T Nation

Personal Trainer Education


Is it possible to have success as a personal trainer without a degree? I have completed three years of college and plan on completing my degree in an unrelated field. I'm interested in working in a rehab or geriatric type role.

Are there any WORTHWHILE certifications that do not require a degree in exercise science or a related field? Any advice is appreciated...


yes, it is, but you will be picking up certifications like a motherfucker year in and year out.

like ART cert, Coaching level 1-4, that NASCCA or whatever weightlifting cert. probably have about 1500-2000$ in your budget or even more to keep getting more qualified.

feel free others, to chime in if i’m wrong.

of course a masters is still a trump card


You DONT need to get a degree in a related field. You can learn a lot more useful information that schooling will give you by learning on your own. Get your degree in whatever though, it will help fore sure. I learned a lot in school, but it was just an intro to all the different fields of sports medicine.

I can attribute 90% of what I learned about lifting and training to reading on my own in books, internet, etc. I guess the advantage of school was that it forced me to go into things like anatomy and physiology in which i probably would never have payed as much attention to if I was doing it on my own.

And then there were clases like history of sport, sport and sociology and sport psychology that I dont think really will ever help me, but the dang school got my money for them either way. (Thats one of the beauties of our education system)

As for certifications: It really depends what you want to do. If you want to be a personalt trainer, then their are probably two ways of going about it.

  1. Just get whatever the jobs you are applying for seem to be looking for
  2. Get one of the main ones like NASM or NSCA

I myself went ahead and got a cheap and easy one, because I figure my degree would be enough to get me most jobs.

Just be weary of any cert. that isn’t well known or is very expensive.

And start educating yourself.


You’ll need at least one cert just to get insurance. With ACE and insurance you are ready to go - but you’ll know nothing. Now is the time to get busy. Take courses like crazy. Learn from everybody - Chek, King, Poliquin, Crossfit- the list goes on. Take every course you can and soak up as much info as possible.

Specialize in something and get really knowlegable. That way you differentiate yourself. Become “the kettlebell guy” in your area… or strongman, or MMA strength and conditioning, or powerlifting, or any other niche you can fit into. That way you not just another trainer. But, make sure you don’t just know about your area of exepertise, make sure you know a lot about many other areas. You might want to specialize in 2 areas like - group bootcamp for neighbourhood ladies and hockey conditioning for their kids.

If you want to make big bucks check out the ebook Wealhty Trainer by John Clement. I bought it on www.lulu.com but you can find it by Googling - Wealthy Trainer. I can’t believe the money I making since I got my copy. my income doubled!

I would get the NSCA-CPT as it’s probably the best “non-degree” cert.


This is what i am doing right now. This shit is my passion and I love to learn about new concepts and studies etc, not just a bodybuilder meathead. I was in university for archaeology, but upon learning of the career opportunities, the real nature of the job, and the fact that i would rather go to the gym than class made me drop out. I worked for a solid year full time at a Bulk Barn (yes, humility is important) paying off my debt and now this September I am heading off to college for a 2 year Health & Fitness promotion program.

Is it the best? no. but i can afford it, and it has Co-op and job opportunities in my desired field, and i get working asap. I have no desire to stop learning and will probably go back for more but I really enjoy doing things one step at a time and climbing the ladder. I feel I will need a good couple years experience just as a Mcshit PT at some low level gym to get good at what i want to do.

So many times people have questioned my actions, i should have finished university, should have taken business etc. The one thing i have learned about life is that the choices you make are secondary to the amount of conviction, passion, and effort you put into those choices.

With that said, after a few years at the bottom i can choose what i want to do, take some higher level certs, get my coaching, maybe even teachers college and be a gym teacher. who knows. But i know that i absolutely fucking love every aspect of health and fitness. the strength, the nutrition, the biology, the foofy yoga shit, athletic performance, bodybuilding, powerlifting, rehab, everything. I live eat and breath this shit and maybe I wont be pulling 100,000$ a year doing it but i know with enough effort and hard work i can make a decent living out of it.