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Do You Have to Be Certified to Be a Personal Trainer?

Does helping people meet their fitness goals make you happy?

If you have heard the saying, ‘Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life,’ being a personal trainer may be in your future.

Eddie Lester

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While you may have identified that a career as a personal trainer is for you, you may also be wondering, ‘do I have to be certified to be a personal trainer?’

Here is everything you need to know.

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You Don’t Have To Be Certified To Be A Personal Trainer… But You Should

Anyone can call themselves a personal trainer, but not everyone can claim they are certified without the proper training. 

Several personal trainer certifications are available to help individuals advance their knowledge as they continue to develop their personal training practice. These certifications come from highly respected companies like Fitness Mentors, NASM, ISSA, and ACE, just to name a few. 

You can read more about those certifications here, but let’s dive into the question you came for. Do you need one?

What Are The Advantages of Becoming a Certified Personal Trainer?

While nobody is going to stop you from claiming you are a personal trainer, you’d be remiss if you practiced training and did not have formal certification. The reason is, you’ll likely struggle with getting clients or getting hired by a fitness facility without proper accreditation. And since you also won’t be able to get liability insurance, you should not call yourself a personal trainer or act as one without being properly certified.

Now, let’s explain deeper.

Obtaining Proper Business Liability Insurance 

When you work for yourself or as a self-employed contractor with a local gym or fitness studio, obtaining the proper business liability insurance is critical. Unfortunately, many insurance companies will not want to provide liability coverage if you do not have the correct certification. 

Certification ensures that you have completed a training program, so there is less chance of injuring someone you are instructing. 

Limited Job Opportunities 

Lacking legitimate certification can be a significant roadblock in obtaining clients or finding a job at a reputable gym or fitness center. Much like other specialty jobs, an employer will not hire you to do the specific work they need without the proper certification. 

Industry Credibility 

Many potential clients and employers will not see you as a credible source of information as a personal trainer without the correct certification. With personal training, there is an inherent responsibility for clients’ wellbeing, whether it be weight loss, nutrition, or proper technique to avoid injuries while building strength. Certification shows you’ve had the discipline and patience to start and finish a formal education and are competent enough to create structured programs that get results.

So, What Do I Need To Become a Certified Personal Trainer?

Because every location around the world has particular requirements, where you live and work will impact what is recognizable as credible training. 

Thankfully, there are some standard certifications that most places recognize to begin your new career as a personal trainer. These courses make it simple to start a career in the fitness industry, and you will be happy to know that you do not need to spend years of schooling and thousands upon thousands of dollars before receiving proper certification. 

The standard barrier to entry for most personal training certifications is the following:

  1. 18 years or older
  2. High school diploma or GED
  3. CPR/AED certification

Then it’s all about completing the coursework and acing the final exam. 

Learn more: How to Become a Personal Trainer in 5 Simple Steps

Personal Trainer Certification FAQs

Do you need a degree to be a personal trainer?

You do not need a degree to be a personal trainer. While it is possible to obtain a personal trainer certification in college, it is not necessary to go through college to get a certification.

Fitness Coach vs Personal Trainer: What’s the Difference?

Many people associate a personal trainer with certification, while a fitness coach may not possess the same accreditation (but can). Consequently, this can be a grey area if there is no formal training. 

Fitness coaches generally provide lifestyle changes and dietary modifications to ensure clients see their desired results, but lack formalized training in personal training. Therefore, fitness coaches don’t usually have the same prestige associated with their titles as personal trainers.

Do you need a personal trainer certification to train clients virtually or online?

Virtual personal training and certification requirements are the same as with in-person training – you do not need a formal certification to train, but it is recommended. In virtual environments just like in in-person ones, the safety of clients is paramount and is best achieved with a formalized training and online personal training certification.


The first step to becoming a personal trainer is becoming certified to build a successful business in the fitness world. With the proper certification, you will have more job opportunities, hold more credibility in the fitness world, and will not have to worry about liability insurance issues. 

Fitness Mentors can help you by determining which training programs to choose and how to advance your knowledge as a personal trainer. So talk to someone today and get started with the best certification choices to suit your training needs. 

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