Every year, thousands of college-bound high school seniors compete for a limited number of spots at prestigious schools, hoping to leverage that prestige to get a high-paying job upon graduation. Similarly, thousands of aspiring personal trainers and group exercise instructors become certified each year, hoping their credentials will open doors to a gratifying and lucrative fitness career.
But in both cases, the name of your accredited institution only takes you so far. Once you land your dream job, you had better hope that your education prepared you to perform the day to day tasks your position requires.
Bridging the Experience Gap
One of the biggest challenges to beginning a new fitness career is the experience gap. Employers are rarely willing to take a chance on a new hire who needs hours of training before they can step into their work role. In the case of fitness jobs like personal trainer or group exercise instructor, it is not enough to be passionate about fitness. You need to be able to translate that passion into useful skills that help your clients and students safely reach their goals.
Most online certifications, even those whose reputations hold some clout, provide you with plenty of head knowledge, but when it comes to practical skills, you are on your own.
Practical skills needed to be an effective fitness professional include:
- Experience conducting health history interviews and needs assessments
- Experience conducting fitness assessments
- Knowledge about fitness equipment and how to adjust it for each client
- Ability to assess and correct alignment and exercise mechanics for a variety of fitness levels and body types
- Knowledge of programming, to create effective balanced exercise sessions or group exercise classes
- Communication skills for group exercise and personal training
If your fitness certification does not provide you with practical skills training, you will face a huge learning curve when it comes to job performance, and most fitness employers do not provide on-the-job training. They are looking for confident experienced employees who can step into the job on day one and perform like pros.
What Gym Managers Say About Fitness Certifications
To get the employers’ perspective on hiring and certification, we spoke to some managers and business owners of local fitness clubs and studios. We asked them about what they look for in a new hire, and the importance of certification, Here is what they had to say:
“Certification in general is important, but we also look at the certifying body. There are certain certifications that demand in-depth knowledge, and others that are basically diploma mills. Even if you have an exercise science degree, your choice of certification says a lot about your commitment to your profession.” -Tiffany, Fitness Director
“We have been hiring W.I.T.S. certified trainers for years, because they not only know about the science of fitness, but they have been trained to perform on the job. That saves us money in the long run, because the employee is more likely to succeed on the job and become a long-term staff member. Training and turnover are two big costs for any employer, so we are very selective when it comes to new hires.” -Scott, General Manager
“It’s one thing to be into fitness and know how to put together a workout for your friends. It’s another thing to be able to work with unfit clients of any age and any body type, and help them reach their goals. A lot of new trainers do okay with younger clients who just have a few pounds to lose, but they don’t know what to do with, say, an older person or someone with serious health issues or disabilities. We love W.I.T.S. trainers and instructors because they come from diverse backgrounds, and they know how to work with a broad range of clients.”-Stacey, Fitness Studio Owner
Getting the Most from Your Fitness Certification
If you are thinking about becoming a certified fitness professional, ask yourself these questions before selecting your certification program:
- Does the certification program include lectures and workshops taught by qualified instructors, or is it all self-study?
- What subjects does the certification course cover? Does it include foundational science, programming, injury prevention, special populations and communications skills?
- Is there a hands-on practical skills element that teaches hard job skills?
- Is the certification program accredited by educational bodies like NCCA, American Counsel on Education, IACET and other recognized organizations?
- Does the certification program provide opportunities for internship and job placement?
- Does the certification program offer relevant continuing education?
If you are already certified, think about how you can leverage your certification to make the most of your fitness career:
- Add another certification that expands your credentials, like Older Adult Fitness Specialist of Lifestyle Wellness Coach. Or step into management with a Fitness Management Certificate.
- Take fitness business continuing education courses to help build your career.
- Keep up to date with the latest research and fitness trends by reading blogs, participating in webinars and listening to podcasts.
- Attend fitness conferences and networking events.
- Never stop learning…our industry is still young, and rapidly evolving. That means countless opportunities to grow and earn!
No More Excuses
Getting W.I.T.S. certified is one of the best career decisions you can make for a bright and lucrative future as a fitness professional. Our easy payment plans and options for live or online learning eliminate time and money constraints, and our friendly staff is here to support you every step of the way. So what are you waiting for? Stop making excuses and step into your future as a W.I.T.S. certified fitness professional TODAY!