How to Become a Personal Trainer in 5 Simple Steps

how to become a personal trainer

How to Become a Personal Trainer in 5 Simple Steps

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Have you always wanted to become a personal trainer?

You’re halfway there. But, as with most things in life, wanting is only the first step of the journey.

In order to become a trainer and succeed as one, you need to have the right game plan in place and follow it up with consistent action — just like your workouts. As you’ll see in this guide, there are five simple steps you’ll need to take to become a personal trainer. And we’ll be covering the best ways to tackle each one.

If you are interested in training clients online check out our How to Become an Online Personal Trainer blog.

1. Get Your Prerequisites Completed First

Before you begin with a personal trainer course, you’ll likely need to have a few items checked off before you can get certified. These are:

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

Most personal training certification bodies require these items before you sit down for the final exam. Additionally, many companies are requiring the Automated External Defibrillator (AED) Certification along with the Emergency Cardiac Care (CPR), but these certifications can usually be packaged together by the same provider.

The American Red Cross is a popular choice for the CPR/AED certification, and you can check out their website to find classes near you.


What Cert is Best for You?

We designed this quiz to help you choose the perfect certification based on your learning style and goals.

2. Nail Down the Best Certified Personal Trainer Course (for you)

What is the best personal trainer certification?

A better question is “what is the best personal trainer certification for me?” The certification body you choose is a highly subjective decision — and often a confusing one — so here are some questions you can ask yourself before committing to one over another:

How do I learn new concepts best?

Do you understand concepts better when they’re presented in-person with a teacher or can you handle learning on your own?

Personal training education isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. You actually have several options, including:

  • Certification via accredited US company (self-study)
  • Vocational college (in-person)
  • University programs with Bachelors or Masters (in-person)
  • Unaccredited online options (self-study)
  • Gym program (in-person)

Learn more about the different personal trainer courses.

How much time do you have?

Are you looking to get certified as soon as possible or would you prefer to get a college degree along with your certification? The self-study options are the quickest approach whereas the vocational college and university programs are obviously more long-term.

As you answer these questions, you should also be thinking about the differences between each personal training program.

Here are some answers to some common FAQs about becoming a trainer that may also help you decide which route you want to go:


Do I Need to Go to College to Become a Personal Trainer?


If the thought of becoming a full-time student isn’t something that interests you, you’re in luck.

You don’t need to go to college to become a personal trainer.

While a university program will give you the most in-depth learning experience, including learning subjects that aren’t solely personal-training focused, it comes at a price not everyone can afford, both in time and money.

However, if you have your sights set on becoming a personal trainer and you love school or are already working towards earning a Bachelor’s or Master’s, a college degree can strengthen your expertise and build trust with future clients.

This is especially important in the beginning of your personal training career when you’re still building your client base.

So if you don’t need a college degree, the next question is:


What Kind of Education Do I Need to Be a Personal Trainer?


As we talked about in this guide, there are five education routes you can follow to become a personal trainer:

  1. Certification by a US company
  2. Vocational college
  3. University programs with a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree
  4. Unaccredited online options
  5. Internal gym programs

Each option has its own educational program and certification procedures. By completing one of them, you’ll hold a certification from that institute to teach people as a personal trainer.

Keep in mind, only the first three options on that list are accredited.

Let’s go over the difference between an accredited and an unaccredited program so you know which sounds best for you.

Do I Need to Find an Accredited Program?


An accredited program, such as Fitness MentorsNASM or ACE, means that it has been credentialed by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), National Board of Fitness Examiners (NBFE) or other top accrediting bodies. While there are other personal trainer program credentialing bodies, the NCCA is considered the gold standard.

More importantly perhaps, NCCA-certified personal training programs are generally recognized at most health facilities, meaning if you go with one of these you are almost guaranteed a job at a corporate gym.

Some of the most popular Accredited personal trainer bodies include:


• Fitness Mentors



On the other hand, unaccredited courses may not be accepted by corporate gyms and fitness studios.

Unaccredited courses are usually better for someone who already has an established network of clients through their own training methods and has no intentions of working at a corporate facility.

The majority of potential personal trainers will want to find an accredited program.

You’ll receive a more in-depth education and will be better prepared to find a job once you pass your test.

You can opt for an accredited self-study program, such as Fitness MentorsNASM or ACE, or you can enroll in a vocational college or bachelor’s program at your local college, as mentioned earlier. Vocational schools or colleges will have relationships with accredited certification bodies so you’ll walk away with a degree and your CPT.

Once you select a program, grab a calendar and set your exam date.

3. Choose an Exam Date & Prepare

Picking an exam date is the first major step towards seeing your personal trainer dreams through.


Put it off and you may end up backburnering your goal indefinitely.

That’s why certain programs have you set a date right away for this very reason.

Keep in mind, you should be realistic with your date.

Fortunately, this next section can help you understand the real magnitude of the work so you can adjust your timeline and plan accordingly.


How Long Does it Take to Become a Personal Trainer?


Consider your schedule, current workload, and other obligations before setting a date that’s too close for comfort.

You should give yourself at least three to six months, depending on your certification, to prepare. Plan on committing anywhere from 75-100 hours to doing so.

Here’s a breakdown of the expected study time for each personal training program specifically:

  • NCCPT: 80-100 hours is the recommended study time
  • FITNESS MENTORS: 80 hours is the recommended study time
  • NESTA: You must complete the test within 90 days of requesting the exam voucher so study well before this time
  • ACSM: 3, 6, 12, or 24-month options
  • ACE: Schedule test within 6 months of purchase date, but you can take it before 9 months
  • ISSA: 6 months to complete
  • NASM: Must complete in under 6 months
  • NCSF: Must complete in under 6 months
  • NCSA: 120 days after purchasing exam
  • NFPT: 12 Months after purchasing exam
  • AFAA: N/A

With your target test date in mind, you can then work backwards to plan out how many chapters you’ll need to cover each week and month in order to be best prepared for it.

However, if you want to fast track your certification, without sacrificing how much information you’re learning, use this study schedule to knock it out in just two months:

  • Read one or two hours per day at a minimum
  • Create your own chapter-by-chapter notes from the book/coursework
  • Use study guides to review hand-picked topics for reference
  • Listen to audio lectures to review the information while driving/working out/during down time
  • Take practice tests for each chapter
  • Quiz yourself on 5-10 chapters of the book at a time every few weeks
  • Reread study guides as you build upon new concepts
  • Quiz yourself and document the questions you miss; revisit the sections of the book discussing the topics you didn’t get right
  • Take a quiz every day leading up to the final week of study
  • Sit down for an entire practice exam and write down questions you missed; revisit topics you need a better understanding of
  • Take the official certification exam when you consistently earn at least 85% passing score on practice exams

You can also use study resources to help you work out pre-test jitters while you get a feel for the test’s format.

All this can help ensure you make it to this next (huge) step.

4. Pass Your Exam

There’s nothing better than seeing the words PASS after you submit your personal training certification exam.

But you can only get there if you put in the necessary time reading and studying the material and understanding the concepts.

Practicing test questions and using practice test preps also help increase your chances of passing your exam.

And once you do, you’ll officially be ready to start working as a personal trainer.

5. Land a Job as a Personal Trainer

Before you spend countless hours applying for jobs you may not enjoy, you should take the time to figure out what you really want and think about what gets you excited first.

You’ll save time by only applying to positions that check these boxes. Or, you may decide you don’t want to work for anybody and take a more independent route.

So consider these questions:

  • Do you prefer to work primarily in-person or online?
  • Do you prefer large group training classes or one-on-one sessions?
  • Would you prefer to work for yourself or somebody else?
  • If you prefer to be employed, would you prefer to work in a big box gym, boutique gym, or some other setting?

If you’re looking to gain experience, it can also help to approach the staff where you currently work out to see if there are any openings.

Since you’re already familiar with the place and the staff may be familiar with you, you’ll boost your chances of getting your foot in the door.

The last burning question many soon-to-be trainers have is:


How Much Money Can You Make as a Personal Trainer?

personal trainer salary

The good news is personal trainer salaries have an average median of $58,318 and 10% make over $80,000 per year! 

When you do what you love and you truly help people become their healthiest, happiest selves, your salary may not be your top priority in comparison. But, there is no doubt you’ll be compensated well for all your hard work.

Now that you know what it takes to become a personal trainer, and you understand how to ace all five steps to get there, it’s time to start chasing your dream.


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FAQs on How to Become a Personal Trainer

The qualifications most personal training certifications require include: age 18 or older, has a high school diploma or equivalent degree, a CPR/AED certification, and the passing of a certified personal trainer course.

Some personal training certifications, like the Fitness Mentors CPT, can be obtained in a month with rigorous study. Most programs, however, take 3 months or more to complete the coursework, study and pass the final exam.

On average, personal trainers have an average median of almost $60,000 and 10% of trainers make over $80,000 a year.

Becoming a certified personal trainer is not nearly as time-consuming or challenging as other professions. However, a fair amount of studying and dedication are needed to complete a course and grow and build a client base.

A career in personal training typically begins at the gym for most trainers. This is the most ideal place to learn how to train, speak with prospects, and work on your sales technique.

Research suggests one in ten trainers earn six-figure salaries.

Personal trainers can use their skills to perform other jobs such as gym managers, sales managers, fitness writers, workout program developers, and group fitness instructors..

Most gyms require a qualification from a third-party accredited personal training body or their own internal certification for trainers to gain employment.

A personal training certification is not a legal requirement in order to assist others with their fitness goals. However, the safety and wellbeing of clients is a primary concern of the industry as a whole, which is why it is such an important aspect of any certification.

Personal training can be a great part time job. As an independent trainer you are free to charge as much as you’d like, choose your hours, and try to generate as much supplemental income as possible.


Become a Personal Trainer Today

With all this information under your training belt, now’s the time to take action.

Start by knocking out your prerequisites.

Then choose an education route you know you’ll stick with. Work through the rest of the tips in this guide and you’ll be one step closer to passing your certification test and achieving your personal training goals.

If you are interested in getting certified with the goal of building a lifelong career, check out the Fitness Mentors certifications.

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Online Personal Trainer Certification: 5 Tips to Get Certified in 2 Months

Online Personal Trainer

Online Personal Trainer Certification:

5 Tips to Get Certified in 2 Months

You’d probably agree with me when I say:

There are no shortcuts to fast and credible personal trainer certifications.

Or, are there?

As it turns out, there are some great ways to get a personal trainer certification, fast. And I’m not talking about those crappy, fake certifications you may have come across from the vast stretches of the interwebs.

I’m talking about a real, accredited, personal trainer certification that will get you a job at most gyms and into a personal training career that you love.

Today I’ll show you what the shortcuts are and exactly how you can get a real personal trainer certification, all online, and in as little as two months.

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Get Your Prerequisites in Order

Before you can tap into the personal training field you’ll need to get some things in order that most online personal trainer certification bodies require. For most of these agencies, you’ll need to check off the following three things:

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

More companies are requiring the Automated External Defibrillator (AED) Certification along with the Emergency Cardiac Care (CPR), but these certifications are usually given together. American Red Cross is one of the primary providers of these courses and you can find a CPR/AED class near you to satisfy this necessary requirement.

Note that you don’t always have to have CPR/AED certifications to purchase most online personal trainer packages (to start your studies), you’ll just need it to become official once you do sit for the final exam.


Choose the Best Online Personal Trainer Certification for You

In a previous post of mine on the “best personal trainer certification” I conclude the blog post with a note that the decision is very subjective and there are certain certifications that may be better-suited for certain individuals. The major factors I find that influence which online personal training certification you go with includes:

  • Accreditation
  • Price
  • CEU requirements
  • Pass rate
  • Average income of trainers

At the time I wrote that post, there was one option that I did not include because it did not yet exist. That option is the Fitness Mentors’ Online Personal Trainer Certification. As you’ll learn, it is actually the only truly and fully online, accredited online personal trainer cert. More on why this is important in tip three.


Choose a Course that is Truly Available Online from Start to Finish

If you have begun to look at your available options for a CPT, you probably understand that you can begin to order study materials and start gaining the knowledge you need to pass the final exam with the swipe of your credit card.

What you may not be aware of, however, is that once you are ready to schedule the exam, you have to take the following, sometimes inconvenient, steps:

  1. Register for an exam
  2. Wait for the next available exam slot
  3. Drive to the physical exam location

This is not even taking into consideration what happens if you try to reschedule an exam, if you are an international student, or if you fail the exam.

The long and short of understanding all the above is this:

You want the fastest, most convenient route to becoming a certified personal trainer.

Anything that detracts from that — such as having to attend anything away from the comfort of your home — can significantly delay how quickly you are able to become certified. This is partly why the Fitness Mentors Online CPT was created; the fitness industry needed an accredited, purely online option for aspiring trainers to get certified with.


Ensure You are Fully Prepared with Appropriate Study Guides, Practice Exams, and other Study Aids

If you are going to go through the trouble of getting a CPR/AED and buying personal trainer certification books or study materials, you might as well ensure that you pass the exam the first time around (some personal training certs charge as much as $435 to retake an exam).

For example, Fitness Mentors has created a wealth of study materials ranging from free study guides, premium study guides, audio lectures, and even practice tests to help students prepare themselves the best way possible for their exams.

Study materials that are created by previous exam takers are always helpful. There are usually a wealth of blogs online that feature stories of how people prepared for their personal trainer exam and what questions threw them into a frenzy. I encourage you to read up on these types of blogs and to look into some premium study materials that make studying and learning the material easier, and most importantly, quicker to digest.


Set Up a Study Schedule to Retain as Much Information as Possible as Quickly as Possible

If you are setting out to study, take, and pass your online personal trainer certification course in two months, be honest with yourself in terms of how much time you can actually give yourself to studying each day.

Personal trainer certs are not made to be walks in the park; there is a lot of complex biological, programming, and business application information to learn. Truth be told, it can be pretty hard but only if you don’t study and prepare yourself the right way.

But you’re not going to have that problem are you?

As a former college professor who helped students study and prepare for their CPT, I’ve found that a dedicated student can begin studying and be prepared to take (and pass) the CPT in as little as two months.

Here is a basic outline of the strategy you can use to accomplish the same.

How to get a CPT in 2 months:

  • Dedicate yourself to reading 1-2 hours per day
  • Create your own chapter-by-chapter notes from the book/coursework
  • Use study guides to review hand-picked topics for reference
  • Use audio lectures to review the information (while driving/working out/during down time)
  • Take practice tests of each chapter
  • Quiz yourself on 5-10 chapters of the book at a time every few weeks
  • Reread study guides as you get deeper into the book
  • Quiz yourself and document the questions you miss; revisit the sections of the book of the topics you’ve missed
  • Quiz yourself lots leading up to the final week of study
  • Take a entire practice exam and write down questions you missed; revisit topics you’ve missed
  • Take official certification exam once you consistently get 85% passing score on practice exams

Get Your Online Personal Trainer Certification Started Today

There is no better time than now to get started on your personal training career. Personal trainers are consistently marked as professionals with exceptional work/life balance, with jobs that have flexible working hours, have growth potential of 13% by 2022, and just generally are more fun careers to begin with.

If you have any questions about the best online personal trainer certification option for you, your experience studying online, or anything else related to online CPTs, please let me know in the comments.

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NASM Reviews: Personal Trainer Certifications – CES, FNS, PES, WLS, MMAS, GPT, YES, WFS, SFS, GFS

NASM Reviews  Personal Trainer Certifications

NASM Reviews: Personal Trainer Certifications –


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NASM Reviews

Certified Personal Trainer, CPT The NASM-CPT is the most widely chosen certification among fitness professionals, making it the most widely accepted in the industry. As a future personal trainer it is important to align yourself with the most reputable certification and we believe that NASM is just that which is why we are giving you an objective way to learn about NASM reviews. The way that you receive your CPT credential is by passing the NASM CPT Exam. This is done by learning the information from the NASM CPT Textbook that is most relevant to succeeding as a personal trainer. NASM will attempt to provide you with expensive education packages ranging from $300 – $1500 dollars (on top of the $500 test), but most people agree that their education is confusing, which is probably why the pass rate is at a low 60%. The best and least expensive way to pass their exam and learn the information you need to be successful, is by purchasing the exam and textbook separately and relying on education that focuses on the test specific material. We highly recommend the Audio LecturesPractice Tests and Study Guide package (only $199) from Fitness Mentors. They go into specific detail regarding what makes it onto the test so you can better prepare yourself for what to expect. They also add the real world experiences and examples that teach you how to use the material to train your clients more effectively. Whichever way you chose to learn, the NASM certification should be your top choice as it is accepted at almost any training facility.

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Other NASM Reviews for Specialty Certifications

Extra Credentials are like super setting your favorite two body parts, it pumps you up! (insert Arnold voice). When you are already a NASM Certified Trainer, I highly recommend focusing your continuing education on sales or sticking with their other certifications, as they transfer to equal the amount of CEU’s you need to recertify (1.9 CEU’s + 0.1 CEU for CPR). When choosing your additional certs, think purpose. What credential is going to make you more valuable to the type of clientele you want to attract? Below is an honest breakdown:

Corrective Exercise Specialist, CES: People with Pain AKA almost everyone. The CES certification is far and away NASM’s best cert, as you will learn extremely applicable information. It forces you to understand origins of pain and how to fix it. My biggest concern with my training was learning how to always progress in strength, athleticism and body image, while avoiding any training associated injury. Here’s the truth, if you don’t have perfect flexibility and muscle balance, you are on your way to finding injury. In the CES materials you learn about all the mobility issues that can lead to these injuries. Beyond this, the value you can build knowing and understanding your clients’ pain is immense. Imagine you look at the most basic movement patterns of someone in their everyday life and are able to tell them about how their overactive Pec Major is giving them that shoulder pain they have been dealing with for months. They are blown away. Another great thing about this cert is that the test you have to pass, which is NASM’s hardest by far, makes sure you have completed your studies and understand these difficult topics. All of this combined makes the Corrective Exercise Specialist Certification a true educational experience that is held to the highest standard.

Fitness Nutrition Specialist, FNSPeople who want a trainer that will be able to explain more than how much brotein is in their brotein shake. AKA everyone. With a huge mess of information out there on nutrition, it is extremely important to be able to differentiate the good from the bad. When put simply we can say things like, avoid processed food; eat whole foods; avoid Trans fats, but we need to understand why these things are important. The Fitness Nutrition Specialist by NASM takes a detailed college level textbook and goes to town on understanding everything you need to know about PRO, CHO and FAT, as well as all of the vitamins and minerals, what they do and where to get them. Although there is no definitive way to eat (some may argue otherwise), being able to analyze the true nutritional content of what you are eating and understand why you are eating it, the knowledge gained through the Fitness Nutrition Specialist Certification will help you to boost your own and your clients’ fitness goals.

Performance Enhancement Specialist, PESPeople looking to perform better at a recreational sport (get real, you’re not gonna train the Kobe or Lebron), or youth athletes. AKA not many. Unless you are planning on focusing your fitness career in sports specific training or you are a competitive athlete yourself, the Performance Enhancement Specialist may be of little use. The market for sports training is not a large one, and typically caters to high school and college aged clientele, which usually don’t have room in their budget for private training.  It’s not to frequent that business men come to personal trainers looking to become a better running back or shortstop. In review of what you are learning there are great things about the PES. Through the assessments chapter you are introduced to some great sports specific assessments that can expand your repertoire when considering performance as a goal. Also they have a great Olympic xenical lowest price Lifting chapter that is essential to understand for improving explosiveness and power in sports that have those needs. Same goes for the plyometric chapter. If you like understanding concepts behind why these types of training will benefit athleticism, then the science based information throughout the book will be a great resource. Overall the PES is great, but remember it has a very specific and small market. Certifications to explore that will benefit your sports based training knowledge would be the USA-Weightlifting’s (USAW) Sports Performance Coach and National Strength and Conditioning Association’s (NSCA) Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. These certifications are very focused on the college and pro level setting and it would not be easy to carry out their training programs in your typical commercial gym.

Weight Loss Specialist, WLSNASM’s attempt to teach you the same stuff you already know and charge you for it; it does sound pretty badass though; AKA Fat People or 70% of the Population. Where is the Jacked and Tan Specialist? I may sound a little harsh towards this certification, only because they beat the law of thermodynamics to death (calories in vs calories out). When will NASM jump off the government recommended nutrition band wagon and realized there is more to altering body composition; ie. Hormonal OptimizationMacronutrient Ratios, and eating low inflammatory profile foods to name a few. Unfortunately they don’t discuss any alternative methods to weight loss, and just repeat what you already know, to slightly more detail. I do have to say that having this title will make you sound great, but recognize your investment in furthering your education provides little return.

Mixed Martial Arts Specialist, MMASA way to manage a group exercise program that tries to do MMA moves, but mainly just makes people look like they are convulsing. But it does make you sexy to clients that want to train like fighters even though you have no clue what that really means, unless you have a previous martial arts or boxing background. AKA Is this your target audience? Then get it. Similar to the Weight loss Specialist, if you expect to get great insight into how to train someone like MMA fighters you are understandably mislead. Mixed Martial Artists are athletes and you are better off applying the PES principles to understand and program toward the demand of the sport, rather than take them through circuit training with added kicks, knees and elbows. I really only see this as a clever way to capitalize on the recent MMA influenced fitness training boom. Once again the education is lacking, so the title is all you’re really paying for.

Group Personal Training Specialist, GPTReally? AKA you don’t need this as you already know how to do it. Did you know that no gyms require you to have this to train their group exercise classes? I can only see this benefiting you in a few ways; one of them being that you’re starting a boot camp or private group class and want to bring attention to the fact that you are qualified, and the other being that you really suck at training groups and you need more insight, which is unlikely. If you fall into one of these categories I guess you could try it?

Women’s Fitness Specialist, WFSWomen? Are they that much different that they need their own cert? Is this your Target Market? AKA 51% of the population. If you’re a female I’m pretty sure you know what’s going on. If you’re a male, you’re just creepy. Sounds ok but you decide. I will be waiting for the Men’s Fitness Specialist to arrive. Any day now…

Youth Exercise Specialist, YESTeach them how to play and perform speed, agility and quickness drills. AKA you don’t need this unless you directly work with kids in Beverly Hills and need to convince their Type A moms that you are certified to work with little Joey. The special considerations for youth can be found in chapter 16 in the NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training Textbook. The additional information in this cert does not add to much benefit beyond what the basic standards are for youth training.

Senior Fitness Specialist, SFSRefer to CES. AKA get the CES. Great title if this is your main focus for your business. Besides that your money is better spent on learning ways to address musculoskeletal pain.

Golf Fitness Specialist, GFSPlan on training Tiger? Do you already kick ass at golf? Is this your Target Market? AKA Not many golfers realize they suck because they have zero thoracic mobilityAnd that’s how many would train with you. I love golf. If you love golf this does provide some great baseline knowledge for you to build upon in the real world, but check out the Titleist Performance Institute if you are serious about getting to golf training.

Highly Recommended: CES, FNS, PES

Honorable Mention: MMAS, WLS just because they make you seem like a bad ass.

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Convinced NASM is the way to go?

Your next steps for NASM certification:

  1. Call NASM to Purchase the Exam-only Package: 800-460-6276
  2. Get Fitness Mentors’ Audio Lectures, Practice Tests, and Study Guide for the NASM CPT Exam: Click Here
  3. Begin Your Studies Using the Fitness Mentors’ 4 & 8-week Study Timeline
  4. Schedule Your Exam at a NASM-approved Test Center: 800-211-2754
  5. Begin Your Career as a NASM Certified Personal Trainer!

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