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How To Get Started As A Strength Coach or Personal Trainer

My advice to a colleague and anyone looking to become a Personal Trainer, based on my personal experiences...

I started my in-home personal training business in March 2006 and it's been doing pretty well so far. You obviously have to get your name out there and find your own clients which is tough but it gets easier after you've built up a clientele and reputation. I've been certified by the ISSA as a Certified Fitness Trainer and Specialist in Performance Nutrition for almost 7 years now. They aren't the best certifications but they served me well and will get you a job at pretty much 98% of gyms and health clubs. Last year I got my NSCA CSCS and CPT certification which are obviously superior and they are accepted absolutely everywhere. I would say the CSCS is the gold standard since only college graduates can get it.

If you are looking to be a college or semi-pro strength and conditioning coach, you obviously need the CSCS. There are tons of colleges in the area, I'm sure you could find a job somewhere if that is what you wanted to focus on. Pay is pretty bad from what I hear as a strength coach, and the hours can be extremely long. You reeaaally have to love what you do and love training athletes.

If you want to be a personal trainer, you technically don't need any certifications! I would say less than half of the trainers out there have an active certification. You are already ahead of the game having a college degree in exercise physiology or health science, i forget what you finished with. Having certifications makes you more marketable and may help you get a job quicker but it isn't a necessity at a lot of gyms and health clubs. I would still recommend getting your CSCS to cover all your bases and make you a stronger candidate.

There are 2 major options for being a personal trainer from the start. You can work at a Fitness Together, Getting In Shape For Women, or Fitcorp type setting where you don't have to pick up your clients, the owner/manager sells all the client packages and you just worry about training the clients. This is easier to do when starting out but you don't learn as much or have as much control. The other option is to work at a Gold's Gym, Boston Sports Club, etc where you only get paid on commission pretty much and you need to find your own clients. It takes an investment in time to get your clientele and you might not get paid much at first but in the long run you will probably make more money. You also learn how to sell a lot better. Going completely solo like me can be done anytime but I would recommend learning the ropes at another gym first.

I started out working at YMCA's when I was 17 and did floor hours, new member orientations, cleaning, free training sessions, and substituted for other trainers that went on vacation. If worst came to worst, you could always get a lot of hours or a full time job at the YMCA. There are plenty of old and lazy people at Y's and you might even be given some clients right off the bat. 

Don't get hung up on certifications, send out the applications/resumes, practice training friends/family/neighbors, and get some work experience in for cash, at least part time. Learn as much as you can about fitness and nutrition.

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