For those who love fitness and want to inspire others, personal training seems like an obvious career choice. One thing to keep in mind is that doing exercise yourself and training others, can be very different. Understanding how to work with different body types, a variety of personalities and overall knowledge of nutrition and exercise science, play a collective role in being a successful personal trainer. If you know your way around a gym, but are even a little uncertain about what it takes to train, then Personal Trainer School may be for you.
What is Personal Training School?
Personal training school is similar to any trade school in that it prepares you to productively start your career. A good school will cover every facet of personal training such as:
1.) How to discuss realistic fitness goals with clients and motivate them
2.) Nutrition for clients from a ballerina to a bodybuilder and everyone in between
3.) How to train clients in special populations (heart attack or stroke survivors, those with injuries, asthma, osteoporosis, cancers, eating disorders and the morbidly obese)
4.) How to create a weekly, monthly, and yearly program with progressions
5.) Learn how to evaluate a client for correct form and adjust them accordingly
6.) Learn the name and location of every bone and muscle group in the body
7.) Be better prepared when it is time to take a national personal trainer certification test
8.) Build a network, have references, and always have a constant flow of job opportunities and openings as an alumni
9.) Give you knowledge of legalities and insurance options
10.) Valuable hands on experience through partner work and real clients
11.) CPR certification – a requirement for any personal trainer
12.) Discounts on equipment and athletic clothing
Personal training schools typically offer flexible class schedules because they know many students are career changers and work fulltime. Options typically are evening classes, weekends only, or full time. Depending on the frequency of class attendance students can graduate between 3 months and a full year. Class sizes are usually 20 students or less to ensure the teacher can give each student close attention and there is enough space for hands on learning.
Throughout your curriculum, you’ll be given a variety of training scenarios and be guided through how to successfully train each one. This will prepare you for the many types of clients you will have when you start your own business. When training your peers in your class, the sweat, tears, and difficulty a person goes through at the gym is up-close and personal. While you may be self-motivated and determined for your own workouts, the majority of your clients will rely on you for motivation. The more you train, you will learn what types of motivation work best for each client. You can learn this on the job, but it is good to have had the practice before even starting in the field.
Personal training schools will often host job fairs for gyms in the area to meet new and alumni trainers. This is a fantastic network that you will have for your entire career as a graduate. In addition, ask to be put on the mailing list for potential job openings and personal training conventions so you won’t miss any important industry related news. By being on the alumni list you will also get notices about continuing education classes and even CPR re-certification.
What to Know Before Attending
To be hired at most gyms, at least one national personal training certification is required. If you study hard and take all the available practice tests in the study books, you should have no problems passing a national certification exam. However, part of the hiring process at most gyms is a practical interview. During this time you will need to train someone (usually your potential boss – no pressure!) and create a program for them. No matter how book smart you are and how much studying you did, if you can’t create a program or correct someone’s form, then you probably will not get the job. That is why proper schooling can be a real asset to your career.
Similarly, some people go to personal training school under the impression that when they graduate, they are a personal trainer. Yes, they will have all the skills to properly train someone, but without a national certification they probably will not get hired. While the school gives you a more in depth understanding of the human body, nutrition, and personal training basics, you will still need to study the materials for the ACE, NASM, ACSM, or whatever national certification exam you are planning to take.
Typical school programs can cost thousands of dollars. Some, not all, offer federal aid and discounts to state workers or non-profit employees. Do some research when looking in to schools so you can get one within your budget. Most schools do offer reasonable payment plans.
Be wary of any so-called “online personal training school.” When you graduate from one of these programs, you will still not have a national certification and you certainly will not have any practical, hands on experience since everything is done online. With this type of education, you may have the option to intern at a gym, but learning from a trainer on the job is less than ideal. Their clients may not like having you a part of all their sessions, and they may not be able to give you the proper education that you need. Frankly, they themselves may not know enough to teach you everything you need to know. If you are considering personal training school at all, go to one that gives you a solid foundation in a classroom setting.
Do You Need It?
For those who have had plenty of previous experience in the gym training their friends, playing sports or coaching, then extensive schooling might not be for you. You could read the workbooks and study guides purchased off of the national certification’s website that you have chosen, go to a test center and probably pass the test. However, if you feel you could use some help studying, many of the national certifications offer workshops to help potential trainers prepare for the exam. These workshops cost nowhere near the fees of personal training school and typically are only one day or just a weekend.
Spending extra on the workshops to pass the exam could be worth it since the test alone is at least $250. Depending on what certification you pick, you could end up paying more. If you don’t pass the exam the first time there is a waiting period before you can take it again, and you will need to pay the test fee again.
Consider how ready you are for every aspect of personal training. Personal training school isn’t for everyone. It could be a waste of time and money for some and a valuable learning experience for others. Just keep in mind that whether you choose to go or not, passing at least one national certification is the key to being hired at a gym, and your stepping stone to becoming a personal trainer.