Discount Personal Trainer Certification – That’s Just Wrong!

Groupon PT Course March 2013

Discounted coupons for Personal Training Certifications?  It is no wonder the personal training industry struggles with its image and the attempt to portray personal trainers as professionals.  In what profession (Doctors, Nurses, Lawyers, Teachers, etc) can you receive your education at a discount?  Even the fitness industries allied professionals (registered massage therapists, physiotherapists, chiropractors, athletic therapists) are not able to garner their education through a discounted means.    I think the personal training industry has a very long way to go if it ever hopes to call itself a profession.  First and foremost, there is no regulatory body that sets standards of practice – without that you cannot call this vocation a profession.  I think those of us,  despite our varied backgrounds and education, that take our chosen careers seriously strive to be professional and raise the standard of practice.  But, back to the coupon……

In this specific coupon you were able to obtain an “On Line Personal Trainer Certification Course ($495.00 value) for a mere $148.00.  You even received the “deluxe online course”.  Your whole course is done on line and you were able to learn all the relevant exerciess through videos.  You were even able to take the official certification up to three times; and then if you pass you will be a nationally accredited certified personal trainer.  And I suppose if you wanted to pay extra – you were even able to incorporate in-person workshops.  Imagine that!

I mean there is just so many things wrong with this format, where do I begin?  It’s not that I have an issue with on line courses.  I think a lot of the theory can be learned independently.  Basic anatomy, nutrition, physiology – most of this theory can be studied independently.  But, I do take exception to certifying anyone as a personal trainer that has no other means of learning the physical aspects of the job except by watching a few videos.   After all, this is a physical job.  You not only need to be able to instruct new clients, but in order to do that you need to be able to understand and demonstrate correctly, every exercise that you choose to implement in your training programs.

Looking closer at this “coupon” it states it prepares fitness instructors to become professional trainers within commercial fitness facilities.  There is that word “professional” again.  You are not professional anything.  You will be a certified personal trainer, but not a professional.  Webster describes profession as a “chosen, paid occupation requiring prolonged training and formal qualification.”

As a Registered Nurse/Certified Personal Trainer I look to the Nursing Profession to help us understand a profession vs a vocation/job:

“Nurses have specialized education and training validated by “professional licensure” in each Province. We have a code of ethics and established practice standards we are bound to adhere to, a violation of which can result in our license being revoked or sanctioned. We have our own body of ongoing research that shapes and governs our practice. Nurses work autonomously within our scope of practice.”

In the fitness industry, there is no such regulation.  There is no code of ethics and no established standards.  Personal trainers are not bound to anything/anyone except to their own conscience.  For the accredited and established certifying agencies (NSCA- National Strength & Conditioning Association; NASM -National Academy of Sports Medicine); ACSM-American College of Sport Medicine), there are certainly standards set for the course materials, the exam  and the practical components of the courses.   Continuing Education credits must be obtained on a regular basis and strigent guidelines for what is acceptable as continuing ed credits is established.   At least with these Certification Agencies there are standards being set to certify and standards set that governs the practice; although it is loosely enforced.

I do not necessarily think we need the government to step in and regulate the fitness industry (that is a whole other article!).  I think there are excellent programs available through the three agencies listed above, as well a College Diploma programs that are doing an excellent job at preparing students to work in the industry.  University programs have, for years, done an excellent job at preparing students to pursue a career in the fitness/strength arenas.

But, as with most programs whether it is the online courses or the College/University programs – the one element still missing is the practical component.  Kudos to the College programs that require a term of practical experience in order to graduate.  I think now, the College programs just need to be a bit more diligent in what/where they approve student practicums to ensure students are getting a full spectrum of practical experience.  But……that is a whole other blog post as well.

So, where do I stand on Discounted Certification Programs – certainly not on the fence.  Those wishing to enter the industry need to do their homework just as much as the client seeking the services of a personal trainer.  There are excellent avenues out there if you wish to pursue a career as a personal trainer.  Just having a framed piece of paper saying you are certified is not good enough in my opinion – consider the source.

Till next time,


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