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Personal Training Degrees

Personal trainers are professionals who are educated in proper exercise form and nutrition, and who have the skills and knowledge to guide individuals to their wellness goals. Those who choose to take up the profession of personal training are typically passionate about fitness and helping others, and they may work one-on-one with individuals or with small groups. Trainers work in environments such as gyms, health clubs, resort destinations, and even in the homes of their clients.

Fitness trainers may work full-time in one facility, but most often they split their time between multiple locations and clients. Trainers devise their own workout routines and customize them for each person with whom they work. It is possible for someone to get started in the field of personal training with only a high school education. However, some type of formal training is helpful when it comes to finding a job and advancement opportunities, and training programs exist at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and certificate levels. These programs can be found in both face-to-face and online formats.

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Associate Degree Programs for Personal Trainers

At the associate level, students take classes that give them a strong foundation on which they can start building their career. In order to enroll in one of these programs students need a high school diploma or equivalent. Classes cover the topics of nutrition, exercise science, business, and anatomy. Upon completing an associate degree program, graduates will be able to sit for certification exams. They may find work in corporate fitness centers, gyms, and rehab centers. They will also be able to find their own clients as a self-employed personal trainer. Tuition for these programs varies depending on the school. For instance, Bryan University offers annual tuition that falls between $14,261 and $14,915, while the Institute of Business and Medical Centers has an annual tuition rate of $11,700.

Bachelor's Degree Programs for Personal Trainers

At the bachelor's level, students will cover the same sorts of topics that are taught at the associate level, but they will be able to gain a more in-depth understanding of them. Bachelor's degree students may also take classes in team sports coaching, athletic conditioning, motivation strategies, communication, and marketing. Students who wish to apply to one of these programs will need to have a high school diploma or equivalent. Upon graduating from a bachelor's degree program, an individual will be able to take certain certification tests. They will also be qualified to work in positions such as fitness educator, gym owner, club director, and sports performance coach. They can also receive certification to work with people with disabilities, injuries, illnesses, or other unique needs.

Annual tuition for bachelor's degrees varies from school to school. For example, Bryan University offers tuition starting at $14,261, while Keiser University's program costs $16,284 a year.

Master's Degree Programs for Personal Trainers

There are also master's degrees available in the field of personal training. Professionals in the field might be interested in earning a master's degree in exercise science, kinesiology, or athletic training. An applicant will need to have a bachelor's degree in a related area; other admissions requirements typically include letters of recommendation, an admissions essay, and a professional resume. Students enrolled in one of these degree programs will gain advanced insight in the topics of sports nutrition, physiology, strength development, and therapeutic exercise. Upon completing a master's degree—depending on the specific subject of the degree—graduates will be qualified to work in sports administration, physical education at all levels, athletic training, wellness coaching, and clinical exercise physiology.

Master's programs in personal training can typically be completed in two years or less. Tuition costs differ between programs; at Fresno Pacific University annual tuition costs $12,715, while Liberty University's tuition is $9,170.

Certificate Programs for Personal Trainers

There are also certificate programs available for those interested in a career as a personal trainer. A certificate course may be appropriate for someone who is not interested in or unable to commit to a full degree program, or for someone who is looking for a faster way to jump-start their career in personal training. Topics of study may include nutrition, body sciences, client assessment, methods of motivation, creating diet plans, and designing safe training programs for people of different ability and experience levels. Completing one of these certificate courses will qualify an aspiring personal trainer to take certain certification exams. Graduates will be prepared for various positions such as corporate fitness director, resort fitness leader, or group fitness instructor. The time it takes to complete one of these programs and the cost of the program can vary widely depending on the school. However, most non-degree certificate programs are designed to be completed in a year or less.

Personal Trainer Certification

It is becoming more common for employers to require their fitness employees to have come kind of certification. Even for those who plan on being self-employed certification can prove to their potential clients that they have met certain knowledge and experience requirements, and that they are truly dedicated to their profession. There is more than one certification agency for personal trainers. Some degree and certificate programs are designed specifically around the criteria for an agency's certification exam so that students are prepared to pass that particular test as soon as they graduate and can enter the workforce more quickly. The American College of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer credential is one highly-recognized certification for personal trainers; another respected agency is the National Council on Strength and Fitness. For individuals who specifically want to enter the field of athletic training, the Board of Certification for the Athletic Trainer is the agency they should seek certification from.

Personal Training Specialties 

A personal trainer may be interested in specializing in a certain kind of fitness training or in working with a certain group of people. For instance, some personal trainers may wish to work with people with disabilities, injuries, or chronic illnesses. There are also career paths available in the fields of athletic training and exercise physiology, which may require additional education or training. A personal trainer may also decide to receive the education needed in order to teach physical education at various levels, from elementary school to the university level. There is also the option to gain certification in particular kinds of exercise. Earning a yoga instructor certificate is one popular route, and the Yoga Alliance lists resources for those wishing to pursue that level of training.


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