Personal Training Degrees: What You'll Study
If you're interested in becoming a personal trainer, read up on what you'll study.
What degree or certification levels are available?
If your goal is to become a personal athletic trainer, you have the option of earning a certification, a two-year associate's degree or a four-year degree. You should base this choice on how much time you want to spend in school, how much you're comfortable paying, and what you want to do with your education. You can't go wrong with any certification or degree level, since they all have benefits. A certification is less expensive and takes less time to complete, while a four-year degree may make you eligible for higher positions. Available levels of education include the certificate level, an associate's in personal training, a bachelor's, or a master's.
What certification will I need?
Once you complete a program, whether it's at the certificate or degree level, you'll still need to become certified as a trainer. "Becoming certified" just means you need to pass a test—and if you work hard in your program, you should be well-prepared for the task. There are several organizations you can become certified through; some reputable options include:
- American Council on Exercise (ACE)
- American Fitness Training of Athletics (AFTA)
- American Fitness Professionals and Associates (AFPA)
- International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA)
- Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFFA)
- National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
- National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
Since many personal training schools prepare students for a specific certification, you'll need to research your program choices carefully to be sure that you're preparing yourself for a certification that meets your goals.
What will I learn in my courses?
Starting on a new career path can be a nerve-wracking experience, but with the right program, you'll be 100 percent ready to begin work as a personal trainer. While your specific classes will vary by program, a general example of a course listing for your program might look like this:
- Exercise science
- Physical fitness testing and assessment
- Developing physical training programs
- Motivating clients
- Specialized topics on training clients with asthma, heart disease, arthritis and other physical conditions
How long will it take?
How long your program takes can vary depending upon the type of degree you want to achieve; a certificate may be earned in a matter of months, an associate's degree in two years, and a bachelor's degree in four. If you are working toward your certificate, the program you pick will determine how long it takes you to complete. Some certificate programs take as little as three months to complete, and some can take up to two years. One more thing to keep in mind is that choosing an online program might affect how long your education takes, as online programs can often be completed more quickly.
Are online programs available?
Even though personal training is a very hands-on, relational profession, it's still possible to earn a certificate for it online. For those who are interested in achieving a certificate rather than a degree, online programs can be an ideal solution for cutting costs while still getting a great education.
How much will my education cost?
The cost of your education will depend entirely on what program you enroll in; most online programs tend to fall in the range of $300 to $600. Many online certificate programs are cheaper, costing, on average, anywhere from $199 to $999.
*Cost of tuition only. Prices do not reflect other fees or books.
Are there prerequisites?
One of the things that makes personal training such a great career solution is that many programs' only requirement is that you're at least 18 years of age. If your high school transcript isn't what you wish it was, or if you're feeling stuck in the wrong career path, personal fitness training is a great way to make a new start without having to worry about experience or prerequisites.
What accreditation is there for my program?
There are many high-quality accredited programs available for personal training school. It's up to you to decide whether or not attending an accredited program is a priority for you. One of the biggest benefits in attending an accredited school or program is that it could help you qualify for government financial aid, which for some students is a must.
What should I expect my student-teacher ratio to be?
Your student-teacher ratio will vary by program—for online programs, you won't be in a classroom with other students at all. If you are in a degree program or on-campus setting, you will probably have a higher student-to-teacher ratio when you begin. Then, as you advance in your program, you will see this ratio shrink over time.