People often lament about the lack of regulation in the field of personal training. I agree that it is odd that it is much harder to become a massage therapist, a nail technician or even a bartender then it is to become a personal trainer. Clients usually have no idea how easy it is to become a “certified” personal trainer and I know of no other industry where you can self-study for a few months and then starting charging people $60-100/hour right off the bat.
It is true that there is very little external regulation of the fitness industry. But that doesn’t mean there can’t be any self-regulation. Just because an arbitrary law has set minimal qualifications doesn’t mean you can’t raise the standard. Yes, almost anybody with a couple of hundred bucks and decent reading ability can become a personal trainer after a few months of self-study, without setting foot in a gym. But who says that is the way it should be?
To me it is simple. Those in the industry, those that understand how important education and qualification really are, should set their own standard for what is acceptable. And to me it is an easy solution. What if this was the industry standard?
Any fitness professional in a hiring capacity should look to only hire new trainers that have earned a diploma or a degree in personal training/fitness or a related field.
By applying that one litmus test hiring companies will greatly raise the bar for entry level positions into the fitness world. True, the sheer number of applicants for any given job is likely to decrease, but the goal isn’t to have a 100 underqualified people apply to a job; the goal is to get one good qualified person in the role. I believe doing this would greatly reduce turnover in personal training, which is a significant problem for most fitness companies; and it would significantly improve the retention rate of clients – which in my opinion is the single most important measure of a personal trainer’s ability.
If this was implemented almost overnight you would see a shift in the world of personal training. Companies would no longer be able to fill jobs where they charge clients $80/hour but they only pay the trainer $15/hour because no one with formal education will find that arrangement acceptable. But in return you have employees that are looking for a career – 5 years later they are still with the company with a full book of clients - and ultimately both the company and the trainer will significantly benefit from that arrangement.
Do note the suggestion is that this guideline applies to new personal trainers. I am not suggesting any current personal trainers lose their job; if you have made it in the industry so far good for you. But if you want to break into the industry now, you want to set yourself apart from the rest of the pack. Indeed, because it is not currently mandated that personal trainers receive this type of education, those that do actually speak volumes about how much that trainer cares about their career. Trainers do not have to go to school and spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars on their education – they can take the easy way out. But the fact that they don’t – the fact that they want to learn the right way and they want to challenge themselves – think about what kind of an employee that person will become?
I think most would agree there is a need for greater regulation and higher education among personal trainers. That is not the standard today. But that doesn’t mean we have to accept the current standard. We can look to ourselves and we can hold others around us to a higher standard. If you want this job, this career, and this field to be held in the esteem it deserves as part of the health profession, then it is time to raise the bar.