Do You Have To Be Certified To Be A Personal Trainer in 2023?

Welcome to the one and only Trainer Academy article educating you on whether or not you have to be certified to be a personal trainer.

Here’s what I’ll discuss:

Implications of personal training without certification
Advantages of becoming certified
Personal training certification requirements
How to choose the right personal training certification
Frequently asked questions

Upon finishing this article, you will surely have a better understanding of the implications of working as a personal trainer without certification.

Let’s explore them now!

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Best Fitness Certification Quiz

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Implications of Personal Training Without Certification

In today’s world, anyone can legally call themselves a personal trainer, but not everyone can claim they are a Certified Personal Trainer without formal training.

There’s a plethora of personal trainer certifications and nutrition certifications out there to help those interested in fitness careers advance their knowledge as they continue to develop their personal training practice.

Listed below are some of my favorite personal trainer certifications, which I’d definitely recommend exploring:

Now there’s no law stating that one “must” be certified to work as a personal trainer, but just because you “could” work without certification certainly doesn’t mean that you should.

No personal training certification, no bueno.

Here’s why.

Limited Job Opportunities

Not to burst your bubble, but no matter how enthusiastic and knowledgeable you are about fitness, it’s very hard to get hired as a personal trainer when you aren’t certified.

Whereas most gyms won’t even hire you, some other gyms may only trust uncertified fitness trainers to lead classes.

For instance, a gym might educate uncertified personal trainers on how to run a group fitness class, but they aren’t going to allow these trainers to create fitness programs for individual clients.

And even then, if you want to teach classes, consider looking into group fitness certifications.

You can even find more specified ones, like pilates certifications or yoga certifications.

So if you actually want to thrive as a personal fitness trainer, get certified.

Every professional trainer I know has a personal training certification.

And they make good money.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the personal trainer job outlook is expected to increase by 39% from 2020 to 2030.

The growth rate is much faster than the average for all occupations.

Currently, the average personal trainer salary is $65k, which is actually more than the average strength and conditioning salary, approximately $40k.

A typical nutrition coach salary is even lower, around $30-40k.

But overall, the amount of money you make really depends on a multitude of factors, such as experience, educational background, certification(s), and location.

For instance, if you’re into wellness, you may become a nutrition coach in addition to being a trainer.

And as a result, your salary could quadruple!

So if you’re interested in nutrition and wellness, then I’d recommend you consider exploring not only nutrition certifications but sports nutrition and health coach certifications as well.

With the wide use of the internet today, there are many online personal trainers who do exceptionally well financially.

Overall, having a certification is crucial and also one of the first things employers look at.

And clients.

This brings me to the next disadvantage – lacking certification makes it a whole lot harder to attract clients.

Best Fitness Certification Quiz
Best Fitness Certification Quiz

Harder to Attract Clients

If I were a potential personal training client and had to choose a trainer to work with, I would definitely opt for someone who is certified as a personal trainer.

For most, a good personal trainer is one who put in the time and dedication toward becoming certified.

It may not be easy, but that’s what makes earning a personal training certification so admirable.

Becoming certified not only ensures knowledge and expertise in the field, but it ensures industry credibility.

Especially in the personal training industry, there is an inherent responsibility for clients’ wellbeing, whether it be general wellness, weight loss, nutrition, or proper technique for injury prevention.

Certification shows that trainers had the discipline and patience to start and finish a formal education and are competent enough to create structured, individualized programs for clients to achieve desired results.

Diving deeper into this, that’s why having an accredited certification is important.

Word of mouth and good reviews on social media or from other clients are great.

But they certainly don’t beat or replace having a legitimate personal training certification.

Liability Issues

Becoming certified as a personal trainer is important for so many reasons, especially this.

A good personal trainer certification program not only teaches you how to properly train clients but also emphasizes how to keep them safe during their workouts.

Even if you’ve been working out your whole life and are super enthusiastic about fitness, if you want to become a successful personal trainer, then you ought to learn how to train people in a safe way.

Certification ensures that you’ve endured a legitimate program and passed the program’s exam.

So there is less chance of injuring someone when you are certified because you’ve obtained the appropriate knowledge.

Without having proper background knowledge from a personal training certification program, someone could actually get hurt.

This leads to another thing – personal trainer insurance.

When you lack certification, you lack liability insurance.

This certainly isn’t ideal considering clients can easily come after you should something happen and they get injured.

Whether you have your own personal training business or you work as a self-employed contractor with a local gym, obtaining personal trainer insurance is necessary.

Unfortunately, most insurance companies will not want to provide liability coverage to personal trainers who lack certification. 

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Advantages of Becoming Certified

Clearly, there are no advantages to lacking a personal training certification, which is why if you consider a career in this field, the first step should be learning how to get certified as a personal trainer.

Certified trainers reap the following benefits:

  • Industry credibility
  • Easier to get hired
  • Easier to attract clientele
  • Access to personal trainer insurance
  • Increased earning potential

Now that you’ve seen the perks of being certified, let’s jump ahead to personal training certification requirements.

Personal Training Certification Requirements

What do you need to be a personal trainer?

In the grand scheme of things, location matters in terms of personal training program prerequisites.

So where you live and where you work will impact what is recognizable as credible.

Fortunately, there are standard personal training certifications that most places recognize.

And most personal trainer requirements are as follows:

  • 18 years of age or older
  • High school diploma or the equivalent (GED)
  • Current and valid CPR/AED certification

On top of this, you must complete all required coursework and ace your final exam.

While there are no personal trainer education requirements beyond the high school level, it never hurts to further your education.

How to Choose the Right Personal Training Certification

Remember how I mentioned that there’s no law indicating a trainer must be certified to work with clients?

Well, similarly, since there’s no law regulating personal training, any organization can offer a personal training certification.

So you need to be very selective when you research personal training certifications.

Here’s what to look for.


The personal training program you choose should definitely be accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC), or the NCCA.

What’s the difference?

First, as the name suggests, the DEAC is responsible for authenticating distance-based certifying agencies, such as the ISSA-CPT certification, which, in my perspective, is my absolute favorite.

Most fitness certifications are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), which is the gold standard accreditation in the fitness industry.

Founded in 1987, the NCCA is a non-profit, independent organization that gives accreditation to a range of fitness certifications and its primary goals include:

  • Establishing quality accreditation standards
  • Evaluating a program’s compliance with its standards
  • Recognizing a program’s compliance with its standards
  • Monitoring and enforcing continued compliance with its standards
  • Providing the highest-quality certification to all qualifying professionals

The NCCA has accredited over 315 programs from more than 130 organizations.


All-in-all, fitness instructor certifications accredited by the NCCA demonstrate excellence and credibility in the industry.

NCCA-accredited certifications ensure clients you’ve endured arduous training.

And although a program is accredited, you still want to check for another thing – and that’s its history.

Let’s talk more about this.

Best Fitness Certification Quiz
Best Fitness Certification Quiz

Program History

Whereas the “newest” or “trending” certification programs should raise some red flags, the ones that have been successfully certifying personal trainers for decades send a strong message about quality and authority.

Do you know how long the program you chose has been in business?

When searching for a personal training certification program, the history of its business is a crucial factor in deciding if it’s right for you.

With the wide use of the internet and tech-savvy scammers today, superficial organizations are no surprise.

Just use the commonsense approach to avoid a program that seems way too fake.

Personal Needs

Another very important factor is whether or not the personal training certification program fits your personal needs.

Is the program conducted entirely in person, or is there also an option to get a personal training certification online?

With the rising popularity of online personal trainer education, it is certainly not hard to find online personal trainer courses and practice exams.

Just make sure that if you’ve opted for an online fitness certification, your online course is accredited.

Is it structured or self-paced, where I can complete it on my own?

While some people like structure, others may gravitate toward fitness certifying agencies providing self-paced CPT courses.

The time it takes to become a personal trainer varies for everyone.

Does it have a timeline to take the final exam or is it flexible and I can take the exam when I want to?

The duration of time to become a personal trainer is different for everyone depending on your certification provider, course type, experience, educational background, and devotion to studies.

Here’s the biggy – what does it cost and can I afford this program’s tuition?

Although certifications may cost you, it’s surely worth it in the long run if you see yourself in this career.

Most people ask themselves questions such as these before choosing the right personal trainer certification program for them.

Personal training certifications are not a one size fits all kind of deal, so before you choose a program, make sure it fits your personal needs.

Study Materials

The next thing you need to do is evaluate the program’s study materials.

Some programs even have study guides.

Here are some examples::

Check if the program’s textbooks and online resources are up-to-date.

The world of fitness and exercise science is constantly changing, so staying current is key.

Program Variety

Most high-quality personal training certification programs come with a variety of programs.

Maybe as of now, you are seeking a general personal training program or a CPT, but as you progress throughout your fitness training career, you may want to go back and earn a specialization.

Let’s review the most common areas of specialization.

If you want to become a group exercise instructor, do some research on group fitness certifications to see which one works for you and your career goals.

To become a strength and conditioning coach, you’ll need to seek strength and conditioning certifications.

Based on my years of experience in the field, the NSCA-CSCS is by far the best one, falling in line with the ISSA-CSC and NASM-PES.

See for yourself, and read through the CSCS study guide.

Then, test your skills with its respective CSCS practice test.

There are also corrective exercise certifications, such as the ISSA-CES and the NASM-CES.

It’s in your best interest to choose a program with a variety of specialty certifications instead of just a general personal training certification.

Therefore, the following readings are recommended:

Once you find your niche, it will be easier for you to choose a specialty program when your CPT provider offers that certification.

Note that you can also obtain continuing education credits (CECs) when you choose a certification that is recognized by your provider.

And this alone is crucial because CECs are required to renew your personal training certification.

For most fitness certifying agencies, renewal is due every two years.

Sometimes three, sometimes four.

But my point here is don’t work hard, work smart.

Program variety makes navigating your fitness career a whole lot easier, and better.

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Don’t you want more than just learning materials and a certification exam?

The best personal training certification programs will allow you to have access to their online resources, networking, tools for growing your own personal training business, and regular support from experts.

Most people do well with practice tests.

Thankfully, there are certification providers out there with accessible practice tests:

These extras will only help you be a better personal trainer and may teach you more than you expect.

You can utilize this knowledge for yourself and you can pass it along to your clients.

This builds rapport and strengthens the trainer-client relationship.

Job Guarantee

Most personal trainers I’ve spoken to know that getting hired, even after passing the final exam and earning the official CPT certificate is hard.

It would only be in your best interest to choose a program that offers job assistance or a job guarantee, such as the NASM-CPT.

Some of the best personal training certification programs, such as the NASM personal trainer certification, offer you a job guarantee.

Not only does this help you get hired and start working after getting certified, but they may even refund your tuition if they can’t get you placed.



If you want to help others reach their fitness goals, becoming a certified personal trainer should be your very first step.

It doesn’t matter how much you already know about fitness, becoming a personal trainer means you are also responsible for clients’ wellbeing.

To become a personal trainer requires doing your due diligence to guide your clients the best you can toward a happier, healthier, fitter life.

And with all the certifications, it is easy to become a certified personal trainer.

There’s honestly no excuse for lacking a certification, especially with online personal training certification options.

Hopefully, my article shed some light on the implications of lacking a fitness certificate and the many advantages of having one.

May you kickstart the most amazing personal training career with a certification!

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