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What Are the Different Fitness Instructor Qualifications?

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  • Written By: J. Beam
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 November 2016
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Fitness instructors are individuals who help others with fitness-related issues like weight loss and management, exercise and fitness training. There are a number of different fitness instructor certifications, including personal fitness instructor, group fitness instructor, lifestyle and weight management coach, and advanced health and fitness specialist. The qualifications for each type of certification vary, but typically require taking and passing an exam specifically designed for each type of certification.

Fitness instructor qualifications begin with the obvious: an interest in health and fitness and the desire to help other people reach their health and fitness goals. The most basic level of certification requires course completion and up-to-date certification in CPR and automated external defibrillator (AED). More advanced levels of certification may require college level courses or a minimum of an associate's degree in a health or fitness related field.

While fitness instructor qualifications may vary depending on the level of certification sought, other qualifications may be required by an employing agency. For example, the requirements to become a certified personal trainer are not as stringent as those required to become a certified performance enhancement specialist, or athletic trainer. Fitness instructor qualifications for advanced levels of certification may include either current lower-level certifications or a four-year degree in a related field. A combination of current certifications and education may be substituted for four-year degrees in some cases.

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Certified personal trainers, group fitness instructors, athletic trainers, and weight loss coaches may expand their fitness instructor qualifications to include degrees in physical or occupational therapy, sports medicine, nutrition, or physical education. These advanced qualifications may provide more employment opportunities such as working at hospitals, orthopedic and sports medicine facilities, or college or high school athletic departments. Individuals with lower level certifications not requiring specific degrees may still find employment in gyms and fitness centers, community centers, or may be self-employed.

The required fitness instructor qualifications will vary depending on the certifying agency and type of certificate desired, as well as desired place of employment. Prospective fitness instructors should make sure that any courses or exams taken meet the qualifications for certification accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) or the accrediting organization in a specific jurisdiction. This is the best way to ensure that an employing facility or institution recognizes the certification. Many fitness certifications require continuing education credits to maintain current qualifications. The more advanced the certification and education involved, the higher potential salaries are for the field.

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