Licensed personal trainer helping client

How Long Does it Take to Become a Licensed Personal Trainer?

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Becoming licensed and certified as a personal trainer is a crowning achievement in the world of professional fitness. When you do the work, pass the requisite classes and exams, and obtain your CPT, you will be able to showcase yourself as a trusted authority who flat out knows how to train effectively.

But how long does it take to become a licensed personal trainer? We’ll look at different programs and areas of emphasis to see how long, on average, it takes today’s trainers to be licensed and certified in their state.

First Off, Should You Become A Certified Personal Trainer?

The Department of Labor pegs the personal training industry to grow by a whopping 15% through 2029; a rate that’s much faster than the national average for other jobs. The pay is good too, with job-posting site reporting a $22.46/hr average base salary for personal trainers starting out in the U.S. For a position that only requires a high school diploma, that’s a pretty solid average, but even so, rates vary across the U.S. In California, for example, Indeed reports some of the highest average rates for personal trainers, with top-earners hitting close to $36 an hour. As a CPT, you’ll stand out as an experienced professional no matter where you offer services.

So with all these positives, why isn’t everyone flocking to personal training? Well, you need to have an aptitude for it. You need to be an encourager and consider fitness training something you enjoy. You need to relate well to people and be able to manage progress. You need to be mindful and focused on safe techniques. The good news is, you don’t have to be shredded with an 8-pack to fit this mold. Successful fitness trainers come in all shapes and sizes so never let your present circumstances keep you from pursuing a career in this highly sought-out field.

Deciding Between Different Programs Offering CPT Courses

After facing the gut check of deciding whether or not you’re cut out for personal training, we’re glad you’re still here. With personal training education, there are so many great options out there for covering everything you need to learn to obtain a CPT. Keep in mind, each CPT program is going to have a different length of completion based on how they’re set up. A big part of choosing the right program means finding the best blend of subject material and delivery-style for your unique situation.

A few of the top programs offering a CPT course of study include the following:

  • ACE Fitness – well known and well respected and NCCA (the gold standard for personal training accreditation)- the certified program is one of the most affordable options out there. ACE offers many different stand alone courses but also offers a full CPT certification starting at $509 for the basic program, $659 for the Plus, and going up to $899 for the advantage. All three tiers provide the course of study, practice tests, and final exam digitally.  The more expensive tiers include additional practice tests and other bonuses like live Q & A webinars, facilitated study groups, and supplemental coursework. ACE Fitness CPT certification is entirely self-paced so how long it takes to complete is up to the individual. For most students pursuing their CPT, the program length runs about six months.
  • ISSA – The International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) also has a highly regarded CPT program and, as with ACE, you’ll have three different tiers to choose from. We liked that the cost of these programs can be paid monthly, interest-free. The cheapest CPT option is the “start training” program for $69 per month for 12 months, the middle tier is the “kickstarter” for $79 per month, and the highest, the “top trainer”, is $119 per month. The ISSA starter training offered the quickest program we saw with the site saying CPT certification could be achieved in as little as four weeks.
  • NASM – the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) offers the largest number of courses, certifications, and levels of education for the CPT programs we looked at. The course of study includes textbooks, videos, online quizzes, and practice exams all geared towards helping you pass one of the hardest CPT exams out there. Getting an NASM CPT is a little like going to an Ivy League school, once complete you’ll be recognized as having gone through a tough and well respected program. NASM offers four different programs with self-study, premium self-study, guided study, and all-inclusive. These programs run from $629 for the basic self study up to $1,889 for the all-inclusive. With the all-inclusive program, you get a plethora of extras including a job guarantee, recertification for life, and 80-hours of onsite, hands-on experience during the course of study. Sweet bonus, IFG has partnered with FiTOUR to provide discounted NASM-approved CEUs and members of FiTOUR also get a discount on their IFG personal trainer liability insurance.

While the NASM programs are also self-paced, you will have 6 months from the point of enrollment to take your NASM-CPT exam. NASM is also NCCA accredited.

Between ACE, ISSA, and NASM, you have three excellent choices for obtaining your CPT certification although there are additional options out there. Seeing NCCA accreditation is a good place to start when comparing programs in addition to what’s taught and how long it will take to complete.

Getting Through State Boards and Licensing

An interesting aspect of personal training is that you theoretically don’t need any training, certification, or licensure whatsoever to get started. However, if you’re actually looking to attract and retain clients, work in a gym or other facility, or operate your own business, there are a number of requirements you’ll need to meet.

In order to get hired at a gym or fitness club, you’re going to have to stand out from the other candidates. You can have all the experience in the world, but without a CPT certification, you may be passed up. Clients too want to see that they’re working with someone who is qualified to help them reach their fitness goals in a safe and professional manner.

If you are choosing to open up a business to offer personal training, you will need to check with your location’s ordinances to see what’s required to begin operations. You may need a business licence, registration, and/or pay certain taxes and fees in order to start your business. Even offering online personal training may be considered an at-home business and may require certain registrations.

When thinking about how long it’s going to take you to become a trainer, don’t forget to factor in the amount of time that it’s going to take to have all of your ducks in a row to actually begin offering services as a CPT.

Honing in On Areas of Emphasis in Fitness Training

We saw with the CPT programs above that the shortest program could be completed in as little as 4 weeks with the longer programs running around 6 months. So, within 1 to 6 months from the start of your CPT study program, you could be a full-fledged CPT and wondering what to do now. Rewinding back to your decision to begin a CPT program, you need to be thinking about specific areas that you’d like to emphasize during your training to maximize your marketability upon completion.

Being a broad CPT isn’t a bad thing, but having super-specific expertise helps define your niche and build an audience within that sphere. For example, you might really enjoy training athletes to excel in their sport. With each of the professional CPT programs, you can pick different courses to help bolster your expertise in a specific arena. That way, after completing your program, not only will you have your CPT, but you’ll also be able to cater to a specific market.

What to Do After Becoming Certified as a Personal Trainer

So it’s been 6 months and you finally achieved your NASM CPT certification and are now looking at your options for launching your career. The single most important thing to do now is to secure personal trainer insurance. And, lo and behold, IFG offers one of the best combinations of coverage and affordability around.

Getting started as a personal trainer can be tough as you learn the ropes and your clientele. Unfortunately, you’re apt to make more mistakes when first starting out and in an industry like fitness, accidents are everywhere. An absolutely safe bet is to secure your career from the get-go with personal trainer insurance.

A cool bonus with IFG is discounts and deals on loads of fitness-related products and services, curated content, and even custom workout playlists to get your clients motivated.

Signing Up For Personal Trainer Insurance

Unlike obtaining your CPT, signing up for personal trainer insurance takes just a few minutes and is one of the best ways to ensure long-term success as a fitness professional.

Meet The Author:

Parker Franklin

Parker, IFG’s Brand Manager since 2022, began his wellness journey in 2020, leading to a significant personal transformation. He holds a journalism degree from Murray State University and started his career as an award-winning journalist in western Kentucky before transitioning into marketing and PR. At IFG, Parker is responsible for writing content, managing The Fit newsletter, and overseeing promotions and collaborations with affiliate fitness organizations.