1. Your college classes become way more interesting.
So much of the university experience can feel like it’s completely separate from the real world. But if you’re in exercise science or a related field, earning an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer® (ACSM-CPT) certification will help you translate what you’re learning in the classroom into practical tools for your daily life.
It could be as simple as practicing how to apply what you’ve learned in class to your own personal workout, or it could go much further — with an ACSM certification in hand, you can jumpstart your career by becoming a personal trainer, either at your university athletic facility or at a nearby gym, fitness studio or boutique. You'll be gaining valuable experience and earning money!
“After passing my ACSM-CPT exam, I made sure to get a training job right away. I couldn’t wait to go to my classes to learn something new to help my clients!”
2. You’ll be more marketable after college — and able to earn more.
Most employers are looking at three specific factors when choosing the candidate they’re going to hire: education, certifications and work experience. By making sure you’ve got all three on your résumé, you can feel confident that you’ll stand out from the crowd.
3. You’ll be able to dial in your educational track.
By becoming a certified personal trainer, you’ll get hands-on experience with the types of work you could do after you graduate, meaning you can see whether you prefer teaching group exercise classes, one-on-one sessions, circuit training, etc.
As a certified fitness instructor, you’ll get paid to experiment and learn about all these aspects of an exercise science and sports medicine career — all while still studying for your undergraduate degree. If you find you like or dislike certain styles of personal training, it’ll allow you to pivot in your studies and pursue the parts of the field that are more interesting to you.
For instance, Valentine says, “[A] classmate shared while working as a CPT he quickly learned he loved training older adults and those coming back from injury. He used his undergrad CPT job to build a strong application to get into his PT school of choice and is now a successful Doctor of Physical Therapy.”
4. You’ll learn soft skills — boosting your hireability.
Personal trainers spend a lot, if not most, of their time working directly with clients. Earning your CPT certification as an undergrad will give you the opportunity to hone your soft skills, giving you an edge against other job applicants once you graduate. If you can clearly and concisely explain exercises and complex movements to tired, (and occasionally unmotivated) people, you’ll be able to present yourself well and make your thoughts heard in any scenario.
Kristin Traskie, ACSM-CPT, EIM, is the Fitness & Wellness Program Coordinator for Michigan State University’s Student Health & Wellness Health Promotion division and the inaugural winner of ACSM’s Certified Professional of the Year Award. To her mind, “Common soft skills for a personal trainer role include interpersonal communication, flexibility/adaptability, empathy, problem-solving, conflict resolution and motivational skills. Having these skills will position you for success in an evolving world.”
One of the best reasons to become a personal trainer is that certified fitness instructors often get to work flexible hours, perfect for students who need to fit their work schedules around classes and study time. If you’re looking for a source of income while you’re still in school, it’s hard to beat the routinely flexible hours of a personal trainer.
Traskie recalls: “In college, I was able to train around my class schedule and extracurriculars. I trained at the campus recreation center and taught fitness classes at a local gym.”
Improving your own health. A final benefit of becoming a certified PT? You get to take everything you learn about health, exercise and nutrition and apply it to your own life. Every time you teach your clients, look up new exercise programming, or brush up on your nutrition knowledge, you reinforce these same things for yourself.
As Traskie says, “The advanced health, exercise and nutrition knowledge and skills you learn becoming and working as certified personal trainer will be valuable for your entire life. Not only will you be able to support others in achieving their health and fitness goals, but you can utilize the same knowledge and skills to achieve your goals.”
Ready to take the next step? Learn how to become an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer®.
Resource | ACSM Career Guide
Course | ACSM-CPT® Prep Course & Exam Bundle
Blog | 5 Skills of High Performers in the Fitness Industry
Louise Valentine, MPH, ACSM-EP, ACSM-CPT, ACSM-EIM II, CSCS, CHES, BCTMB is the 2023 American College of Sports Medicine Certified Professional of the Year. She owns Breaking Through Wellness, where she educates and empowers women ages 35 and beyond to maximize health, fitness and running despite changing hormones.
Kristin A. Traskie, M.P.H., ACSM-CPT, EIM is the fitness and wellness coordinator in the Health Promotion Department at Michigan State University (MSU). Traskie’s mission is clear: Create a culture of health and well-being on campus and in the surrounding community. In addition to ACSM certifications, she also holds certifications from several other organizations. She uses research-backed knowledge from those fitness certifications to create holistic wellness and movement opportunities. Her work through MSU’s Health Promotion Department, Exercise is Medicine® on Campus initiative, Well-Being Coalition and The SPARTANfit Fitness and Wellness Program is improving health outcomes and life satisfaction for students.