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Certification in personal training – Where do I start???

by Jonathan Goodman | Follow on Twitter

Jon answers a readers question of where and how to start in the industry and what certifications are best.

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I am very interested in becoming a personal trainer but do not know where to start. On top of personal training I want to get a pilates certification and learn more about nutrition so I can offer my clients as much knowledge as possible. I just don’t know where to start. What the best certification is. Should I get a degree in exercise science? I look forward to hearing from you!! – Heather L.


Thanks for the question Heather. If you haven’t checked them out yet, I recommend going over our Canadian and American certification charts:

best personal training certification : Canada

what is the best personal trainer certification? : United States

In it, I go over my opinion in detail of the certifications and an overview of the different types. In part 3 Sam Leahey speaks about the importance of internships. Part 4 is Charlotte Loa’s account of her time interning at one of the United States top gyms, Results Fitness.

Your question is a difficult one to answer. The first thing I recommend you do is answer the following questions.

1.     Is this your first career / how old are you?

2.     Is this a career choice

3.     What sorts of populations would you be looking to work with

4.     Do your future plans include owning a facility, writing, speaking / presenting, personal training, or group exercise (or a combination of a couple of these)

5.     Where does you current knowledge sit in terms of physiology / anatomy / exercise biomechanics

As you can imagine there are a number of different options. What I will say is that a personal trainer cert in no way will dictate how successful your career will be. Your best approach will always be to learn from the best attending seminars, workshops, reading and watching materials. Set yourself apart from the pack with your knowledge and dedication, not your cert.

Certification in personal training - setting yourself apart

Set yourself apart

Once you decide on a baseline certification (again, which one doesn’t really matter) make sure to find a job at a gym that offers lots of support for new trainers. Look for one where you won’t feel like another number. You must have a good connection with management and they must provide educational opportunities or an education fund.

In terms of other designations (Pilates / nutrition etc.). They may act as a good supplement but aren’t needed and I would be weary of spreading yourself too thin at the beginning. Focus on being a great trainer while maintaining a good knowledge of nutrition. Remember that your scope is to follow the healthy food guide in your area. If a client requires any knowledge beyond that find nutritionists or dietitians in your area to send them too. Creating a great inter-professional collaborative team is paramount to your success.

I hope that helps. Please don’t hesitate to send along any questions for our coaches,
-Jon Goodman (

About the Author
Jonathan Goodman

Jonathan Goodman is the creator and head coach of the PTDC and has a distaste for third person bios ... Hey, I'm Jon and I'd have to say that this site is pretty awesome. Thanks for being here. If you're interested in my brand new book, it's called Ignite the Fire (revised, updated, and expanded). My team and I have also created the first Academy and certification for online trainers. Click here to check out the Online Trainer Academy.