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Personal Trainer Degrees by Degree Program Level

Learn about degree programs that prepare students for careers in personal training. Find out about salary potential and professional certification for personal trainers.

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Essential Information

Personal trainers work with clients to improve their fitness levels. Those seeking to become personal trainers should pursue degrees in sports medicine, exercise science, kinesiology or physical education. Associate's, bachelor's and master's degrees in these areas are offered at many colleges and universities. Professional certification is available for personal trainers.


Personal Trainer Associate Degrees

The most common 2-year degree programs for aspiring personal trainers are associate's degrees in exercise science or in fitness and health. Upon completion of an associate's degree program, graduates may go on to work as personal trainers in gyms or other athletic associations or they may work as private trainers for individual clients. Graduates may also choose to go on to pursue a bachelor's degree in exercise science or a similar field of study.

Program Coursework

The curriculum of a 2-year degree program in exercise science consists mainly of introductory and fundamental courses in the following areas:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Fitness
  • First aid
  • Weight training
  • Aerobics
  • Athletic training
  • Nutrition

Popular Career Options

Graduates of an associate's degree program in exercise science or fitness and health are qualified to work in a variety of positions, in addition to being a personal trainer. Other positions in this field might include:

  • Aerobics instructor
  • Coach
  • Physical education teacher
  • Corporate fitness consultant
  • Youth sports coordinator

Personal Trainer Bachelor's Degrees

Students interested in personal training careers who are seeking a bachelor's degree will typically pursue this degree in the areas of exercise science, kinesiology or physical education. Personal trainers holding a bachelor's degree may specialize in weight loss programs, while others may work one-on-one with individual athletes or entire sports teams overseeing recommended physical routines. A personal trainer bachelor's degree program typically involves four years of coursework and practical training sessions that provide students with a firm background in human anatomy, wellness, nutrition, strength, physical fitness and more. Applicants to a personal training bachelor's degree program should have a high school diploma or equivalent.

Program Coursework

Courses focusing on exercise techniques, nutrition and health are most common in a 4-year degree program for personal trainers. Topics addressed in the typical curriculum of a bachelor's degree program include:

  • Human anatomy
  • Strength and conditioning
  • Sports and fitness nutrition
  • Theory of exercise
  • Fitness and health analysis
  • Weight management
  • Biomechanics

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Employment of fitness trainers and instructors, including personal trainers, is expected to increase by 24% between 2010 and 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) (www.bls.gov). This growth is due mainly to a continued increase in fitness awareness and participation, the BLS states. In May 2012, fitness trainers and aerobics instructors earned a median annual salary of $31,720, as reported by the BLS.

Personal Trainer Master's Degrees

While it is not necessary for personal trainers to earn graduate degrees, some master's degree programs in the field do exist. Graduate degree programs provide individuals with comprehensive knowledge of how the human body works and includes courses on human movement and functional anatomy. Students enrolled in a personal trainer master's degree program also learn how to design fitness programs and can go on to become athletic directors, physical education teachers and professional personal trainers.

Education Prerequisites

Interested students must typically hold a bachelor's degree in kinesiology, exercise science or a similar area before entering a master's degree program. Completion of undergraduate courses in physiology, anatomy, nutrition and fitness is recommended.

Program Coursework

  • Exercise physiology
  • Health program evaluation
  • Physical activity for the aged
  • Sport psychology
  • Applied kinesiology
  • Biostatistics
  • Epidemiology

Continuing Education Information

Many employers require that personal trainers become certified. Personal trainer certification is offered by a number of nonprofit health and fitness organizations. These organizations include the American Council on Exercise (ACE), (www.acefitness.org), National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), (www.nasm.org) and American Fitness Professionals & Associates (AFPA), (www.afpafitness.com).

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