How To Get Certified As A Personal Trainer In California


Most people view personal trainers as having one goal: getting clients into shape. But in reality, the job of a personal trainer is much more complicated than that. On top of helping their clients establish healthy habits and planning work-outs, certified personal trainers have an extensive understanding of exercise physiology, nutrition, anatomy, biomechanics and kinesiology. They also have specialized knowledge in injury prevention and developing comprehensive programs for individuals with acute or chronic physical conditions. Becoming a certified personal trainer means studying for and passing a credentialing exam and signing up for professional liability insurance. To become a certified personal trainer in California, here are the steps you need to take:

Requirements for Becoming a Certified Personal Trainer in California

In order to become certified as a personal trainer in California, you must pass one of the approved educational tests that is provided by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). The NSCA offers exams on several different topics within personal training such as exercise science, nutrition, injury prevention, fitness assessment, and program design. In addition to these topics, there are also specialty certifications which cover more specific and specialized areas of expertise.

The NSCA exam is an open book test meaning that applicants are allowed to bring and use their notes while taking the exam. Questions typically consist of multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank formats. This exam is offered both online and in person so applicants can choose their preferred testing method. Once the exam has been successfully completed, the applicant will receive a Certificate of Competency issued by the National Strength and Conditioning Association signifying that they have met the requirements for certification.

Choosing the Right Course

Online Course: A convenient and cost-effective way to become certified is to take an online course. Online courses provide the flexibility of studying at your own pace, anytime and anywhere. In most cases, you will be required to complete a combination of reading assignments, video lectures, quizzes, practical exercises, and an applicant must pass a final multiple-choice exam. Typically these courses are self-paced but make sure to check with your instructor about any time requirements for completion before signing up for the program.

Certificate Program: Certificate programs can be completed in as little as one semester or as long as two years depending on the institution offering the certification. It is best to research available certificate programs in California which include nationally accredited organizations such as American Council on Exercise (ACE) and International Sports Science Association (ISSA). Some certificate programs require a certain amount of supervised or unsupervised work experience in addition to classes and internships.

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In-Person Training: If you prefer in-person training sessions with certified instructors rather than online courses, there are many options available. For example, local training centers often offer comprehensive courses designed for individuals who want an intensive method of learning without having to attend college classes. Additionally, some conventional colleges may offer physical education certificates specifically designed for personal trainers who wish to work with clients on an individual basis or within professional sports organizations. When researching this option it is important to make sure the curriculum meets national standards and requirements set by ACE and ISSA

Preparing for the Certification Exam

Prior to taking the personal trainer certification exam in California, it is important to properly prepare. Scheduling practice exams can be a great way to help ensure readiness and success on the actual exam day. Practice tests are helpful to gauge one’s level of preparedness and determine if there are any topics that require further study. Additionally, research should be conducted for study materials that may be useful in preparing for the exam. Educational books specific to personal training are often a good source of information, as well as online resources like forums or websites run by certified personal trainers willing to answer questions about the industry and testing process. Finally, ensuring plenty of rest before test day will reduce anxiety levels and increase confidence going into the exam. With careful planning and preparation, obtaining a personal trainer certification in California will be successful!

Remaining Certified

Continuing education credits (CECs) are required to maintain your certification as a personal trainer in California. CECs help ensure you stay up to date on industry standards, products, procedures and methods. There are a variety of programs available; such as professional seminars, workshops, conventions, and webinars offered through organizations like the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA) and the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

You can also pursue additional certifications or specializations to demonstrate additional expertise. The NSCA offers specialty certifications in areas like sports nutrition, performance enhancement training, strength and conditioning specialist, among others. ACE offers specialty certifications in areas such as medical exercise specialist, strength and conditioning coach, orthopedic exercise specialist, wellness coach and more. You may also choose to become certified in other activities such as yoga or Pilates instruction. These certifications help keep you current with modern fitness trends and methodologies. No matter what program or specialization you choose for continuing education credits its important to remember that your priority should always be helping your clients reach their goals safely and efficiently through knowledge-based programming

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Additional Resources


• National Strength and Conditioning Association – The NSCA offers mentoring services for both aspiring personal trainers and current professionals who need guidance in the field.

• American College of Sports Medicine – ACSM provides resources to improve knowledge of health, exercise science, and nutrition with mentorships from experienced and certified professionals.

Professional Development Opportunities:

• Fitness Mentors – This company specializes in providing online certificates that help individuals become certified personal trainers in California.

• International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) – ISSA is an online school for fitness professionals that provides courses for those wishing to gain certification as a personal trainer in California.

• Institute Nation – This institute specializes in providing state-approved certifications within a positive community of fitness instructors, coaches, therapists and other fitness professionals.

State-Specific Medical Laws Related To Personal Training:

• California State Department of Consumer Affairs – Relevant information on laws and regulations related to the practice of personal training can be found on this government website.

• Personal Trainer Certification Requirements within California – This page outlines minimum education requirements, types of approved certifications, training fees, background check fees and more associated with obtaining licensure as a personal trainer in California.


Obtaining certification as a personal trainer in the state of California is an incredibly attainable goal that requires a commitment to continuing education. Becoming certified will not only benefit your clients, but it can also open up a world of professional opportunities. With the proper training and focus, you can become a qualified personal trainer in California and start building toward a rewarding career. So don’t wait any longer – take the first step now and begin working toward becoming an certified personal trainer in California. Your future self won’t regret it!

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