How To Certify As A Fitness Instructor
Posted by SSGT Nichols

One of my civilian professional qualifications is that of a Certified Personal Trainer. Becoming a fitness instructor and leading groups of clients is a great career to pursue for veterans of the military. You have the chance to impact lives on a large scale in your local community.  Our nation is seeking solutions to the problem of obesity and poor physical health.  You can be part of that solution.

The best fitness professionals positively encourage their clients to live happier, healthier lives.  Many clients, when they first decide to join a fitness program, are often depressed, dissatisfied with their bodies, and lack general knowledge about health. Clients depend on their fitness instructors to provide the right information and proper guidance. There is no room for fitness instructors who abuse their place of trust or take advantage of their clients.

As a fitness instructor, it is a privilege to be entrusted with the health and welfare of another person.  As a leader, you most uphold yourself to the highest standard and set the example for all of your clients.  Always stay in the best shape possible and never appear in public poorly dressed or unkempt. Your goal should be to see individuals living healthy, full lives. Remember, everyone is different and the definition of healthy and fit varies from person to person. Helping clients get to their goals must be your focus and commitment.

Qualifying As A Fitness Instructor

In order to become a fitness instructor, you need to obtain certain professional qualifications and take other key steps.

1. Certified Personal Trainer (CPT): this certification has to be from an organization that is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) which operates under the auspices of the National Organization for Competency Assurance (NOCA). This is the gold standard achievement for fitness and allied health professions.

2. First Aid | CPR | AED: a bi-annual (every 2 years) certification course so that if certain emergencies occur during training, you are prepared to respond.

3. IDEA Health & Fitness Association: membership gives you access to the largest fitness network in the world with many training and education resources and access to liability insurance.

4. Fitness and Wellness Insurance: a mandated insurance policy needed to teach fitness classes and help protect against liability for client injury.

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Certified Personal Trainer (CPT)

My certification is through the National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT) (  NFPT provides you the necessary NCCA accreditation.  The NFPT Standard Training Package includes study reference guides, supplemental educational material, and the Personal Fitness Trainer Certification Preparation Manual.  Unless you have already qualified as a personal fitness trainer with NFPT or another nationally recognized certifying body, the first step is completing this certification course and passing the NFPT fitness trainer exam.

First Aid / CPR / AED

The other major qualification needed as a personal trainer is First Aid, CPR and AED.  This course is provided by the Red Cross. First Aid teaches the basics of initially responding to injury.  CPR is an emergency manual response to cardiac arrest or respiratory distress. AED instructs on the use of mechanical defibrillator devices for irregular heartbeat or cardiac arrhythmia. You must re-certify Red Cross First Aid/CPR/AED every two years.

IDEA Health and Fitness Association

The IDEA Health and Fitness Association ( is the world’s leading organization of fitness professionals.  Joining this association helps you gain credibility in the fitness industry and will also give you access to purchasing proper fitness general liability insurance (GLI).

Fitness Trainer General Liability Insurance

GLI helps protect you against liability in the event a client gets injured. GLI provides basic coverage of $1,000,000 per occurrence on a $3,000,000 aggregate policy. Your IDEA Health and Fitness Association membership will give you access to purchasing GLI from the Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Company.

Continuous Education and Master Trainer

Once you achieve initial proficiency as a fitness instructor, you need to keep your qualifications current through Continuous Education. You have to complete a certain amount of hours of Continuing Education Credits (CECs) annually.  This validates your continued competencies in the fitness industry. Those CECs can be completed directly through NFPT or IDEAFIT and will have to be submitted upon renewal of your CPT accreditation. The Red Cross requires re-certification of your First Aid | CPR| AED every two years.

At some point, you want to consider furthering your qualifications through a Master Trainer program.  Even though it is not required, advanced courses help distinguish your abilities in a competitive field.  Three courses that I personally recommend are Fitness Nutrition, Endurance Training, and Resistance Training.

It Should Be Fun

Like everything in life, becoming a fitness instructor is something you should enjoy. When you teach clients, your class must be fun, motivational and friendly.  Your clients expect an environment where they look forward to showing up and having a good time, but also getting challenged.  When leading any class, your enthusiasm and positive motivation should be what clients most remember.

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