We are seeing a growth in niche or specialty certifications. Certifying bodies recognize that fitness professionals need to gain specific skills to keep up with exercise trends, such as suspension or kettlebell training, and the popularity of client recreational endeavors, such as training for an endurance event or seasonal sport. In addition, age- and health-related issues such as the obesity epidemic, active aging and heart health are important areas in which to gain knowledge beyond a trainer’s certified personal training credential.
One way to evaluate the credibility of a certification is whether or not it is accredited by an industry-accepted organization. For the fitness industry, the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), the Council for Higher Education and Accreditation (CHEA) or the Department of Education all have the fitness industry’s stamp of approval.
A second way to gauge a certification’s validity is to look at its re-certification criteria. A reputable credential will require the certified individual to continuously learn and grow in their field to maintain their recognition as holding a valid certification. This requires them to earn a specific number of continuing education units (CECs) or credits within specific content areas, usually within a specific amount of time.
Fitness facilities can differentiate their personal training staff and programs by advertising to members and clients that they only hire the best and brightest. It drives home the message that the facility supports their needs and goals by holding their staff to the highest industry standards. Nearly all accredited certifying bodies will validate whether or not an individual is certified in good standing when asked.
Staff credentials can be promoted in a number of ways — listing certifications on the facility’s website, posting trainer biographies with expertise and credentials in common areas, e-mail notifications of new staff or programs, or social media recognition when a staff member earns a new or advanced certification. Staff certifications can be easily integrated into a facility’s current communication strategy.
Melissa Archibald is the Marketing Communications Coordinator for NCSA. She can be reached at Melissa.Archibald@nsca.com or 800.815.6826.
Certifications have evolved immensely over the years. With the emergence of online technology, education materials are becoming more robust and cutting-edge to foster learning and test competencies. Some credentialing agencies now offer instructor-led online courses and mobile apps, in addition to hands-on live workshops and traditional textbooks and study guides. Many clubs now require fitness professionals to obtain accredited certifications. Lastly, there is a greater variety of certifications available, enabling fitness professionals to advance their knowledge and specialize in niche markets.
A credible certification must be accredited by a third-party organization such as the NCCA or DETC to ensure ethical business practices and fair and unbiased examination processes. In addition, it must follow evidenced-based practices based on current research and be clinically applicable. Lastly, it should be written and developed by industry experts. The certification must be recognized within the industry to help individuals acquire gainful employment.
The credibility of online certifications varies tremendously, depending on the organization offering the credential. Some online certifications or specializations are developed by accredited organizations that successfully combine evidenced-based practice with sound instructional design to ensure learning and competence. Many of these certifications are well recognized within the fitness and academic communities.
In addition, fitness professionals who’ve earned advanced credentials can be used by the facility to work with clients who have specific needs or unique goals. For example, a fitness professional that has earned a specialization in corrective exercise can implement individualized exercise strategies for clients with muscle imbalances and minor aches and pains, whereas a fitness professional with a sports performance credential may offer after-school sports conditioning workshops for local high-school athletes. The possibilities are endless, depending on the qualifications of the professionals working within the facility.
Brian Sutton MS, MA, PES, CES, NASM-CPT, is the Director of Content Development for NASM. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org 800.460.6276.