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The Finest Online Digital Courses for Emerging as a Personal Trainer

Prior to the commencement of intense workouts and personal training sessions with your preferred online fitness expert, they underwent an educational journey through a personal trainer certification program. They dedicated weeks to months to master the art of human anatomy, refine their teaching skills, and prepare rigorously for a challenging exam to acquire the qualification required to guide individuals like you.

If you are contemplating walking down the path of becoming a personal trainer and assisting others in achieving their fitness objectives, know that the journey is demanding but certainly feasible. Thanks to the emergence of online training programs offered by reputable institutions such as the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA), initiating your expedition towards becoming a certified personal trainer (CPT) has become more convenient than ever. These programs empower you to learn at your own pace, comfortably within your home setting (or personal gym!).

Whether you are transitioning careers and keen on swift certification or gradually working towards establishing a sideline endeavor, there exists a myriad of options and support systems at your fingertips. Indeed, you have the capacity to become a personal trainer through online avenues—presented below are the top courses for certification, along with key insights into the additional requisites for commencing your coaching journey.

What credentials are mandatory for pursuing a personal training career?

In order to venture into the realm of personal training, it is imperative to secure a personal training certificate initially. To be granted the personal training certification, passing an assessment is a pre-requisite. Each program offering personal training courses has its unique examination process that participants are mandated to complete. For instance, if you opt for the ISSA program, you will undergo the ISSA certification examination, whereas enrolling in the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM-CPT) course would entail taking the NASM exam. It is crucial to match the program with its respective exam procedure.

Prior to enrolling in a program, possessing a high school diploma or GED is essential to embark on your journey towards being recognized as a certified personal trainer. Some programs entail additional prerequisites; for instance, the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA-CPT) mandates a current CPR/AED certification for its program. It is vital to thoroughly review the requirements of the desired course before proceeding with enrollment.

Post-successfully passing the examination, acquiring sport fitness liability insurance is highly recommended. Following certification, registering as an individual will safeguard your business against potential qualified claims arising from any incidents associated with your training sessions.

The most exceptional digital personal training (CPT) programs

Superb for flexible learning

International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA-CPT)

Cost: $83.25 per month or $799 upfront as a lump sum.

The ISSA-CPT program is ideal for individuals who appreciate on-demand learning opportunities. This program offers real-time learning accompanied by comprehensive online coursework and evaluations. The recorded nature of all 10 courses, facilitated by actual professors, ensures that you can revisit lessons at your convenience. Upon program completion, ISSA extends support to graduates in the form of a free professional website and ongoing advisory assistance post-certification.

Insights from a personal trainer: Renowned personal trainer Ronny Garcia, CPT, emphasizes the significance of selecting a program that is rich in content and knowledge. This attribute is fundamental in challenging your learning and fostering knowledge enhancement. Sharing firsthand experiences from his ISSA-CPT training, Garcia affirms, “The course instilled me with confidence to cater to clients with diverse aspirations.”

Optimal for individuals with a background in exercise science

American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM-CPT)

Cost: Various tiers – Packages commence at $110 per year.

Designed for candidates with a foundation in exercise science, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) personal training program offers a bespoke self-guided learning experience. The preparatory course equips you with essential knowledge ahead of the certification exam, coupled with an official Facebook study group for fostering peer collaboration and learning from past participants. While it is possible to directly attempt the exam, undertaking the course beforehand is highly recommended.

Advice from a personal trainer: ACSM-CPT and dietitian Jesse Feder ventured into personal training with the aspiration of assisting individuals in enhancing their well-being and mood. Emphasizing the rewarding aspect of cultivating personal relationships with clients, Feder underscores the transformative impact of exercise on one’s life. Feder advocates for enrolling in exercise science courses to deepen understanding of the core principles outlined in the CPT textbooks.

Perfect for bilingual trainers

National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA-CPT)

Cost: Various tiers – Packages begin at $152 for members and $201 for non-members.

The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA-CPT) certification is another widely acknowledged online certification for aspiring personal trainers. Ahead of the examination, you can access the association’s digital handbook to ensure comprehensive preparation. Additionally, you can choose from the NSCA-CPT study package options (Essential, Essential Plus, or Digital) to optimize your chances of achieving certification.

Moreover, the NSCA-CPT exam is offered in multiple languages including English, Chinese, Italian, Japanese, Korean, and Spanish. This feature ensures candidates can take the exam in their preferred language, if available, enhancing the overall testing experience.

Guidance from a personal trainer: Certified nutritionist Christine VanDoren, CPT, acquired her personal training certification via NSCA upon recognizing a prevalent desire amongst individuals to enhance their health but lacking a clear roadmap. Stressing the importance of offering guidance and support to promote well-being, VanDoren advises future CPT aspirants to diligently plan their post-certification objectives, as building a clientele post-examination is the real challenge.

Ideal for rapid learners

American Council of Exercise (ACE-CPT)

Pricing: Tiered – Packages commence at $49/month

If you want to swiftly become a personal fitness trainer, then explore the training programs offered by the American Council of Exercise (ACE). As per ACE’s website, you can finish the ACE-CPT program in just 3-6 months. You have the option of selecting between independent or supported training programs where you can study from a manual, as well as videos, interactive learning tasks, quizzes, and practice assessments. Moreover, if you opt for either the plus or advantage program (instead of the basic tier), you will gain access to live Q&A webinars hosted by an ACE study coach to ensure all your queries are addressed before your certification examination.

Tips from a personal trainer: Tessa Breeden, an ACE-CPT, concluded her training program a few years ago and has evolved into a dedicated personal trainer as a result. “What I cherish the most [about being a CPT] is the ability to educate people and assist them in feeling confident both inside and outside the gym,” she shares. According to Breeden, one should be flexible, friendly, and eager to learn, as with any training program.

Ideal for practical learning

National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM-CPT)

Pricing: Tiered – Packages commence at $59/month

Another widely recognized certification for personal training is the NASM-CPT. This fitness organization offers four different program types for individuals aiming to accomplish their CPT certification: autonomous study, premium autonomous study, guided study, and an all-inclusive bundle.

The autonomous study package delivers NASM’s compilation of 23 chapters with audio summaries, over 45 instructional videos, and more than 200 exercise demo videos to give students the chance to undergo a comprehensive training regimen from their home. The premium option includes a job guarantee, while the guided study program also provides a physical textbook and unlimited access to NASM health experts among other perks. Want to start working in a gym shortly after completion? Then opt for the all-inclusive package. This package encompasses all the benefits mentioned earlier and involves a “Gymternship,” giving you hands-on experience at a gym near you.

Tips from a personal trainer: Vanessa Liu, a former Equinox trainer and NASM-CPT, shares valuable advice for those seeking a CPT certification: “Start by defining the type of client you wish to work with, as this will determine the certification program to enroll in,” Liu advises. “For those wanting to work with general clientele who are busy professionals, NASM is a suitable option. For those inclined towards performance clients with specific athletic objectives, NSCA is a good selection.”

Frequently Asked Questions

Difference between CSCS and CPT certification?

While exploring training programs, you might come across the acronym CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist). Is it equivalent to a CPT? No, and here’s why.

According to the NSCA, a CSCS is a professional specialized in enhancing athlete performance in a specific sport. “They conduct sport-specific assessment sessions, develop and implement safe and efficient strength training and conditioning programs, and offer counsel on nutrition and injury prevention,” states the NSCA website. Conversely, a CPT is a health and fitness professional who tailors training methods for each client. “They create secure and efficient exercise routines, offer guidance to help clients reach their individual health and fitness goals, and respond appropriately during emergencies,” as per the NSCA. This differentiation is crucial while selecting programs.

Duration for becoming a fully qualified personal trainer?

The duration to become a fully qualified personal trainer varies based on your learning preference, existing knowledge of fitness and anatomy, and the program you enroll in. Some online personal trainer programs—such as ACE-CPT—can take about 3-6 months to finish. On the other hand, programs like NSCA-CPT may take 3-6 weeks to prep if you hold an exercise science-related degree.

Upon certification, you need to renew every two years to uphold an updated CPT certificate, as stated on both the ISSA and NASM websites.

Is personal training a lucrative career?

As a personal trainer, you have the flexibility to set your schedule and pricing depending on your service location. The more specialized your expertise, the higher your potential earnings. In 2021, personal trainers typically earned between $40,000-$76,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

For instance, if you set a rate of $125 per hour and train clients for 12 hours weekly, you could make $72,000 annually. Remember: most likely, as a certified personal trainer, you’ll operate as an independent contractor, necessitating you to organize your health insurance, tax payments, and other expenses. Therefore, consider all these factors when establishing your rate and coaching hours.

Image Source: wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock

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