Helpful Tips

How to Become a Personal Trainer – A Step-By-Step Guide

Personal trainers

While 2020 has been a tough year for gyms and sports in general, there still are people out there that have a dream job in that field. Whether it is being an athlete or a coach it doesn’t matter as long as you stick to it. Before the pandemic started, personal trainers were increasing at a fast pace since more and more people started getting gym memberships. Now, despite things slowing down, people still want to learn how to become a personal trainer mainly due to the fact that once gyms re-open they will be packed without a shadow of a doubt. This will create a lot of job and career opportunities for people looking to start coaching.

Still, the process of actually becoming a personal trainer isn’t as simple as one would think. Here are the steps that you have to go through before acquiring your personal trainer license:

  • Research study materials, certifying programs, and eligibility
  • Acquire medical emergency certification
  • Choose your training field
  • Prepare for the certification exam
  • Take a certification exam of your choice
  • Apply for a job

Now, let’s go through all of these steps one by one and learn more about the details regarding each one…

Research study materials, certifying programs, and eligibility

There are plenty of study materials and agencies that have whole studying courses available online. Some of the most famous ones are AceFitness, TheTrainingRoom, and others. Some of these programs are quite expensive but will greatly help you with your certification exam. Furthermore, most Certifying Bodies have courses of their own that cost anywhere between 500 and 1000 dollars. These programs often include online lectures, study materials, flashcards, and more.

The best certifying bodies for the USA nowadays are:

  • National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
  • National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
  • American Council on Exercise (ACE)
  • International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA)
  • American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)

Carefully research all of these institutions as their certifications will help you with different training fields. Based on the sport that you’ve chosen to coach or train, some might be more appropriate than others. If there is a gym that you want to work in, ask them which certifications they accept or require.

In terms of your eligibility, it varies slightly from state to state but the general requirements are:

  • Have 18 years of age
  • Have a high-school degree (or GAD)
  • Have CPR certification
  • Have AED certification

But what are those CPR and AED certifications? Well, let’s talk a bit more about that now…

Acquire medical emergency certification

Personal trainers can sometimes find themselves in a situation where one of their clients is going through a physical emergency. It can be heart failure, seizures, fainting, or other serious conditions. All these require you to have a certain knowledge of how to give first aid. This is why CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and AED (automated external defibrillator) courses are one of the requirements for the job.

Choose your training field

Personal trainer

Your career path is important and you need to figure out which sport or field you want to be a coach in. Most personal trainers specialize in gym equipment and gym training, although more and more people are becoming certified CrossFit trainers. Additionally, you have to know whether you want to handle group exercising, personal training, or custom programming. Once you are aware of what exactly you want to move forward with, check with the specific certification agency to see if makes sense to go with it.

If you’re preparing to get into the CrossFit field and train your athletes outdoors, you might start gathering some gear now. Some of the starter items that I recommend for outdoors CrossFit workouts are:

Prepare for the certification exam

The preparation process for your exam varies a lot from program to program. Regardless of your certifying agency choice, though, there will be extensive prep courses, training classes, exercise science classes, and even potential degrees in kinesiology.

Take a certification exam of your choice

When you are done with your preparation, it is time to choose a certification body and take your exam. The registration process is often straight-forward and easy. All you have to do is fill out a form and pay a certain fee. The majority of the certification agencies rely on online tests that have between 100 and 200 questions with various difficulty and multi-choice options. Most tests also include questions regarding client engagement and consultation, fitness level assessment, techniques, and safety procedures and issues.

Apply for a job

The last thing that you need to do is apply for a job, gather experience, and build your portfolio. The first thing you need to do is look for jobs that are compatible with your certification. Typically, if you choose one of the certifying bodies that I mentioned above, you will be cleared to work in most places since those certifications are universally accepted. Most of the certification bodies even have online job offers and make applications much easier compared to you looking for jobs online.

If you want to work in a gym, check with that gym’s requirements for personal coaching and see if they accept your certification. Some places might require a bit of experience which is a major hurdle for some new trainers but there are plenty of locations that would gladly take you on board if you’ve passed your exams with flying colors. Gyms rarely have an experience requirement, especially in the busy season when personal coaches are becoming hard to find or book. Most gyms also put you under the wing of an experienced coach in order for you to gather the most experience possible in the fastest way possible.

Gyms are also a great place to build your client portfolio and start working towards being an independent professional coach that works directly with his clients. As a whole, creating a diverse portfolio of experiences, having a big client list, and constantly learning new skillsets will make your career much easier in the long run.


Learning how to become a personal coach isn’t necessarily going to be easy but it is an excellent career opportunity for everyone that loves working with people and enjoying training. The process of applying and taking the exams and specific certifications is sometimes long and often hard but in the end, you will be qualified to do the job that you’ve always dreamed of!