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Additional Insights from Professionals on Education

Jean Nebesar, education expert
Jean Nebesar, education expert

Jean Nebesar

Personal training certification serves a distinct role in career development, separate from education. Certification, when used properly, can be valuable in boosting one’s career. The purpose of certification, however, is not intended as a means of acquiring knowledge and ability. That is education’s job.

While most certifying organizations do offer a range of test-prep materials and services, such as textbooks, study guides and workshops, these test-prep options should not be confused for — nor are they designed to replace — formal education and career preparation. In fact, according to the NCCA, the test-prep materials offered by certifying organizations cannot be a required component of the certification process, as this would be a conflict of interest. Certification and education must be kept separate.

In the absence of licensure and education requirements, personal training has relied on certification. The personal training profession has always been devoid of centralized regulation, and as a result, we have adopted certification as our de facto standard — arguably in the absence of licensure. But unlike licensure, certification generally does not require educational prerequisites and is not centrally regulated, which leads to variation in types and quality of certification. Over the years, relying on certification as our only form of standardized credentialing has laid shaky ground for the quickly growing field of personal training.

Education is gaining traction as a standard requirement for personal trainers. We’re seeing a major shift happening in fitness. Many of us still remember a time when hiring a personal trainer was akin to hiring a personal chef or personal assistant — out of reach for most ordinary people. That reality has shifted drastically.

As a result, we are not only seeing career opportunities in fitness expand, but we are seeing the performance and credentialing expectations for personal trainers expand. Working with a trainer is no longer just about breaking a sweat or getting a six-pack — it’s about much more complex personal goals, often related to health concerns and performance objectives. Results are not aspirational — they’re required.

In this new fitness climate, there is a new paradigm emerging, one that rewards personal trainers who are educated, professional and passionate about personal training. These are trainers with the scientific knowledge, practical experience and programming know-how to achieve results consistently and safely. As the demand for educated trainers grows, so does the number of career and degree programs for personal trainers. And so does the number of trainers entering these programs. And finally, so does the prevalence of education — not just certification — as a standard requirement.


Jean Nebesar is the Director of the American Academy of Personal Training in Boston. She can be reached at jnebesar@aapt.edu or 617.267.2278.

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko is the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at rachel@peakemedia.com.

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