What Are the Certification Options for Fitness Instructors?

If you would like to help individuals improve their health and fitness levels as a fitness instructor, it is important to know that certification may be required or preferred by employers and clients. Certification demonstrates to clients that you have proven knowledge and skills in the field. Learn more about certification options for fitness instructors here. Schools offering Education - Sports Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

Fitness instructors work closely with individual clients or groups interested in exercise. When working with an individual, instructors assess the client's current abilities and goals and then formulate and oversee a workout regimen that will help the client improve and become more physically fit. Group instructors create routines for classes of multiple people; sometimes these classes are set to music and may be fast-paced aerobic sessions or calmer routines focused on stretching or meditation.

Important Facts About Fitness Instructing

Median Salary (2014) $34,980 (for all fitness trainers and aerobics instructors)
On-the-Job Training Short-term on-the-job training
Job Outlook (2012-2022) 13%
Similar Occupations Physical Therapists, Recreation Workers, Recreational Therapists

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Fitness Instructor Certification

The (ACSM) is a sports medicine and exercise science organization that offers certifications in various areas of fitness instruction (www.acsm.org). The ACSM offers certifications for instructors in two specific areas - health fitness and specialty. Health fitness certifications include the Group Exercise Instructor, Personal Trainer and Health Fitness Specialist. The specialty certifications include Cancer Exercise Trainer and Inclusive Fitness Trainer.

Group Exercise Instructor

The Group Exercise Instructor (GEI) certification is designed for trainers who work in group settings. The GEI certification examination will test you on client assessment, class development, class instruction, and professional and legal responsibilities. To be eligible to take the test, you must hold a high school diploma or equivalent, be at least 18 years old and hold a valid adult CPR certification.

Personal Trainer

You may consider earning the Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) designation if you provide personal motivation and fitness instruction to individual clients. As a CPT, you will have to prove your expertise in applying fundamental exercise science knowledge to the design of personalized programs for your clients. To qualify to sit for the CPT examination, you must be at least 18 and have earned a high school diploma and adult CPR certification.

Exercise Physiologist

As a Certified Exercise Physiologist (EP-C), you will work as an advanced personal trainer who assists clients who have health conditions or who have not otherwise been medically-cleared for exercising. Your knowledge of preparing fitness programs for those with special needs can aid you in passing the test. A bachelor's degree in an exercise science field and adult CPR certification is required.

Cancer Exercise Trainer

If you desire to work with cancer patients or those who are recovering from cancer, then you may consider earning the Cancer Exercise Trainer (CET) certification. This certification allows you to prove that you know how to safely and competently provide fitness instruction for those who are affected by cancer. To be eligible to sit for the CET examination, you must already hold an exercise or fitness certification from the ACSM as well as adult CPR and AED certifications. You must have earned a bachelor's degree or have satisfied minimum experience requirements for working with clients who have chronic health conditions.

Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainer

Becoming a Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainer (CIFT) allows you to provide fitness instruction to clients who have disabilities. You can showcase skills in adapting exercises for those with any type of disability or those whose activities have been restricted by their doctors. To sit for this test, you must hold a certification from the ACSM or other certifications that are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).

American Council on Exercise

From the American Council on Exercise (ACE), you can earn four different certifications (www.acefitness.org). For example, you may become certified as a personal trainer, group fitness instructor, lifestyle and weight management coach, or advanced health and fitness specialist.

Personal Trainer

Personal trainer certification from the ACE involves taking a three-hour examination that features 150 questions. They will emphasize client assessment, fitness program development, program management, professional responsibilities, and fundamental exercise and fitness knowledge. To be eligible for the test, you must be 18 years old and have adult CPR certification.

Group Fitness Instructor

To become an ACE certified group fitness instructor, you must pass an examination that demonstrates your ability to create a group fitness class. You also must be able to lead groups and manage classes. The requirements for this examination are the same as the requirements for the personal trainer test.

Health Coach

Certification as a lifestyle and weight management coach allows you to work with individuals who want to lose weight or change lifestyle habits. The test for this certification explores your ability to implement changes in a client's lifestyle, design an effective program, introduce relevant changes as a client progresses and maintain professional conduct. To qualify, you must be at least 18 years old, have a current adult CPR and AED certification, and either hold a current certification from the ACE, a 2-year or higher secondary degree, or 2 or more years of work experience in a relevant field.

Medical Exercise Specialist

If your clients include those who are living with diseases, illnesses or are otherwise not considered healthy, then you may benefit from earning the advanced health and fitness specialist certification. Through the certification examination, you'll demonstrate your abilities and skills to help clients who may have health challenges. You must understand how to create and maintain programs for clients. To be eligible for the test, you must be 18 years, hold a bachelor's degree in exercise science or a similar area of study, have 500 professionally documented work experience hours, and hold certification in adult CPR and AED.

National Academy of Sports Medicine

The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) offers two certifications for fitness instructors (www.nasm.org). The Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) designation is offered in addition to certification in injury prevention.

Certified Personal Trainer

The CPT certification from the NASM is available to you if you are at least 18 years old, and hold CPR and AED certification. You'll be tested on your knowledge in program design and exercise modifications.

Corrective Exercise Specialist

The Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES) certification is ideal if you work with clients who have musculoskeletal problems or need help with rehabilitation. To be eligible for this certification, you must hold a CPT certification, have NCCA-accredited fitness certification and hold a bachelor's degree in a fitness, exercise, health or science-related area.

National Strength and Conditioning Association

The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) offers certification opportunities for fitness professionals in two areas (www.nsca.com). You may earn the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) designation or the NSCA-Certified Special Population Specialist (CSPS) designation.

Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

The CSCS designation was created for fitness instructors who work with athletes to help them improve their performance. If you want to earn this certification, you must have a bachelor's degree or be enrolled in the last year of a program, in addition to having current CPR and AED certification.

NSCA-Certified Personal Trainer

If you would like to become a CPT through the NSCA, you are eligible to do so if you are 18 years old and have a current certification in CPR and AED. Your certification will attest to your skills in one-on-one training.

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