No state or federal licensing requirements exist for personal trainers, including in Illinois. There also are no certification criteria, although most personal trainers obtain certification in order to find jobs within the fitness industry. Most gyms, fitness clubs and other training facilities require certification, usually a program accredited by an organization like the National Board of Fitness Examiners, or NBFE, and the National Federation of Personal Trainers. All certification is voluntary and no state recognizes certification companies in any official capacity, according to an NHE (National Health Educators) website.
Why Get Certified?
In order to work in a fitness center or other training facility, most companies require certification. Programs are available for personal trainer certification, as well as for related areas like weight training, aerobics, sports nutrition, yoga and Pilates. A common path is obtaining personal trainer certification and then pursuing specialized training certification according to clientele needs. Private or contract personal trainers often seek certification as a means of establishing and demonstrating their qualifications to potential clients.
Beware of training programs that promise "nationally recognized" accreditation programs, "state-certified programs" or similar claims. As mentioned, there are no government-sanctioned personal trainer programs. Accreditation is provided by myriad organizations, some national in scope and others are simply single fitness centers that provide their own personal training classes. Unless offered through a community college or other educational institution, where tuition assistance may be available, personal training courses cost money. Written exams normally are required upon completion of courses in order to receive "certification." Make sure to do your homework before deciding on an "accredited" program. Call local fitness clubs or potential employers and ask about which certification organizations they recognize.
According to its website, the NBFE "was established to provide the fitness industry with a nationally standardized written and practical examination for fitness professionals." The organization also addresses potential and pending legislation that would require certification or licensing at the state or federal levels. The NBFE's goal is to promote a nationally recognized standard testing and certification system. Some states --- including Georgia, Maryland and New Jersey, as of 2008 --- have legislation pending regarding personal trainer licensing. In-fighting among scattered fitness and personal trainer accreditation groups also has heated up, according to the website "IDEA Health & Fitness Association."
Personal Trainer Programs
An Internet search reveals hundreds of companies that offer personal trainer courses, most with the self-described status of "accredited" and the promise of "certification." Do a bit of research before choosing. Know what you'd like to do --- working for a fitness center or being a personal consultant, for example --- then tailor your program to meet your goals. Courses can be as short as a few weeks or as long as a year or more, and prices vary widely. For instance, Expert Rating Personal Training Certification offers a personal trainer course --- available in all states and online. Many potential employers accept college course work in lieu of certification programs. An associate or bachelor's degree in a fitness-related field usually is adequate for employment.
NCSF --- the National Council on Strength & Fitness --- offers programs in six Illinois cities: Carterville, Champaign, Chicago, Lombard, Peoria and Springfield. The National Personal Training Institute has Illinois locations in Chicago and the Naperville/Lisle area. The website "Starting a Personal Training Business" lists six locations in the Chicago area. All programs offer both on-site and online courses. You may want to begin your search by deciding on a certification organization and then seeking a personal trainer program that provides such certification.
- NHE: What You May Not Know About the Personal Trainer Certification "Accreditation" System
- NBFE: FAQs
- "IDEA"; Licensing Debate - Personal Trainers, Fitness Instructors; Ryan Halvorson; December 2008
- Expert Rating: Personal Training Certification
- NCSF: Personal Trainer Certification Exam Locations
- National Personal Training Institute: School Locations - Find the School Nearest You
- Starting a Personal Training Business: Personal Trainer Certification Chicago
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Fitness Workers
- ACE: Personal Trainer Certification Self-Study Course Bundles
- Personal Training Certification Information: How to Become a Personal Trainer
- Be-A-Trainer.com: Home
- AFAA: Scheduled Personal Trainer Certification Workshops For XENIA, Illinois
- NFPT: NFPT Personal Trainer Certification