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The Question:

I am interested in becoming a personal trainer. I was thinking about taking a Home Study Course to get certified. Do you think that kind of course will help me get a good job or should I take it another way?

My lifestyle is very busy and that is the reason why I was wanting to take that kind of course. What do you think is the best way? Thank you for your time.

The Answer:

Here are a couple of responses that I have made to people wanting to know what to do to be a personal trainer or strength and conditioning coach. There is nothing wrong with taking a home study course but it will be difficult to be seen as a true professional with a simple certification such as this. Also, while you have to have certifications to have insurance coverage you will not be successful unless you have tons of practical, on the job experience and a great passion for what you do. Read on for more ideas if you would like.

Response 1:
You definitely need to go to college to be seen as a professional in the field. Remember, some day you will be paying your own bills or you might want to have a family. These things take money and a college degree opens a lot of doors! But, I was just like you when I was your age. A lot of hard work and continual education and the gathering of knowledge is what got me where I am today!

Response 2:
The fitness profession can be a very fulfilling career. It is, however, just like any career in that it is very competitive and starting pay is fairly minimal. I would recommend that you check out some basic certifications like the ACE certification and try some moonlighting as a personal trainer. Don't give up your paying job just yet. Remember, what we do as a hobby can become "just like work" once it's our job.

A nutrition degree is an excellent degree to carry over into the fitness profession. However, you would have to have some pretty major experience, luck, charisma, knowledge, and contacts to make it work as a paying job in the fitness field. Many nutritionists work in a school district or a retirement home and are establishing meals that meet the USRDA guidelines. Nutrition degree but not a "fitness field" job. Degrees in exercise and sports science or physiology are also great degrees to have if you want to make it in the fitness profession. But, the same things apply for attaining a job.

Health clubs are for-profit organizations that run a tight ship and sailing the ship also means having a great deal of experience in sales. Yes, selling memberships in a health club is what keeps it going! You can be a fitness director for a club or a corporate fitness center and not have to do as much sales but in a way, the better your programs are the more memberships the salespeople will sell and so everything is based on sales again. But, you would be in a position that would utilize your knowledge and experience in the fitness realm.

Fitness directors will usually make between $20,000 and $30,000 per year. But remember, you can't be a director until you have been drop-dead successful as a personal trainer first. So, you have to put in your time! Being a strength and conditioning coach (like me!) is the best job I can imagine. But, it is ridiculously hard to break into! Only division 1 programs have strength coaches and there are only 150 or so Div 1 programs in the country, so you can imagine those odds. Smaller colleges have strength coaches also but they are generally teachers and coaches. Or they coach football and do strength training together. So, you have to have a ton of experience as a coach or have a Master's Degree to get those jobs.

It sounds pretty bleak, I know. You could go down to your local Fitness Club or Bally's this afternoon and have a 75% chance to land a job as a fitness technician (floor trainer that does tours of the club and sells memberships). You will make about 5 bucks an hour but it will be an opportunity to refine your training skills, move up the ladder and eventually become a manager or fitness director. That's how it works. If you really want to do it, I would say do it! It can be very enjoyable as long as you know that it's not overly glamorous, takes long hours, doesn't pay very well and can take a few years to move into a top position! Once you make it though, it's awesome!!

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