The path to becoming a certified personal trainer (CPT) can be an exciting journey if you’re passionate about fitness and eager to help others achieve their health goals. As a CPT, you’ll have the opportunity to make a significant impact on the lives of your clients, guiding them toward healthier lifestyles. 

So how do you become a certified personal trainer? Here’s what you need to know. 


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What is a personal trainer and what do they do?

A personal trainer is someone with the knowledge and skills to design safe and effective fitness programs. They typically provide one-on-one or small group training sessions aimed at improving their clients’ health and fitness. 

Personal trainers work with clients of all ages and fitness levels, from beginners to athletes. They can also work in a variety of environments, including gyms, health clubs, fitness or wellness centers, or even clients’ homes. Some also offer online training services so they can work with clients virtually. 

Working as a personal trainer can be lucrative. According to, the typical personal trainer salary ranges between $48,446 and $82,489, with the average resting at $67,141 as of January 26, 2024. Plus, demand for fitness trainers and instructors is expected to grow 14% between 2022 and 2032, which is much faster than average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

How to become a certified personal trainer

You don’t necessarily have to be certified to call yourself a personal trainer. But certification helps you stand out from the competition.

“Becoming a certified personal trainer is a journey that involves dedication, education, and a passion for fitness and helping others,” said Mike Julom, an ACE-certified personal trainer and founder of The certification process, he said, helps you learn to design effective workouts, understand nutrition, and how to keep your clients motivated and moving toward their goals.

Getting certified also boosts your credibility, according to Julom. “It shows clients and employers you’re serious and know your stuff when it comes to fitness,” he said. “This is gold when you’re building your client base.” 

So if you’re interested in getting certified as a personal trainer, here are the general steps you’ll need to follow.

Meet the prerequisites

Most certification programs require candidates to be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or equivalent. Some organizations also require CPR/AED certifications to ensure trainers can respond to emergencies. Having a basic understanding of anatomy, physiology, and nutrition is helpful, but a degree in one of these areas isn’t necessarily required. 

Choose a certification

It’s important to choose an accredited certification program from a reputable body, according to George Yang, founder of Yanre Fitness and OxygenArk. Some of the most recognized include the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), American Council on Exercise (ACE), International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA), and the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). You’ll want to choose a certification program that aligns with your career goals and educational preferences.

Take and pass the certification exam

Once you’ve chosen a certification, you’ll need to prepare for the exam. Most organizations offer study materials, including textbooks, study guides, practice tests, and even online courses. It will likely take several months of studying to ensure you have a thorough understanding of the materials.

Certification exams typically cover a wide range of topics, including anatomy, exercise physiology, program design, and ethics. The exam format can vary depending on the program, from multiple-choice questions to practical assessments. Regardless of the format, passing this test is key.

Continue your education and training

Once you are officially certified, your work is not over. “Maintenance of certification status is kept current through continuing education and renewal as appropriate, in line with the guidelines and protocols of the certifying body,” Yang said. 

In other words, you’ll need to complete continuing education credits within a certain time frame, usually every two to three years, in order to keep your certification valid. This ensures you stay up to date with the latest fitness trends and training methods. You may also need to periodically renew your CPR/AED certification and pay a recertification fee.

Build your business

As you gain experience, you might decide to start your own personal training business. This is a big step that can lead to more control over your earnings and schedule. However, it also means you need to spend time marketing your services, networking, and managing your business’s finances. 

Many trainers also choose to specialize in certain areas, such as weight loss, sports performance, rehabilitation, or nutrition, which often requires additional certifications or specialized training.

The takeaway 

Becoming a certified personal trainer is a journey that requires dedication, hard work, and a passion for fitness and helping others. “Career-wise, it can get you into better gyms, wellness centers, and other spots where you can train people,” Julom said. “It also sets you up for potentially higher pay and more career growth down the line.”

By following these steps and committing to continuous learning and professional development, you can build a rewarding career that makes a positive difference in people’s lives. Whether you choose to work in a gym, start your own business, or specialize in a particular area of fitness, there are plenty of opportunities as a certified personal trainer.

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