Young woman doing exercises with personal trainer

How to Become a Certified Personal Trainer: Ultimate Guide

What is a certified personal trainer?

There is a common misconception that a certified personal trainer is someone who only shows others how to exercise. While that can be a primary responsibility, it isn’t the only thing a personal trainer can offer.

With the proper training, a personal trainer can act as a motivator, diet coach, and more. Some personal trainers go to get an education in the medical field to work in medical tech and a personal trainer combined.1

Should I become a certified personal trainer?

Personal training is an exciting field that can offer an array of opportunities for health and fitness enthusiasts. However, being passionate about the industry isn’t the only thing that should encourage you to become a certified personal trainer. Here, we list the four questions to ask yourself before investing your time, money, and resources.

1. Do you like working with people?

If you answered no, this might not be the profession for you. Personal training isn’t a solo activity. Your entire job requires you to be around people and train your clients constantly. If you are an introvert who gets exhausted just by being around people, you could consider teaching people online. But remember, that limits your opportunities and client base from the start.

2. Are you willing to work early mornings, evenings, or weekends?

You will need to work around your clients’ schedules, which might mean before or after regular work hours and family responsibilities.

3. You talk the talk, but do you walk the walk?

You don’t have to be ripped to become a certified personal trainer, but clients might not think you can help them if you are not fit and healthy yourself. It’s about setting an example for your clients, showing that you follow your advice and that it works!

4. How much income do you want to earn?

The amount you earn can widely depend on where you live, your experience, the gym you work at, or the type of clients you train. To give you an idea, Trainer Essentials2 has broken down the average personal trainer salary throughout cities in the United States.

  • San Diego – $50,341
  • Philadelphia – $43,159
  • Detroit – $42,744
  • Las Vegas – $42,469
  • New York – $42,000
  • Indianapolis – $41,941
  • Jacksonville – $41,924
  • Boston – $41,240
  • Washington DC – $40,000
  • Denver – $39,060
  • Seattle – $37,560
  • Chicago – $35,130
  • Los Angeles – $35,000
  • Houston – $30,480
  • Dallas – $29,080

What are the benefits of being a certified personal trainer?

“The benefits of becoming a certified personal trainer often come down to credibility,” according to Kevin Dunn, PT, MPT, OCS and principal owner of Inertia Fitness. He also outlined some other benefits of obtaining a personal trainer certification to keep in mind:

  • Many fitness facilities and gyms require trainers to be certified.
  • Certification providers often offer ongoing education and training.
  • Training clients sometimes seek trainers that hold certification.
  • Certification provides trainers with a professional association.

How do I become a certified personal trainer?

To become a certified personal trainer, there are five main steps3 to take.

  • Step 1: Take a personal training certification course.
  • Step 2: Get CPR certified.
  • Step 3: Take (and pass) the exam!
  • Step 4: Get insurance.
  • Step 5: Get a job.

What are the prerequisites to become a certified personal trainer?

The prerequisites4 to become a certified personal trainer differ by provider, but most require that you be 18 years or older and are CPR certified by the time you sit for the personal training exam. Some providers also require that you have a high school diploma or GED.

How long does it take to become a personal trainer?

How long it takes to become a certified personal trainer ultimately depends5 on the provider and courses you decide to take. If you take a general certified personal training course, you are usually required to take the exam no more than six months from the date you begin the course. For this option, it would be six months.

After taking the general certified course and passing the exam, some providers offer additional programs so you can develop a specialty, such as group fitness instructor, health coach, or medical exercise specialist. But again, the duration of these programs also varies based on the provider and course you select.

Step 1: Take a personal training certification course

When choosing a certification course to become a certified personal trainer, you should compare accreditations, price, learning format, and continuing education requirements.


The first thing to look at is whether or not a course is accredited. While there aren’t any requirements that a course needs to be, accredited ones are typically held to higher standards and are more respected by employers in the industry.

The National Commission for Certifying Agencies and the International Organization for Standardization are two examples of accrediting agencies.

Learning format

Do you want to learn from home in your own time, or do you work better by attending workshops in person? Make sure the certification course you select offers your preferred learning format.

Check out some providers to become a certified personal trainer

Each provider differs by pricing, offerings, courses, continuing education requirements, perks, and more, so make sure you find the one that is right for you!

Step 2: Get CPR certified

Adult CPR trainer certification6 is required to obtain your Personal Trainer Certification; however, employment at certain facilities may have other CPR requirements, such as Infant/Child CPR, First Aid, or AED (Automatic External Defibrillator) Training. You can get CPR certified through any of the below organizations:

Step 3: Take (and pass) the exam to become a certified personal trainer


Step 4: Get insurance

Mandatory or not, there is no good argument for any personal trainer to decline insurance. Not only are you constantly surrounded by heavy and dangerous equipment that can cause injury to yourself, but you are also instructing clients on how to handle this equipment.

Professional Liability Insurance

Professional liability insurance can protect you by helping cover defense costs, settlement, and/or judgment if a client sues your business you advised or provided services for. What if a client tears a hamstring or breaks an arm performing an exercise you instructed them to do?

Becoming a certified personal trainer means that you could easily be on the hook for medical bills, legal fees, pain and suffering, and more. Even if you aren’t at fault, that doesn’t always stop an upset customer from filing a claim. Check out Woligo’s Professional Liability Insurance and see how it can protect you and your business.

Accident Insurance

As a fitness and health enthusiast, chances are you have personally experienced injuries or know a lot of people that have due to your physically demanding environment. The problem is that if you get injured – it could significantly impact your ability to earn income.

Many independent workers may expect to pay high teens or low 20s for their premium – a nominal fee compared to what a hospital bill could end up being if you were to get hurt. Purchase accident insurance today, so you won’t be wishing you had it tomorrow.

This is not a comprehensive list, but the benefits generally offered through accident insurance may include:

  • Hospital admission and confinement
  • Intensive care unit
  • Air and ground ambulance
  • Emergency room treatment
  • Emergency dental
  • Lodging
  • Transportation
  • Surgery
  • Dislocations
  • Fractures
  • Burns
  • Dismemberments
  • Eye injuries
  • Major diagnostic exams
  • Accidental death

Disability insurance

Whether you are running your training business or working as an independent contractor, disability insurance is likely super important to your work-life world. Why? Because accidents at the gym aren’t the only thing that can impact your ability to work.

Cancer and mental health issues are two common reasons for Woligo’s disability insurance, and both of these conditions, as well as others, could pull you away from work for months or even years. As a self-employed individual, your income depends on your ability to work. If you become disabled, you could lose your income.

If you become sick/injured and can’t work for some time (and it’s confirmed by a doctor), disability is designed to cover up to about 70% of your paycheck or income. That’s why it’s sometimes nicknamed “paycheck protection.” Basically, disability insurance for small business owners helps make ends meet until you get back on your feet.

Once you are insured and protected, you can start looking for your next opportunity with peace of mind.

Step 5: Get a job

When you become a certified personal trainer, many different facilities can benefit from your skills aside from gyms. Other options7 to consider are health clubs, corporate fitness facilities, sports teams, hospitals and wellness centers, training studios, cruise ships, hotels and resorts, rehab centers, retirement complexes, and community centers.

If you decide to go the entrepreneur route and start your own training business, make sure your company is properly established and all appropriate paperwork is filed according to your state’s requirements.

After that is completed, the most important thing to do is start finding clients!! As a new business owner, you probably don’t have a lot of capital to spend on marketing, which is why you should take full advantage of social media capabilities. Check out this ‘Guide to Small Business Social Media‘ to find the best ways to maximize your returns.

Reviewing your options

Becoming a certified personal trainer can open up a door to unlimited options and opportunities for growth. How long it takes to become a certified personal trainer and its costs widely varies based on the provider and courses you choose. Do your homework, research each provider and course, and pick the best option for your future.


  1. How do I become a certified personal trainer? |
  2. Personal Trainer Salary Guide [2020 Stats & How To Boost Income] (
  3. How To Become A Personal Trainer |
  4. Best Personal Trainer Certification [2019 Comparison, Reviews & Pricing] (
  5. How do I become a certified personal trainer? |
  6. CPR Certification | CPR Card | CPR Requirements (
  7. How to Become a Personal Trainer: 9 Steps to a Fitness Career (