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What Certification in Personal Training Should You Get?

what certification should i get

by Jonathan Goodman | Follow on Twitter

P erhaps the most common question that I get is:

Which certification in personal training should I get?

It’s an important and loaded question that could alter your career path.  To help you decide which certification in personal training is best I’ve decided to do a 4-part series.

Part 2 will be a description of the major personal training certifying bodies

Part 3 will be Sam Leahey’s thoughts on internships and how to take advantage of them

Part 4 will be Charlotte Loa recounting her experiences at Results Fitness as an intern

If you want a chart comparing the different Canadian personal training certifications click here

If you want a chart comparing the different American personal training certifications click here


My Journey

L ike many young trainers in Canada I did a Google search for personal trainer certification and came across the Can Fit Pro designation. It is the still the largest Canadian certifying body around.

Can Fit Pros advantage in being so large is that they offer great workshops and conferences. In addition, the courses are offered often and are easily accessible. Their personal training designation is a great way to get started in the Canadian Fitness industry.

I signed up, paid the fee, attended two weekends of personal training courses and wrote the test. Upon passing the next step was to bring in an example client where I would take them through an example workout. After I passed that phase of the process I was certified.

When deciding on what certification in personal training is right for you the first thing to keep in mind is that personal training certifications are a business. and a lucrative one at that. You should decide what certification meshes the closest with your philosophy. In addition, the different certifications require varying levels of background knowledge and study. Make sure that you’re up to the challenge if you decide to apply for a more difficult one but keep in mind:


What’s also worth mentioning is that personal fitness training world is unregulated in Canada. That means that trainers technically don’t have to be certified. That having been said, most gyms insurance plans won’t cover trainers without a nationally recognized certification in personal training.

Certification in Personal Training can be frustrating

The industry has now grown beyond the basic fitness trainer. More and more side certifications seem to be appearing for everything from athletic trainer to exercise physiologist to personal fitness correspondents to older adult specialists etc.

Getting certified for the sake of collecting pieces of paper and having letters behind your name is not advised as your clients won’t know the difference.

What you should keep in mind is that personal training certifications open doors. Can Fit Pro, CPTN and CSEP all serve as effective certifications in personal training as they act as ways to get started in Canada. In the USA there exists a plethora of certifications for personal trainers. The benefit of being certified with a large agency is they offer workshops, webinars, symposiums, and conferences to help you further you knowledge. In part 2, I’ll list some of the major certification bodies I’m familiar with and some of the differences between them.

As I said, my initial certification in personal training was the Can Fit Pro PTS.  For 3 years I held onto it and still attend the conference as often as I can. Not only do I gain valuable information from the workshops that I attended but I was also pointed in the right direction for my own research.

I encourage you to take advantage of any conferences in your area. Don’t just take the talks at face value.

Check out the speaker’s reference list or, better yet, recommended resources if available. Conferences also act as the best place to network. For tips on how to be the best networker out there check out Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi.

I have since dropped my Can Fit Pro PTS designation in favour of the NSCA CSCS (certified strength and conditioning specialist). I did some research and found that the CSCS followed more closely with my personal interests. It’s more oriented towards athletic performance and the monthly research journal is a great resource. In addition the certification comes with an amazing textbook.

Clients will not know (or usually care) about your certification. Therefore they don’t understand the difference between a high level certification in personal training costing a lot of time and money compared with a low level one. What got me success early on in my training career was getting clients results. They didn’t care what my certification was. In fact, I can’t remember the last time a client asked me if I even held a certification.

You can read Part 2 of “What Certification in Personal Training should I get” where I go over some differences of the major certs here .

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About the Author

As the creator and head coach of thePTDC, I'd have to say that this thing is pretty awesome. If you're interested in my brand new book, it's called Ignite the Fire (revised, updated, and expanded) . Feel free to come hang out on my Facebook page where I talk explore the perfect balance between fitness, business, and living an awesome and fulfilling life.

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