A qualified and properly trained personal trainer can create and maintain a safe and effective exercise regimen for a multitude of clients. The American College of Sports Medicine reports that there are many certifications available -- especially online -- that are not credible or nationally accredited. Many of the most recognized certifications require a health-related degree from an accredited university or college. Working with an under-qualified instructor could risk your safety. Always ask your trainer about his education and certifications. If you are pursuing a career in personal training, consider certifications with ACSM, NSCA, ACE and AFAA.
NSCA CSCS and CPT
The National Strength and Conditioning Association offers certification to exercise science professionals. The NSCA offers the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist certification and the Certified Personal Trainer certification. The CSCS certification is for professionals who work in commercial or community health and fitness facilities who implement safe and effective strength and conditioning programs. The prerequisites for the CSCS exam is a bachelor's degree in any field from an accredited university and a current CPR certification.
ACSM HFS and CPT
The American College of Sports Medicine is the professional association that oversees certification for individuals in preventative and rehabilitative exercise programs. The scope of practice for health and fitness candidates is in corporate, commercial or community settings with apparently healthy individuals. The HFS certification can lead group programs, perform fitness testing, be a personal trainer and administer health education programs. ACSM is the certifying body for clinical, health and fitness certifications. Exams are determined by experts from a variety of disciplines in exercise science who function under the direction of the ACSM Committee on Certification and Education. To qualify for the HFS certification -- which the ACSM states is its advanced personal training certification -- you must have an associate's or bachelor's degree in a health-related field from an accredited university, and beginning July 2011 you must have a bachelor's degree in kinesiology, exercise science or exercise-based degree. The CPT certification requires a high school degree. Both require current CPR certification.
The American Council on Exercise offers a personal training certification, group fitness instructor certification and a weight management consultant certification. Though there are no education requirements, you must have a current CPR and AED certification to be eligible for the written, multiple choice exam. According to Stanley P. Brown, author of "Introduction to Exercise Science," the exam's content is created by a committee of experts who performed research with 2,000 fitness professionals.
The Aerobic and Fitness Association of America's personal training certification requires a bachelor's degree in the exercise science field and a current CPR certification. Brown notes that this organization's board, which responsible for the content of the examination, is not recognized by the National Committee of Certifying Agencies. The positive side of this certification is that you know your instructor has graduated with a degree in the exercise science field. This certification may not expand into the clinical wellness area of the field, but is a solid certification for commercial fitness training and personal training.