You’ve been killing it at the gym, and your friends are enlisting your help to reach their fitness goals. Just looking at one of your new recruits, you can probably gauge his fitness. After a few exercises, you even have a good understanding of his skill when it comes to physical activities. The thought creeps in: “Should I become a personal trainer?” The time it takes to become one need not be long or arduous.
The minimum requirement for personal trainers is professional certification. Certificates are available through organizations including the Academy of Applied Personal Training Education, American Council on Exercise, National Exercise Trainer Association and National Council for Certified Personal Trainers. The time it takes to earn certification varies. For the most part, you are responsible for studying for the exam. The National Council for Certified Personal Trainers, for example, provides packages that include a booklet, DVD set, sample test and study guide to prepare for the exam. You study at your own pace. American Council on Exercise, on the other hand, offers a similar package for preparation, but the coursework takes about 12 weeks to complete.
Health and fitness programs are becoming commonplace at vocational schools, so aspiring personal trainers may want to look into this educational track to gain a deeper knowledge and better skill set for the career. As with any associate degree, it’s a two-year commitment. After graduation, you should be set for most certification exams.
Earning a bachelor’s degree in exercise science is another option for personal trainers. This, of course, is the longest route into the fitness industry, taking at least four years. However, the breadth of study is much more extensive. In addition to general education courses, you’ll cover anatomy, physiology, nutrition, injury prevention, program assessment, women’s health and other fitness-related information.
In 2011, half of all fitness trainers earned at least $31,000 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bottom 10 percent of earners made less than $17,340 annually, while the top 10 percent made $65,000 or more a year. Where you can expect to make depends largely on employer, education, geographic location and years of experience.