In a previous article, I showed you the top personal training certifications in the United States. You can see how they differ in cost, time commitment, and continuing education requirements.
But if you’re a Canadian resident considering a career in personal training, you have a few additional considerations. You’ll find them all here, along with a handy chart comparing six personal training certifications in Canada.
Who cares about a personal trainer certification in Canada?
Your clients don’t. Employers might. (Quick tip: Know where you want to work? Call and ask about certification preferences.) But I’ll tell you who probably does care, and that’s insurance companies.
If you want to work as a personal trainer, you’ll need liability insurance. (And don’t just count on your employer’s umbrella plan, either.) A certification helps you get that coverage. And a Canadian certification can help you get that coverage in Canada.
With an American certification, you may have a harder time finding coverage, or pay hundreds to thousands more for it, says Lucinda Jensen, cofounder of Certified Professional Trainers Network (CPTN), one of Canada’s main certifying bodies. (The PTDC's Online Trainer Academy is an approved continuing-education course for CPTN and for Canadian Fitness Professionals, or Canfitpro.)
"It’s like car insurance," says Jensen. "If you have a Canadian driver’s license and you move to the states, you’re not going to get any coverage for your car until you transfer your license to an American license."
What’s more, Canada has different medical standards and practices, which American certifications may not teach. For example, Canadian trainers are required under insurance rules to administer the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q) to clients every year, says Jensen. Not so in the United States.
Canadian programs are also more likely to offer hands-on training, while the American equivalents tend to be online-only for international students. In fact, nearly all the Canadian certifications require not just a theory exam but a practical assessment as well. You need to demonstrate, in person, how to deliver client protocols.
And there’s something to be said for local support. “We have a network of local experts across Canada,” says Barb Pontes, certification manager for Canfitpro. “There’s probably someone in your neighborhood who can help you get started.”
Are personal trainer certifications accredited in Canada?
Like other countries, Canada has no laws regulating the standards of personal training. Your 90-year-old grandma could call herself a personal trainer. But unlike the U.S., Canada has no third-party agencies to accredit certifications, which helps to weed out the questionable ones.
“In Canada, we have a different history with accreditation,” says Pontes. “We don’t have as many certifying bodies. We all know each other. We try to hold each other accountable. At the end of the day, we all want better-qualified fitness professionals.”
Why are there so few personal trainer certifications in Canada?
Fewer people, for one thing. Although Canada has similar land mass to the U.S., it has just 37 million people. That’s 2 million fewer than California, and about 11 percent of the U.S. population.
Many individual provinces have regional certifications, in particular a number of providers under the National Fitness Leadership Alliance (NFLA). They’re recognized within the province and may be transferrable to other regions.
Which personal training certification in Canada is best?
Wrong question. What you need to be asking is, which one is right for you? Let’s take a closer look at each.
Canadian Fitness Professionals (Canfitpro)
With some 24,000 members, Canfitpro is the nation’s largest certifying body. Most students go with one of two options: The exam challenge ($508) includes the course manual, online resources, and both the written and practical exams. The full course ($682) includes all that plus a live course. Take advantage of the early-bird rate and save $35.
Canadian Fitness Education Services (CFES)
The organization is more than 35 years old, and its personal trainer certification has been around since 2011. The six-week course ($900) includes 40 hours in the classroom and another 20 hours of hands-on training, plus a written exam and practical skills assessment. Before you can sign up for it, you’ll have to take the Fitness Knowledge and Weight Training Instructor courses first.
Certified Professional Trainers Network (CPTN)
As Canada’s oldest personal trainer certification (launched in 1994), CPTN set the standard, and with a slew of trainer-focused specialty certs, its focus hasn’t strayed far. A live four-day prep course ($559) gets you up to speed. Study as long as you like before taking the written exam ($232). Then you have six months to log 20 hours of training and take the practical assessment ($125).
Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP)
With roots dating back to 1967, the CSEP offers personal trainer certification to those with at least two years of college study who can pass its written exam ($160) and practical assessment ($150 to $250). Step one is to apply online for eligibility. Once you’re approved, take up to a year to study (you can get a resource manual and practical skills review sessions). Once you complete one exam, you’ll have six months to take the other. The order you do them is up to you.
Founded in 2008, this biannual women-only certification has a broad focus (ha). The three-month course ($1,999) covers fitness, nutrition, wellness, and business. Fail any of the course’s three exams, and you can retake it up to three times, at no charge. Save $200 by registering early.
Earn a diploma, not a certification, with this 12-week live program ($5,990), which is designed to prepare you for any number of certification exams (ACE, NSCA, ACSM). Expect a whopping 300 instructional hours, 120 hours of homework, two written exams, and two practical-skills evaluations. If you happen to fail (not likely, considering the 98 percent pass rate), you may be able to retake the course for about $500. Fast-track and home-study options are available too ($1,400 to $2,400).
Top Personal Training Certification Comparison Chart
What’s the average salary of a personal trainer in Canada?
The average personal trainer in Canada earns about $40,000 a year, according to Glassdoor. But don’t count on that straight out of the gate.
According to Jensen, many trainers make less: about $15 to $30 an hour, or closer to $32,000 a year.
How many personal trainers are there in Canada?
Good question. The fitness industry employs upwards of 70,000 people, according to IBIS World.
But no good estimates exist for personal trainers alone. Jensen’s best guess: 15,000 to 20,000.
What is the best personal trainer insurance in Canada?
Canfitpro partners with Gallagher to provide members with insurance at a discounted price.
And all Infofit grads can be covered for a competitive rate under Metrix.
Look for professional liability insurance, and expect to pay about $150 to $500 a year.
One perk of the CSEP certification: Insurance is included.
How much money can you make as a personal trainer in Canada?
Depends, says Jensen. Good trainers average $40,000 or more. But those with multiple income streams (online training, products, affiliate programs, books) can bank six or even seven figures. Aim big!