Whether you are applying for a job as a personal trainer, group fitness instructor, health coach or any other job in the health and fitness field, one of the first questions asked in a job interview will be in regard to certifications.
Certifications are designed to determine if a candidate is qualified to enter a specific job role. They are competency-based exams with the goal of evaluating the requirements necessary to deliver certain fitness services.
“Fitness is now being recognized quite clearly as part of the healthcare continuum,” said Todd Galati, the senior director of allied health and exercise science at the American Council on Exercise (ACE). “We are now seen as an important piece of the healthcare puzzle. As fitness professionals, we owe it to the healthcare industry, to our clients and to ourselves, to hold certifications that are professional.”
It seems as if there is new research, science and methodology surrounding health and fitness everyday. Therefore, obtaining one certification to initially enter the field might not be enough in the long run.
“The knowledge and skills gained in preparation for an initial certification exam has a limited shelf-life,” said Michael Iserman, the director of certification for the National Exercise Trainers Association (NETA). “The exercise professionals’ knowledge and skills will gradually degrade in the absence of continuing education. As the adage goes, ‘If you don’t use it, you lose it.’”
This is where continuing education, re-certification and specialty certifications come in. All are critical in keeping trainers and instructors up-to-date on the latest research and advances in the industry. “Exercise professionals must regularly engage in continuing education activities to retain their baseline competency, advance their skill-set and stay abreast of trends and new developments in the fields of exercise science and fitness,” said Iserman.
In order to ensure trainers and instructors participate in continuing education, NETA requires they earn a minimum of 20 continuing education credits (CECs) every two years to retain their certification.
In response to industry trends and feedback, NETA frequently develops new continuing education programs such as live workshops and home study courses. In January, several new continuing education workshops were launched at NETA’s Fit Fest event in Bloomington, Minnesota. These workshops included: Boxing Fusion, Cycle 360, Hula Hoop Fitness, Partner Up, Tires, Ropes, Squats Oh My and Restorative Yoga.
Last year the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) also significantly increased its library of webinars and expanded live events at the state and regional levels, which allowed them to provide a balance of learning opportunities both online and live.
“New certifications are a tangible way for coaches and trainers to demonstrate new knowledge and skills that they have learned,” said Levi Boren, the senior director of certification and education at NSCA. “They allow for career advancement and specialization because they help a coach or trainer differentiate themselves in a competitive market.”
According to Galati, specialty certifications are another way to advance knowledge and skills in a specific area, whether it is sports conditioning, functional training, weight management, etc.
“It is important to bolster your knowledge, experience and credentials for working within new channels of health, fitness and allied health,” said Galati. “With specialty certifications you can focus in and be able to offer a lot greater programming and education for all your clients.”
Seeking multiple certifications is not only beneficial to the practitioner, it is also added value to the employer.
Galati provided an example that is applicable to a number of fitness facilities. “Personal trainers have an important role and group fitness instructors have an important role,” he explained. “People who actually hold certifications in both can really reach a lot more people. They can provide one-on-one or small group training and they also have the ability to reach very large groups in fitness settings. That hybrid profession becomes a really valuable resource for both themselves and for their employers.”
As the fitness industry continues to evolve, the depth of knowledge required for exercise professionals will only expand and become more rigorous.