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Being a fitness professional means having a job where you can help others get healthy while earning a living for yourself. Jobs in this field include being a personal trainer or yoga teacher, which could also offer the attractive prospects of running your own business and making your own schedule.
The entry point for many fitness professional jobs is simply a high school diploma or equivalent and a certification that qualifies you to train or instruct. Many of these certifications can be completed on a flexible schedule in just a few months.
Why Should I Get a Fitness Certification?
If health and fitness are a passion of yours and you like to help people, getting a certification in the fitness field can be a great way to launch your career. Whether you want to train, coach or teach different fitness activities, there are certifications that you can earn affordably and quickly which may help you boost your income.
Fitness trainer and instructor jobs are growing at a much faster rate than average, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with an expected 39% growth rate from 2020 to 2030. Trainers can get started with a high school diploma or equivalent and a short-term training program, meaning this may be a great job option for a new high school graduate. The median pay for fitness professionals is $40,700 annually or $19.57 per hour.
Certifications provide short-term, often specialized training, such as personal trainer certifications or yoga teacher training. You may already know a lot about fitness, but these certifications are structured to teach you how to run a business and teach others the standard techniques and safety practices.
6 Fitness Professional Certifications to Consider
If you're thinking about getting started in the fitness field, there are many well-known fitness professional certifications to consider. Some that you may want to check out include:
1. NASM-CPT Certification
As part of the certified personal trainer (CPT) certification, National Academy of Sports Medicine students dive into six sections covering 23 chapters. Study materials cover topics including professional development, behavior coaching, nutritional concepts, assessment, training instruction and designing programs.
After completing their study, students can take their final exam in person or online. Once certified as a personal trainer, they must stay up on recertification requirements every two years.
NASM-CPT certification is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, a third-party certification oversight program.
Cost: $599 or $28 per month for 18 months
Time to complete: As little as four weeks; exam may take up to two hours to complete
2. ISSA Certified Personal Trainer
The International Sports Sciences Association offers a completely online certified personal trainer course. Students can access a digital textbook online and take quizzes to test their understanding. Once they've finished going through the study material, they can take the open-book, untimed final exam online.
Any student can qualify for the ISSA 12-month payment plan without a credit check, making tuition manageable for many. ISSA has a job placement guarantee that means your course fee will be refunded if you do not get a job offer within six months.
Cost: $69 per month on 12-month plan
Time to complete: As little as four weeks
3. NFHS National Coaching Credentials
Fitness professionals don't just work privately with adults. You may also want to get a certification that helps you become a coach for student athletes. Aspiring coaches can earn credentials from the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).
Three levels of high school coaching credentials are available for anyone looking to improve their skills to create a safe, educational space for high school athletes. NFHS also hosts short courses in specific sports, such as football or golf. After completing courses, aspiring coaches earn certificates that they can use to enhance their resume when applying as a coach.
Cost: Varies by state, but many are $100 or under
Time to complete: Varies by course, but many are approved for 12 hours or less
4. ACSM Certified Personal Trainer
The American College of Sports Medicine offers an exam-based personal trainer certification. The college is a professional organization of over 50,000 sports medicine professionals. Students who study for the ACSM certification learn about working with clients, designing programming, educating clients and legal issues in fitness training.
Students can prepare for the exam with an optional prep course, official resource books, online practice questions, digital flashcards and even a practice exam. When it's time to schedule the exam, students can pick an in-person date at a testing center or schedule their exam to be proctored online.
Cost: $279 for ACSM members; $349 for nonmembers
Time to complete: 150 minutes
5. YogaRenew RYS 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training
Yoga teacher training often requires some extended in-person training, but if you're looking for a self-paced, online course, the 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training from YogaRenew—a registered yoga school with Yoga Alliance—offers one such certification.
Students get more than just their 200-hour certification, though. YogaRenew also includes bonuses such as 50 class sequences, 125 creative yoga class theme ideas, yoga asana teaching cue flashcards and more so they can get started on their teaching adventure with the necessary materials.
Cost: $437 as a one-time payment or $80 per month for six months
Time to complete: Self-paced
6. Gracie University Instructor Certification Program for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
An increasingly popular martial art, Brazilian jiu-jitsu isn't the easiest to get certified in, but going through the Instructor certification program from Gracie University can set students up for instructing at their own unique training center in the traditional version of the sport.
First, instructor candidates must be approved for available territories, or areas, in their region. If approved, they may apply to begin learning the specific jiu-jitsu programs. They must complete these programs along with the instructor program within a year. After that, they'll move on to some online instruction and then finally a live evaluation before receiving certification.
Time to complete: Up to 12 months for phase one of programs; up to 60 days for phase two of training
The Bottom Line
Fitness and professional goals align when you earn a fitness certification. No matter what kind of movement you're interested in, there is advanced training and certifications available to help you achieve your fitness and work-related goals.