How to become a personal trainer by earning a health sciences degree online

July 26, 2022 · 4 min read · By ASU Online
Personal training is a growing field that offers a career with many opportunities for advancement. Because it's a profession that features an active lifestyle, a social work environment, and rewarding relationships with clients, it's not surprising that so many people wonder how to become a personal trainer.

Personal trainer education

Professional personal trainers come from a wide variety of backgrounds, but they generally share one thing: a formal education in the health sciences. It’s possible to become a personal trainer without a degree, but a bachelor's degree or similar accreditation will usually give you a head start on this career path.

Many accredited bioscience degree programs can provide a good basis for becoming a personal trainer. A biochemistry degree, for instance, can provide a keener understanding of the metabolism involved in nutrition and fitness, while kinesiology focuses more directly on the body's high-level organ systems.

However, there are also dedicated health, wellness, and even individualized personal training degree and certification programs that may relate more directly to your future career. By earning one, you can distinguish yourself from applicants who may have a more general biology background, and show your focused dedication to personal training.

At the end of the day, a degree isn’t required to be a personal trainer, but it does help enormously in securing a position. Even those who plan to found their own companies may find it much harder to secure clients without an educational background to display.


Personal trainer career paths

Personal training degree graduates can start a private practice of working with clients directly, or they can take a job at a company that already serves clients. With certification, the skill set and education of a personal trainer are widely applicable. Even within the world of the gym, personal training graduates can lead fitness classes, design nutritional regimens or take on managerial responsibilities.

The personal training route can easily lead to careers outside the fitness world. Potential paths can include health writing for a publication, sales for a fitness supply company, or even HR work at progressive-minded companies. Accredited personal trainers have demonstrated not just an ability to work through a challenging course of study but also a passion for the health and wellness of those around them. Employers value these traits in a wide variety of non-technical positions, even if they have nothing to do with physical activity directly.

A personal trainer works with a client on a treadmill.

Personal trainer certification

The American College of Sports Medicine maintains a certification program for personal trainers that's not only helpful for the education itself but potentially for university admissions processes, as well. In addition, the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaches has a respected certification program based on a scheduled exam, but this generally comes after a degree process rather than before. In general, these qualifications are preferred rather than required, but the more pieces of preferred background applicants have, the more successful they're likely to be.

Since the legal requirements for personal training are location-based and therefore somewhat inconsistent, there's a wide variety of unofficial certification and licensing programs that claim to offer the perfect background for the field. One challenge is that while many of these offer well-thought-out programs, they don't necessarily have any name recognition among the public. If your aim is to impress hiring managers and clients, a certification from an unknown local institute could seem questionable, even if it represents real learning.

On the other hand, everyone appreciates the value of a bachelor's degree from an accredited university, or an associate degree from a reputable college. Online courses from large and respected universities cover everything from nutrition, fitness and stress management to substance abuse, behavior change, and coaching psychology.

For some future personal trainers, the appeal of furthering one's education with a post-secondary degree may clash with the reality that they're in search of a vocational degree. Furthermore, many might be making turns from their current full-time employment. This makes online courses and other forms of distance education fitting solutions. By combining the broadly recognized value of a university degree with the lifestyle adaptability of distance education, university courses taken online can offer a powerful and accessible introduction to the field.


Earn your health sciences degree online with Arizona State University

ASU Online offers a Bachelor of Science in health sciences with a concentration in healthy lifestyles and fitness science. The program combines exercise, wellness, nutrition and health sciences to provide you with a solid background for personal training, as well as a number of other preventative health care careers.

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