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Why Education Makes You a Better Personal Trainer


EducationI recently read an article about some of the top jobs people are flocking to — both as their main profession and as a second career. Personal training was on that list. I love that I am in a profession that continues to not only be popular, but also necessary. However, I am concerned that many people think they can be a successful personal trainer simply because they have great genetics and are in good shape, they have been a successful athlete or they just love to work out.

Personal trainers are responsible for interviewing clients and assessing their ability to take part in fitness programs. A proper education will arm the personal trainer with the breadth and depth of knowledge needed to design safe, effective individualized exercise programs for clients. This knowledge will also prepare trainers to take a national certification exam.

An undergraduate education for personal training candidates will provide both knowledge and experience in health screening, exercise testing, exercise programming, nutrition and special populations. Knowledge in these areas is critically important in developing safe and effective fitness programs that help clients to reach their goals.

There are many new fitness trends and workout programs every year. Unfortunately, everyone’s enthusiasm for doing these new and exciting workouts can lead to unnecessary injuries. And, of course, these injuries interfere with the ability to reach fitness goals.

A bachelor’s degree in the field of exercise science gives the personal training candidate a solid science foundation along with a great knowledge base to apply to the many different training situations that come up. By contrast, years of experience as an avid fitness buff or a successful athlete does not afford the same knowledge or skills.

An undergraduate degree will help the personal trainer pull knowledge from core courses such as exercise physiology, anatomy and physiology, kinesiology and weight training. This background can also be applied to effective health appraisals, exercise testing (assessments) and exercise prescription (appropriate program design).

Furthermore, a master’s degree provides learners with incredible knowledge about their discipline. The pursuit of knowledge is a lifelong endeavor that continuously enhances our industry and helps us to improve the lives of the clients we serve. Whether it’s a bachelor’s degree, advanced degree or a certificate, education not only empowers practitioners, but it also demonstrates a level of respect for our chosen profession.

There are many fitness professionals with no formal education or certification who work at, and even own, fitness centers. Without appropriate certification or education, fitness professionals limit their ability to qualify for affordable liability insurance. And, while injuries are just waiting to happen in gyms around the country, there are some who would undervalue education in general, rather than take the next step to enhance their qualifications and reduce client risks. In fact, many health clubs won’t hire a fitness professional without an appropriate certification or degree. It’s not only because they want to limit liability; it’s because they truly care about their customers and want to present the best, qualified staff they can.

It is the responsibility of the educational institution to help students discern the difference between information in the mainstream media and that which is science-based, as well as to guide them in the practical hands-on application of this material. It is for these reasons that a foundational education in the exercise sciences should be the norm for the profession of personal training.


Karyn Gallivan, MS, ATC, CSCS, NSCA/NASM-CPT is an adjunct faculty member in the Sports & Health Sciences program at American Public University. She can be contacted at 877.777.9081 or by e-mail at info@apus.edu. Visit StudyAtAPU.com/fitness for more information.


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