Personal trainer certification: types and requirements

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 25 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Personal trainer (PT) jobs are becoming more in demand as more people prioritise their physical health and fitness. Earning a personal trainer certification can give you a competitive advantage when applying for jobs and increase your earning potential. There are several types of PT certifications to choose from and learning about the different types ensures you choose the right one for you. In this article, we discuss the importance of certification as a personal trainer, outline the different types of personal trainers and give some examples of PT training courses.

Why is personal trainer certification important?

Gaining personal trainer certification is important because it demonstrates your commitment to others' health and fitness needs. It shows that you have a fundamental knowledge of fitness, exercise science, movement, coaching and training practices. This expertise help clients feel confident that you can facilitate their fitness journey and help them achieve their goals. Certification also allows you to learn new training methods and techniques to improve the services you offer clients.

The fitness industry is unregulated, meaning there are no formal requirements necessary to become a personal trainer. Employers are more likely to hire candidates who have certification as it serves as demonstrable proof of their expertise and commitment to the role. Certification courses also allow you to network with leading industry names and fitness providers, making it easier to source job opportunities down the line. You can also expand your client base as a certified personal trainer as people seek out individuals with appropriate qualifications.

Related: How to create a personal trainer CV (with example)

Requirements for earning a PT certification

To gain a PT certification, there are certain entry requirements to meet. The criteria differ depending on the training provider, yet typically include:

  • Be 18 years old or over.

  • Complete secondary school education or hold equivalent qualifications.

  • Obtain a valid form of photo identification, such as a passport or UK driver's license.

  • Gain a minimum of two years of experience in the fitness industry.

  • Choose a certification speciality, such as strength and conditioning, pilates or yoga training or group training.

  • Pay the certification course fee.

  • Prepare for and complete the certification exam to the best of your ability.

Different types of PT certification courses

There are different types of PT certification courses you can take. Make sure you choose the one that's most convenient for you and aligns with your learning style. The four different types include:

Weekend training classes

Aspiring personal trainers attend weekend training classes in person where they can interact with instructors and other fitness professionals. These classes are similar to workshops in that they're practical and take place in a group setting. You can learn about different fitness specialisations and conduct tests in person.

Related: Personal trainer vs. fitness instructor: in-depth comparison

Correspondence courses

This is a course of study whereby you communicate with a professional trainer through email or post. Students receive training materials in the post or through a link along with a final exam form. Upon completion, you send the form back for grading and await your results from the training provider. This is a type of distance learning since there's no face-to-face teaching or communication.

Degree programmes

You can complete a bachelor's or master's degree in personal training. Bachelor's degrees usually take three years to complete while advanced degrees typically take one year to finish on a full-time basis. Some degree programmes allow you to gain practical experience while completing your studies. Common topics that a personal trainer degree covers include health and fitness management, nutrition and exercise science and personal training techniques.

Online courses

Online courses are another type of distance learning. These certification courses are self-paced as you can complete them according to your schedule. Individuals have access to various learning materials, such as videos, texts and worksheets which they complete before taking a final exam online. Students can interact with others on the same course through online forums and webinars.

Personal trainer certifications

There are multiple PT certification providers throughout the country. All of these course providers have different entry requirements and curriculums so do your research before choosing one. Some PT certification courses to consider include:

Health and Fitness Education (HFE)

HFE is an active leisure and fitness training provider with over 30 venues available nationwide. Their personal trainer courses are Active IQ approved. Active IQ is a fitness industry awarding organisation. These courses are also internally recognised qualifications which means you can use them when applying for jobs abroad too.

Students have the option to complete their course online or in person, or on a part-time or full-time basis. Completing the course gives you a Level 3 Diploma in Personal Training and a Level 3 Business Acumen for PTs. There are no formal entry requirements for HFE courses and the certification programmes usually take around 10-12 weeks to complete.

The National Council on Strength & Fitness (NCSF)

The NCSF develops is personal training certification by U.S. and international standards, making it a globally recognised qualification for exercise professionals. Students can choose to specialise in strength and conditioning, personal training or sports and fitness nutrition. Students predominantly complete courses online using the NCSF remote testing platform and online resource materials. The curriculum includes result-based training methodologies, nutrition and weight management, physical evaluations and testing, aerobic fitness, corrective exercise, resistance training and programming models for varied population segments. Students can complete exams online or at a local testing centre according to their individual needs.

Future Fit

Future Fit runs several Ofqual-recognised certification courses for personal trainers. Their courses focus on also developing your business acumen skills through face-to-face workshops. Future Fit also offers pilates instructor courses and wellbeing Level 5 Nutrition qualification for personal trainers looking to specialise their skills.

Diverse Trainers

Diverse Trainers offers PT certification courses suitable for those starting in the fitness industry. The training provider offers three types of flexible learning options for aspiring personal trainers, all of which offer a unique fast-track approach to becoming qualified. You can complete the course online through distance learning and qualify as a personal instructor in four to six weeks. Online learning involves live webinars, interactive E-learning platforms and resource manual packs. Alternatively, students can complete the course face-to-face at a chosen location and gym. This involves learning from a qualified tutor on a one-to-one and group basis.

AMAC Training

AMAC Training offers several professional fitness qualifications for those looking to become certified personal trainers. The Extended Diploma in Personal Training is an industry-recognised certification that's following CIMSPA Standards. It's divided into both practical and theory learning units and includes an additional unit in nutrition for sport and exercise performance. Students complete the course over six months and cover topics such as functional kinesiology, anatomy and physiology, lifestyle and medical factors that affect well-being, legal and professional requirements for personal training and assessment techniques for understanding a client's current health and fitness status.

YMCA Fit

YMCA Fit's personal training certification is a face-to-face learning course and involves practical experience and assessments. Students learn in a gym and studio environment alongside peers and tutors and learn the foundation knowledge to provide tailored support for clients and offer a wide range of session types. Fitness professionals can specialise their skills further by completing a sports massaging course or yoga instructor course. This unique blend of theory and practical learning takes place during a 30-day full-time intensive course period.

Train Fitness

Train Fitness creates courses using evidence-based exercise science to guarantee their efficiency. These courses introduce you to important skills and career opportunities for personal trainers and consist of course videos, workbooks, online worksheets and exercise libraries. The personal trainer course is internationally recognised and compliant with standards set by the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA).

Upon completion, students receive a Level 2 Gym Instructor and Level 3 Personal Trainer qualification as outlined by the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF). Train Fitness also offers specialised certification courses. These include a gym instructor course, pilates instructor course, children's fitness instructor course and yoga instructor course.

Related: How much does a fitness instructor make and what do they do?

OriGym

OriGym offers online personal trainer courses nationwide through tailored learning methods. Students can meet with tutors online where they also conduct practical and theory-based exams. OriGym has over 9,000 graduates each year and allows students to select from standard PT certification courses, CPD fitness courses, specialist fitness courses and teaching and assessing courses. This means that there's a course available for individuals at different stages of their training career and who want to specialise in specific concentrations.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Related:

  • What does a personal trainer do? (And how to become one)

  • How To Become a Fitness Instructor


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