. Identify your purpose and intention in going into personal training. Doing so will help you narrow down what the best personal trainer certification is for your needs.
Consider Possible Employers
If you know the gym, recreation center, or personal training studio you want to work at, you may ask the owner or manager what they think the best personal trainer certification is. That way, you do not waste the time and money to become a personal trainer on a certification that the facility in question does not even accept, recognize, or think much of. Chances are, if the fitness center you’re looking at accepts or prefers a certain certification, there is a good chance that other fitness centers look at those certifications in the same way.
Getting Multiple Certifications
Some trainers in the industry do end up getting multiple personal training certifications. I have done this myself. There are a few reasons for doing so. First, this tells a prospective employer that you’re serious about your field; enough so that you are willing to go the extra mile and spend more time and money to achieve extra credentials. Secondly, is speaks well to prospective clients. If you owned a company and were going to hire someone, would you be more impressed by someone with one academic credential or several of them? Thirdly, it increases your knowledge. Each reputable personal training certification has it’s own areas of focus while still covering all the other important topics. By having multiple personal training certifications, you are expanding your knowledge, and hence your marketability.
Studying And Passing Your Personal Trainer Exam
Not surprisingly, the most difficult exams to pass in the industry are also the most well respected. If you do not have a background related to personal training, the best personal trainer certifications will require at least six months of study for the average person. You will be studying anatomy and physiology as it relates to the field, nutrition, exercise form and technique, client assessment, legal issues, and possibly working with special populations, to name a few. Getting certified through a solid organization is not something where you’re going to sit down for a few weeks and take the test and pass. People who already have a strong background or a previous certification or degree in the field may be able to do this, but those with no background will most likely not. Additionally, don’t make the mistake of thinking that because you have been working out for whatever number of years that you will have no problem passing the best personal training certification you decide on. When you study your personal training materials, you are going to be exposed to principles, definitions, concepts, formulas, and aspects of the human anatomy you have likely never heard of. I had personally been working out avidly for fifteen years and had competed in both bodybuilding and martial arts competitions prior to taking any of my personal training exams. I can tell you I walked away realizing how little I had known before studying the materials.
Figuring Out What The Best Personal Trainer Certification Is
If you happened upon this article, you're no doubt looking for some answers as they relate to personal training certifications. As I mentioned earlier, the industry is highly unregulated. This has in large part created an environment where there are so many certifications that gym owners and people who are already personal trainers don’t even know what the best personal trainer certification is, and they work in the industry. Many trainers and gym owners have no idea of the difference between a certification that takes half a year of study and one that takes an afternoon. It is therefore understandable that people aspiring to become certified as a personal trainer would be even more confused.
Any discussion of what the best personal training certification is, means that there are going to be those that are angered because their certification, which they may have worked hard to get, are left out. I understand that, and I do not aim to disrespect anyone’s hard work. When I consider what qualifies as the best personal trainer certification, I am basing it on the principles I mentioned in this article. Those principles are respectability, recognizability, testing standards and procedures, and third party accreditation. Considering all of those factors, I believe the best personal training certifications are ACSM, NSCA, NASM, and NCSF. Whether one of these is better than the other is up for debate. It is very difficult to state that any single one is the best until you have taken and passed every single personal training exam. With all the personal training certifications out there, I doubt anyone has done this. Many people consider ACSM the gold standard in the industry. The organization has been around the longest and many books used by other organizations reference ACSM materials. The NSCA has also been around for a couple of decades. They administer the prestigious CSCS exam. They also publish a highly reputable journal that reports studies and advancements in the field of strength and conditioning. Both the ACSM and NSCA are non-profit organizations as well.
There are a few other excellent personal trainer certifications out there in addition to the four I have mentioned. The four that I indicated I chose because they seem to best pass the criteria for great personal training certifications indicated in this article. Your needs, combined with the needs of your clients, as well as location, may play a big role in which personal trainer certification is best for you. Take the time to thoroughly investigate the major certifications out there and you will find the best personal trainer certification for you and your needs.
Becoming A Successful Personal Trainer
Getting certified as a personal trainer is a great way to let employers and prospective clients know that you are serous about the field you work in, and have spent considerable time and expense to become proficient in it. Becoming certified as a personal trainer does not ensure that you will be a good personal trainer. A good personal trainer is someone who cares about his or her clients and will do everything in the realm of fitness to help that person to improve their life. Getting the best personal trainer certification you can is a big part of that. I will leave you with one final thought. When I was studying for my first personal training certification, I attended a two day workshop to help people prepare to take the exam. The instructor said a very memorable statement. He told us when we got certified, that would not be the end of the line. He further stated that getting certified is really the beginning of your journey. If you get into the field of personal training, you’re going to have a lot of on the job learning. Certain things can never be taught from a book. Nevertheless, getting certified as a personal trainer is a huge part in advancing your career and knowledge. Good luck to you.