Do you need certification to be a personal trainer? No.

Should you get certified? YES!

We surveyed dozens of fitness professionals in various industry roles to find out their thoughts on why certification matters for personal trainers. The same answers arose repeatedly whether talking with a trainer, PhD or writer: education, confidence, liability, professionalism, employment and perks. Read on to gain insight and absorb their words of wisdom.


There is an almost infinite amount to learn about the human body. It can be overwhelming! Medical researchers and doctors spend their entire lives studying the intricacies of both health and disease.

You can pick up human anatomy and physiology books to begin your quest for knowledge. Or, you can streamline the process with a personal training certification. A PT Certification manual/text is packed with information, but concise – providing the most relevant information about human anatomy, movement and physiology for the fitness industry.

It’s critical to be educated when assisting people with exercise and lifestyle changes.

Each individual has been through different life experiences and stressors that are important to factor in when programming and motivating them. Doing your favorite exercises with people might work most of the time, but a deeper understanding of human movement is required to serve a wide variety of clientele. Without proper form and strategic programming, people get injured or fall off the exercise wagon easily. Personal trainers get into the field to help people, not hurt them.

TJ Coakley (NFPT) says, ” I wanted to pursue a certification to ensure I had a baseline standard of knowledge about the human body.” Christine Oakes (ACE, NASM) feels that certification proves you took the time to study the basics to better service your clients.

Certifications do more than just teach you about the body. They provide practical information and programming methods to apply in your personal training sessions with clients. A stable foundation opens the doors of possibility in any profession.

When you get certified, you get a certificate. This certificate tells people that you have passed a test. It’s an indicator that you take your job seriously. When you show your dedication and commitment to learning about health, your clients are also more likely to do so as well. Lead by example.


What’s confidence got to do with certification?

Not only does your client need to feel confident about you. YOU need to feel confident in yourself.

Natalie Johnson (MS, ACSM, AFAA, Cooper) of Population Health Consultants has supervised many fitness coaches, PT’s and instructors over the years. She says “certification provides professionals with consistent education so that employers/clients can be confident in their knowledge and skill.

Cathleen Kronemer (AFAA, NSCA) points out that certification is just one piece of the puzzle. “I feel confident being able to present ‘a total package’ to clients: experience on the job, experience as a bodybuilder, and knowledge based upon science. Anyone can get hands-on experience, but being able to put certification-earned science to work for clients means a tremendous amount.

Coakley says, “my certification gave me the confidence to develop programs for my first clients without the fear that I was missing something or that I could be potentially negligent.

That brings us to the topic of liability.


It’s easy to overlook this concern until you find yourself in a sticky situation. Just ask Charles.

Charles DeFrancesco (NFPT, NASM, AFPA) owner of Fit and Functional. “You can kiss your job and assets goodbye if you hurt someone and are not certified. The jury will automatically be against you and it is always the first thing a lawyer asks for.

Tonya Jameson feels the same. “The certification shows my insurer that I am professionally trained.

Injuries and fitness lawsuits don’t always make the 5 o’clock news, but they happen more often than you may realize. Being certified demonstrates that you take your role seriously and are aware that physical fitness training requires a certain level of knowledge. It shows clients that you care enough to have the education required to keep them safe.

Liability is all about risk vs. benefit. Don’t put yourself or others in danger.

“I’m currently working with an instructor who’s teaching spin, but she’s not certified. She has riders doing things that in a certification course she’d learn are huge No No’s because those movements could get them injured.” ~ Theresa Perales

Here’s another way to look at it…

3 Risks of Not Being Certified
1. You perform a contraindicated exercise and injure a client.
2. A gym won’t hire you.
3. Other personal trainers don’t take you seriously.

3 Rewards of Being Certified
1. Peace of mind that you have an adequate amount of knowledge to help others safely.
2. Ease of landing a dream job because you’ve got the right credentials.
3. Respect and recognition that you’re a true professional.


Frank Campitelli (NFPT), Robert Bovee (NFPT, RTS ) and David Brancato, ND all talked about the importance of professionalism in the fitness industry. Other fitness professionals expect you to be certified.

“It’s as simple as this,”says Bovee,” without quality certifications we wouldn’t have an industry to work in at all. Period.”

Certification is what transforms a hobby into a career.

A private client may not ask to see proof of education or certification, but most of them expect it at some level. An employer is a different story.


Employment is almost impossible without an NCCA approved certification (which means it’s met rigorous credentialing requirements).

The best fitness job opportunities come and go quickly. If you’re not certified, it can take several weeks or months to study and pass a test. You want to be ready to compete for any job opportunity that arises.

The education that I got during my NFPT certification has built the foundation for a very successful personal training career. Being certified by a reputable company helps you stand out from the competition and makes you much more hire-able than those without that higher level of fitness education”, says Mike Kneuer, NFPT-CPT.

Tanisha Rule, a fitness writer adds, “You’ll have the credentials to open doors by showing employers that you take your career seriously, and by showing clients that you have what it takes to be trusted with their fitness, safety, and well-being.”


Certification often includes a membership with the certifying agency’s community. That membership has its perks. “It associates you with the brand of the organization with which you were certified through.” says Jessica Thiefels (ACE, NASM) of Honest Body Fitness.

There is a large support system behind each certification company for you to take advantage of. Erin Nitschke (PhD, NSCA, ACE) points out, “Obtaining an accredited certification elevates your level of professionalism and provides you access to thousands of well-researched tools and resources to support your practice.”

Membership may come with financial perks as well. An NFPT certification comes with a complimentary 6 month membership to IDEA. A discounted membership with the Medical Fitness Network is available as is a discount on liability insurance.

Not all organizations view you as just another number either. NFPT is a family owned company that values the relationships they have with their trainers. Opportunities to gain low-cost (sometimes free) education, contribute to the blog and teach are available for those that are eager. Support and advice is readily available from other NFPT trainers via a private Facebook group.

Certification is the foundation of a successful fitness career, but passing a test is just the beginning. Many opportunities are ahead. Take this great set of tools and get started.


Learn More About Personal Trainer Certification