Public expectations for competent practice are increasing. The consumer public is more savvy and informed than ever before. While increased information is useful, it can also reinforce misconceptions about continued competence and the role of the certification program.
Continuing Education (CE) is a means by which personal fitness trainers participate in professional development activities to expand their knowledge. In the nursing profession, for example, CE is defined as a “planned, organized learning experience designed to augment the knowledge, skill, and attitudes of registered nurses for the enhancement of nursing practice, education, administration, and research to the end of improving health care to the public” (American Nurses Association, 1975). Continuing education comes in many forms, and may include course work, trainings (both online and in person), self-directed learning (including webinars and practice exams), conferences, or seminars.
Continuing education requirements or offerings are not limited only to those in nursing or within healthcare. In fact, there are many opportunities within personal training that provide the same kinds of crucial professional development challenges and activities for career growth and enhancement. In fact, the National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT)—a credentialing organization supporting both new and seasoned personal trainers—provides certification for qualified individuals through its Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) program. This industry designation is identified by the organizational distinction ‘NFPT-CPT’.
NFPT-CPTs have been qualified through certification assessment (exam) for entry-level competency to work with apparently healthy individuals (those without impairment that effects their ability to safely perform exercise) in one-on-one or small group settings. NFPT works to serve the public interest by developing, administering and continually reviewing a certification process that reflects current standards of competent practice in personal fitness training. After an entry level of competency is assured through the CPT exam process, NFPT-CPTs must then maintain certification by completing CE to encourage and maintain trainer growth and development. Throughout certification maintenance, it’s important to bear in mind what CE is and what it is not.
CONTINUING EDUCATION IS an instructional or educational activity that builds knowledge or skill. This manifests itself into a certificant’s long term commitment to learning and growing in their profession. Learning activities that reinforce or develop the knowledge, skills, and abilities of the individual certificant are demonstrated in the competent practice of the individual; ultimately adding value to the service. Qualified forms of CE for the NFPT-CPT certification program have been carefully selected to ensure a cross-section of relevant industry training. These qualifying CE activities generally begin at a participation baseline that aligns with the initial assessment’s demonstration of competence. For example, at entry-level competency, such as is the baseline for the NFPT-CPT assessment, learning activities that are at least at that same competency level or greater are required. For NFPT-CPTs, this means at least 10 participation hours per year in a learning activity that is relevant to the practice of personal training and that is delivered by a credible source. LEARN MORE
CONTINUING EDUCATION IS NOT an assessment of advanced levels of competency, nor is it a guarantee of high quality service on the part of the personal trainer. Continuing competence is a component of professional development that addresses the minimum requirements of the personal trainer practice.
Recertification of the CPT designation is required by all credible personal trainer certification organizations. In addition, engaging in CE alone does not imply a certification designation title or credential (unless of course a title or credential is achieved subsequently as the result of pursuing a higher level of education within the same profession…for example, a NFPT-CPT certificant may decide to go back to college to pursue an exercise science degree, this would be an independent pursuit of knowledge, skills, and abilities and an independent distinction which would also be considered a NFPT-CPT CE learning activity that counts towards recertification).
Continuing competence addresses the minimum requirements to maintain the certification distinction. At the onset of certification, the certifying organization cannot provide assurance or guarantee of a high quality of service from its certificants. In other words, NFPT cannot state or infer that CPT certificants know absolutely everything there is to know about personal training. A certification program assesses ‘minimum competency’ for work within personal training and certificants prove that they are at least minimally competent when designing goal-oriented fitness programs in a safe and effective way. After certification has been achieved, they are required to maintain a minimum competence through continuing education.
For the public, CPT certification provides an expectation of competence within personal training, providing a level of confidence about the certificant’s knowledge and abilities.
More info on NFPT CEC’s: