Personal Trainer Certifications
Personal trainer certifications aren't the only credentials a serious fitness professional should have. There are many ways to develop a strong resume. In this article I'll let you know what's important and what's not.
Personal trainer certifications, particularly certified Personal Trainer (cPT), are a good base for starting a career as a personal trainer. Most gyms today ask for at least the cPT or a generically similar course when hiring. Generally speaking, gyms and PT studios that receive independent trainers won't ask for anything besides a monthly rent fee. But I recommend working for one (meaning, to be a staffed employee) if you're interested in training clients with many different types of goals (weight loss, weight gain, sport-specific, etc). You'll be acquiring a wealth of experience and getting a better sense of what your ideal customer should represent, while completing several certifications on their tab.
I got my first certification by correspondence through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), which is a popular organization clearly based in the US. Today, however, aspiring/existing personal trainers are going all out... completing university programs in fields such as exercise science, kinesiology, physiotherapy, etc. I don't think it's because they are interested in the subjects they are studying, but more so because they think clients will see their services as being more valuable in comparison to someone with very basic personal trainer certifications. I do believe that knowledge is power, but only if you use that knowledge. Ask yourself if the field of study inspires you and if applying it later on will be worthwhile before dedicating four (or more) years of your life to it.
Another route you can take is enroll in courses complementary to fitness, like massage therapy for example. These are certifications that are usually much more expensive than the cPT or related courses (eg: Nutrition, wellness, and group fitness courses). This is because an instructor gives the course plus it takes more time to complete (given the in-depth studies required). Another and probably more notable reason is that profitability is high. Everyone wants or could use a massage but not every trainer knows how to give one. Although this may complement your personal training services, make sure it's something you see yourself doing beforehand.
I'd say that more than 90% of potential clients will NOT ask you what credentials are under your name. Most personal trainers operating in the same vicinity, on the other hand, will want to know what your fitness education background is (in detail). Why? Because they see you as one thing only - their competitor and a threat. Unfortunately, they think that a portfolio of numerous personal trainer certifications and/or university degrees in itself will determine their success. Thankfully, you already know that this is very, very far from the truth.
To secure your spot as the go-to guy for fitness excellence, you have to develop your most important credentials. They are the results you bring your clients, which drive word-of-mouth marketing. Even if you currently have only one client, give him/her the best possible workout every time and help that person to consistently improve in the most efficient way you know how. One client will convert to 2, and then 4, and then 16, and so on. It really is exponential. Some clients prefer to keep their main tool for getting in shape (that's you) a secret. Still, people in the gym/studio will see you training your client along with the positive changes s/he is experiencing... and attribute it to you. They'll then want to set up a first appointment.
Testimonials are proof that your services work. You won't have to focus on sales so much if you concentrate on the task at hand, which is helping your clients reach their goals. For those of you who are interested in becoming certified, organizations such as the ISSA, ACE, ACSM, and Can-Fit-Pro (for Canadian fitness professionals) allow you the benefit of earning your personal trainer certifications completely online, from the comfort of your own home and at your own pace. The option of attending in-person courses locally is also available, and may offer slightly more guidance & support.