How to Become a Certified Personal Trainer in Illinois

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Personal training certifications aren’t regulated by either the federal or state governments, which means a personal trainer need not hold state-specific licensure in order to be certified and to work. Therefore, becoming a personal trainer in Illinois is the same exact process as becoming a trainer in any other state, and all of the major certifications are recognized nationally. Prospective trainers can complete most certifications online; moreover, the more prestigious certifications in the industry usually offer some kind of local workshop, on at least an annual basis.

Use the internet to research the personal training certifications available. The same results will come up whether you search for certifications in Illinois or national certifications, since they’re the same thing. The most recognized certifications in the industry include NASM, ACE, AFTA and AFFA.

Determine the best certification for your ideal career path. Basic personal training certifications are generally the same, but a handful are more prestigious because they require more in-depth study. Call at a few certifiers to ask them what their material covers. Ask about anatomy, assessment and program design. Call local gyms and ask the directors of personal training departments which certifications they prefer. This will give you some direction. Some fitness clubs only hire trainers with specific certifications.

Purchase your chosen certification, online or via telephone. Each company offers certification packages with different price levels which vary in study materials. It’s possible to buy a certification without buying books, in which case you’re paying for the test and the certification, should you pass. Consider buying used study materials through sources like or, if you have a tight budget. Make sure any used study material you use is the same version as what the company is selling. New trainers should consider purchasing at least the main textbook to have reference material for future clients.

Look the main textbook over thoroughly prior to beginning your study, as this will give you an idea of how the information in each section builds toward the overall exercise philosophy of the certification.

Set up a study schedule. Help yourself stick to it by calling the certifier and scheduling your test date in advance. Online testing is conducted at a local facility—it can’t be done from home. Follow your schedule as closely as possible. If you find the need to reschedule the exam, make sure to call before its scheduled date.

Review the material completely. If the certification package comes with an online practice exam, take it as many times as is allowable, unless you ace it the first time. Usually, the practice exam repeats a few of the official test questions verbatim. Take notice of the questions you missed and find the correct answers.

Make sure you are CPR/AED certified before you take the exam, in case your certification requires you have it before issuing their certification. Look for an online class if you’re short on time (see resources), or call your local hospital and ask when the next training session is scheduled.

Arrive on time for your scheduled exam and complete it in the allotted time. Keep in mind that certain testing facilities don’t allow latecomers into the test, in which case you’d have to reschedule. Nearly all facilities give a pass or fail status immediately; however, you’ll have to wait for news by mail to know specific results. If you passed the exam, the specific results will be accompanied by your personal training certification.


Virtually all companies employing personal trainers require them to be CPR/AED certified. In some cases, the personal training certifiers require that trainers have advance CPR certification in order to finalize their personal training certificates.