Personal Training Schools and Certification

There are many personal training schools in the U.S. that promise certification and certain employment after program fulfillment. However, not all of these schools are what you may be looking for as a prospective personal trainer. It’s important to review several considerations when making the important choice of a personal training school.

A personal trainer is someone who works one-on-one with clients and individuals in order to develop an exercise or fitness plan that meets specific, identified goals. Goals include weight loss, rehabilitation from an illness or injury, strength training, and general physical fitness. A trainer acts as advisor, motivator, critic, and cheerleader and assesses a client’s current state of fitness, developing goals and creating a strategy to meet those goals. Exercise, nutrition, and improving daily habits can lead to success when working with a personal trainer.

There are many types of programs that offer certifications for personal trainers. Well-known personal training schools and certifications include those offered by the National Federation of Personal Trainers (NFPT), American Council on Exercise (ACE), the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), and the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). These four programs, as well as many others throughout the United States, provide comprehensive and well-developed educations and certifications for personal trainers. Each of these programs has its own curriculum, study materials, and examination procedures and requirements. However, they all focus on exercise, nutrition, fitness, injury management, rehabilitation, and strategies to help clients find healthier lifestyles.


All personal training schools require that students pass a comprehensive examination before acquiring certification. Usually a standardized test, it’s a compilation of several weeks of study. Subjects tested include client assessment procedures, exercise theory and practice, nutrition, physiology, kinesiology, anatomy, strength training, psychology, communication, general business practices, ethics, professional conduct, and various other subjects pertinent to the field of personal training. Most schools administer multiple-choice examinations. Some require a physical component to the examination. The physical component evaluates a student’s ability to work with a client, assess his level of fitness and need, develop achievable goals, and strategize methods to meet the goals.

Personal training schools have minimum eligibility requirements. While all schools differ, most have some very basic guidelines such as:

  • Applicants must be at least 18 years of age.
  • Certification candidates must have two or more years working with others in a training capacity for sports, athletics, or other physical activities.
  • Applicants are required to have a high school education or the equivalent.
  • Candidates are required to adhere to a standard code of conduct.

School applicants who do not meet the minimum requirements are usually denied acceptance to a program. Applicants are advised to acquire all levels of eligibility before applying.

Depending on where you’re located, you may be able to visit personal training schools in person. However, many students find it difficult to locate a program that is within easy commuting distance. These students may benefit from choosing an online program that teaches and trains through distance learning. Many of these classes allow a student to study and use the materials whenever it’s convenient in order to prepare for the certification examination.

Many personal training schools offer various levels of study preparation options for its students who are getting ready to take the examination. Some provide study seminars and preparation sessions that carefully review all aspects of the certification examination. Other programs allow qualified students to go directly to the examination phase and take the test immediately. Applicants are advised to evaluate their own needs, knowledge, and experience when signing up for programs that provide an immediate track that allows only access to the examination.