People who like to work out and want to help others realize they could be making a career out of their passion as a personal trainer. If this might be you, you should be asking yourself how long does it take to become a personal trainer? The best way to get a job and clients in fitness is by obtaining a personal trainer certification. This type of fitness certification takes anywhere from one to six months, depending on the certification you get and how quickly you go through the fitness trainer course. However, there’s great variety in the personal training industry. This leads to differences in how much a personal trainer makes. So, the next thing to consider is the differences in the type of personal trainer you could be–an entry-level trainer or an advanced trainer. Here, we’ll give the breakdown of it all so you know what to expect as you make selections on your professional education. 

The Entry Level Personal Trainer Vs. The Advanced Personal Trainer

The differences between an entry-level trainer and an expert trainer come down to education, experience, track record of helping clients achieve fitness goals (effectiveness). Here we’ll explore the educational differences between these trainer types. We’ll also summarize what you can do as you work in the fitness industry, depending on whether you’re entry-level or advanced.

Entry-Level Trainer

Regardless of which personal trainer certification you choose, they are all designed to help you become an entry-level trainer. It’s important to note that you cannot get a primary training certification that qualifies you as an advanced trainer. 

This is not to say that all certifying agencies are the same. However, whether you are an ACE CPT (certified personal trainer) or ACSM CPT, it doesn’t change what you are qualified to do–help general clients achieve standard fitness goals. But, the way a certification company delivers fitness education will likely differ. For example, you’ll notice these types of differences as you learn about the fitness certification world:

    • Online or live certification course. It’s increasingly more common for your education and exam to be completed online. However, live workshops and exam test-outs still exist. Most commonly, you’ll see the course material is online, but you have to go to a testing center for your final exam.
  • Types of learning materials. One personal trainer certification program might only ship you a hard copy textbook and passcode for an exam. On the other hand, another certification program might also have an eBook, lecture videos, chapter quizzes, study guides, flashcards, and more to help you understand the material. 
  • Learning structure. Depending on the company, you might be guided through the material in a weekly, structured fashion. Other programs will give you one final deadline for the exam–and that’s it. 
  • Methodology. A certification founder might have physical therapy, athletic training, chiropractic, exercise psychology, or other sports medicine background. Because of this, the style or way in which the personal training course teaches you how to train clients may vary slightly. 

Regardless of the company, what a personal trainer needs to know remains the same. And once you achieve your training certification, you will have the qualification to do the following:

  • Market your services to new or potential fitness clients 
  • Conduct initial orientations and fitness assessments
  • Develop fitness programs for common goals (weight loss, strength training, developing muscle mass, etc.)
  • Select and demonstrate the appropriate exercises for each client.
  • Develop fitness programs personal tailored for general clientele

Advanced Fitness Trainer

One thing is sure, an advanced trainer doesn’t mean “experienced”. Experience is helpful. But, in the fitness industry, your education advances you more quickly. This is the case for the types of clients you can train, fitness and nutrition services you can offer, and amount of revenue you’re able to keep, to name a few. In fact, the more professional education you have beyond your basic personal trainer certification, the more gyms will pay you. For example, an if you only have a primary certification, you might only earn 25% of what the client pays. However, a trainer with a degree in exercise science or an advanced specialization can earn closer to 70% of what the client pays.

When most people consider becoming a personal trainer, they have the idea of being an advanced trainer. As an advanced personal trainer, you can:

  • Offer services like nutrition coaching and lifestyle modification for health coaching
  • Earn income through adjacent opportunities such as a group fitness instructor or online fitness coach
  • Charge more per hour
  • Work with specialized populations like prenatal clients, fitness competitors, or youth sports
  • Earn a higher percentage of what a client pays or pay a lower gym rental fee
  • Open your own personal training business

There is no set definition of what constitutes an advanced personal trainer. However, completing a degree is one of the best starting points. This type of degree should be in:

  • Exercise science
  • Exercise physiology
  • Sports medicine
  • Health education
  • Sport and exercise psychology
  • Physical education

You should also consider earning advanced specializations as part of your continuing education such as:

  • Corrective exercise
  • Strength and conditioning 
  • Group fitness instructor 
  • Nutrition coaching
  • Health coaching
  • Recovery
  • Bodybuilding

How Long Does It Take To Become A Personal Trainer?

Now you know the expertise spectrum of the personal training industry. Below is a timeline of how long it should take you to gain the education you need to start working with clients and earning an income in the fitness industry:

  • 1 - 6 months: Primary personal training certification
  • 1 - 12 months: Two or more advanced specializations
  • 18 - 24 months: Associate’s degree in exercise science related program
  • 3 - 4 years: Bachelor’s degree
  • 5 - 6 years: Master’s degree

Of course, you should know that you can complete these timeliness concurrently. This is especially the case with Lionel University’s exercise science program. As you earn your degree, you’ll also earn a primary personal trainer certification and additional specializations along the way. It’s part of Lionel’s Master Trainer Certificate program. By earning your certificate right out of the gate, you can begin working with clients as you advance yourself on the fitness education continuum. This is something you can only get with Lionel. Other degree programs are separate from certificate programs. This means you’ll have to spend more money on a certification course and potentially learn conflicting information along the way.

Additionally, Lionel’s degree programs for an aspiring personal trainer accelerate you more quickly than other colleges. The timelines in which you can finish a degree are:

Becoming A Primary Certified Personal Trainer

Online certifying agencies you can pursue to be a personal trainer are listed below. These certificate course companies are all online and have different offerings.

Helping others achieve a better quality of life is a rewarding career. This is regardless of whether you choose to become a personal trainer or enter one of the other careers. When you choose one of these jobs you’ll get some (if not all) of these perks:

  • The ability to take your own fitness to the next level
  • Learn about something you love
  • Help others lose weight and make major life changes
  • Increase someone’s lifespan
  • Help athletes perform their best
  • Choose your own hours
  • Make six figures
  • Run your own business

As you can see, it’s pretty enticing to learn more about this type of study. Lionel University provides exercise science degree programs that can help you land a job as a personal trainer. You can earn an associates degree, bachelor’s degree, or master’s degree at Lionel. What’s even better is, included in your program, you’ll earn a personal training certification and other fitness certifications and specializations early on. This makes it easy for you to earn a living in the fitness space and test the waters. You’ll be able to figure out exactly what your long-term career goals are. 

Find out why other students choose Lionel and love it. You can get financial aid to make it an easier transition. And, the courses are all online. This means you can earn your degree from home, and on your own time. It’s the best way to learn when you get to choose. Furthermore, the reputation of Lionel is elite. The founders of Lionel are pioneers in the fitness space and have prestigious backgrounds. This means you’ll be learning from the best and most respected program available.