Deciding to get a personal trainer license and own your own business has many benefits. Maybe you want to have more control over your work schedule or perhaps you're motivated to help others on their fitness journey.
Whatever your motivation for choosing to get a personal trainer license, we're here to help. Researching the process can take a lot of time and so we've done a good amount of work for you.
By the end of this article, you'll understand what you need to evaluate personal trainer programs, how to begin marketing your services, and which elements can help you protect your hard work.
Before digging in too deeply, know that there are a few basics you'll need to cover before starting the journey towards your personal trainer license.
You must be 18 years or older and have your high school diploma or GED.
Beyond that, you'll need a CPR certification, which includes AED (the use of an Automated External Defibrillator).
There are usually different options depending on your location, but The Red Cross offers both CPR and AED training. Look up which training may be available to you here.
There are many existing programs to choose from when deciding where to study for your personal trainer license. There are a few different aspects you may want to consider while deciding which program is best for you.
Each program takes a different amount of time, depending on the structure of the curriculum.
If you decide to take a self-study course, you'll most likely be able to complete your studies in a few months. If you're taking a course with an accredited program however, or if you're getting a degree, the process could take up to a couple years.
Different programs are evaluated differently and not all are accredited by an accreditation organization.
For example, many programs run by specific gym companies in-gym are not accredited. However, there are many programs to choose from that are accredited.
You can begin searching for a program on the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) website.
Some programs are taught exclusively online, some are in person, and others are a mix of self-study, online, and in-person training.
If you're curious to really delve into the career and have the resources, you may choose to seek a degree (such as a Bachelor's or Master's degree); some universities offer study tracts towards becoming a personal trainer or physical therapist.
Whichever program you decide on, be sure that the curriculum you study is accredited by the NCCA.
Which personal trainer program you choose will have a big influence on how you organize studying for your personal trainer license exam.
Many programs will require you to sign up for your exam when you sign up for the program, within a certain amount of time.
For example, NASM requires you complete their program within 6 months, whereas ACE requires you to schedule your exam date within 6 months of signing up and purchasing a program, but you can take the exam within 9 months.
Some programs, like the one offered at ACSM, have different options, allowing for 3, 6, 12, or 24-month options for length.
Remember, the body is a complex machine, and so you'll need to learn a good deal about how it works to help your clients. Consider giving yourself time to learn the intricacies of the profession.
During your studies, you may decide to specialize in one area or another, such as nutrition, athletics, orthopedics, sports medicine, medical, or others.
If you have an idea that you'd like to specialize ahead of time, see if the program you're considering has additional training for that area. Then, adjust your studying schedule accordingly.
Note: Some programs will require you to take the initial certification exam before specializing.
While you're required to have your personal trainer certification once you pass your exam, keep in mind that having your personal trainer license is different from having your business license for personal training.
Getting a business license may not be required in the state where you do business, but there are still great benefits to having one, including:
Having a business license for your personal trainer business, even if you're employed by a gym or larger corporation, is a great way to show clients and employers that you're serious about your business in the long term.
Some states may not require a business license, like we said, but your local government may have separate requirements for what's permitted.
You can check out Simply Business's Business License Hub to learn more about business license requirements in your state. Another resource may be the Small Business Administration (SBA) in your local area.
It's important to use resources that help you learn both the state and city requirements around having a personal trainer business license in your area.
Keep in mind that when getting your personal trainer business license in your state, you'll most likely have to report on the business name you chose and which tax structure you will use to file your taxes.
Don’t just assume that if your state doesn’t mention license requirements, you don’t need it -- also check with your city or town hall to verify that information and ensure you don’t run into legal trouble down the road.
The cost of the business license for your personal training business will differ depending on your state, as will the time it takes to receive your license. We recommend applying for your business license in advance if you suspect you'll need it before accepting work with a client.
Once you’ve applied for your business license, we recommend shifting gears and looking for personal trainer business insurance.
Business insurance for personal trainers protects your business from claims of third-party damages, accidents, property damage, or even negligence and copyright issues.
I know--you're just getting started. Why would you choose to protect your business now when you haven't even gained momentum?
Because 43% of businesses are at some point involved in a civil lawsuit. You may not think you've done anything wrong, but that's why it's called a claim. A client doesn't always need what you think is a legitimate reason to file a claim against your business.
Sometimes it's easier to show a client an exercise than to just tell them how to do the movement, so we've got some examples for you here, too. Here's how personal trainer business insurance may come into play for you:
Here's an instance where personal trainer business insurance could apply. A client injures their back and accuses you of not paying attention to their form.
After your training session, they decide to sue you, blaming the injury on your negligence. Even if you believe the claim is baseless, it will still cost money to hire a lawyer to defend your business.
That’s where your personal trainer professional liability insurance policy can come in handy, as it can help cover your legal costs, as well as any claims you may be ordered to pay.
Some employers (like gyms or corporate clients) may require you to have general liability insurance before deciding to work with you. While the gym can have general liability insurance, they may want to ensure there's extra coverage with your personal liability policy, in case a claim specifically involves you, rather than the gym as a whole.
This is likely also for private clients, too, though. Some clients you work with may want to know you have coverage before deciding to work with you.
Let's look at an example of general liability insurance being useful:
Say you’re hired to lead a corporate group exercise event. During the course of the on-site class, you accidentally knock over and break an expensive vase. An employee helps you to clean up and cuts their foot badly, requiring stitches.
Without business insurance, you’d be obligated to pay for that vase out of your pocket, which might require dipping into your personal finances. Beyond the cost of the vase, your client may sue you, requesting you pay for the hurt employee's medical expenses, too.
We all know that medical expenses can add up quickly. Especially for a new business, not having insurance coverage means taking a big risk that you may need to sacrifice some of your hard earned money.
Business insurance is no joke. Remember, people only get one body, and so when a client entrusts theirs to you for personal training, they're putting a lot of faith in your abilities.
No matter how much you've trained and how much experience you have, there is always a chance something could go wrong.
In order to set yourself up to have a successful personal training business, we suggest looking into which coverage may work best for you.
Deciding on the right insurance coverage for your personal trainer business is a big decision. It's understandable that you may want to look at options before buying a policy.
You can find and compare quotes for free with our quote comparison tool. All you do is answer questions about your business and in less than 10 minutes, we can show you affordable coverage options for you.
Hopefully, taking action to get business insurance will also help you deal with the common feelings of imposter syndrome that many new business owners experience. Getting personal trainer business insurance can help to legitimize your business and prove to clients that you're serious about protecting your hard work.
Choosing a policy isn't always the easiest decision, but we have advice on how to pick the right insurance coverage for your business. Check out our FREE ultimate guide for choosing the right coverage for you.
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As a small business owner, you may already know the importance of using marketing and advertising to promote your services.
Have you ever considered talking about your personal trainer license, business license, and business insurance on these digital platforms?
You may walk by a restaurant in your neighborhood and see that they have a "A" rating from the health department. You're more likely to eat there than at the place next door with a "B" rating, right? Customers may be similarly comparing you against your competitors.
You can use your Certification of Insurance (COI) and proof of your business license as ways to differentiate yourself from competition.
Not only can it attract clients who are considering working with other trainers, but if you apply for a job in a gym, displaying your accreditations could help you stand out as a candidate.
This helps you in the non-digital world, too. When you're using word of mouth to spread news of your personal trainer services, tell potential and existing clients that you have an up-to-date certification, license, and insurance policy.
Having the paperwork to prove you've done your training and are taking protections to keep your business and clients safe, is something that can set you apart and help gain trust.
We've talked about how after you study with a program to get your personal trainer license and take a certification exam, there's more work to do (like getting insurance coverage).
But that's not all -- maintaining your personal trainer license and certification means that you'll need continuing education. And it makes sense, right? After all, we're learning new things from science about the body all the time. It makes sense you'd need to study to stay current on learnings.
The amount of continuing education hours that you'll need and in which intervals you'll need to complete those hours, depends entirely on which program you get your certification with.
On average, programs will require 20 hours of continuing education every 2 years, but you can check out this site to see the range of requirements.
The cost of getting a personal trainer license is kind of like creating a plan for a client you don't know anything about...it's hard to know! The cost really will depend and come down to:
Personal trainer license and certifications can range in cost anywhere from $300-$1,000, but this doesn't include the cost of the prerequisite classes (CPR and AED), local permits, and other costs that may come up.
It's a good idea to talk to other personal trainers who do the work you aspire to do. Talking with them about their journey and experience to get a license and insurance could help shed some light on what to expect.
Similarly to the situation with how much it costs to get a personal trainer license, we can't say definitively how long it takes to get one.
That's because each program will require a different amount of training. Depending on your circumstances, the time it takes you to complete a program may vary, if for example, you're not able to study full time.
The range of time it takes varies--it could take you a few months or if you decide to study personal training more in-depth, it could take you a couple years.
But remember, since the industry is constantly changing given the knowledge we gain of the human body, and because you'll be required to take continuing education credits, there is no end to your personal training journey. It's ongoing!
If you have some sweat on your brow after reading this--we don't blame you! A lot of work going into getting your personal trainer license and certification.
Hopefully you have a good understanding of the importance of getting your personal trainer license and business insurance to help protect all your hard work.
If you still have questions about what you can do to protect your business, head over to Simply U, our blog for business owners.
I’ve told stories since I learned to talk and written since I could hold a pen. As a small business owner myself - I'm a freelance writer and yoga teacher - I love contributing to the entrepreneurship community in different ways (including writing for Simply Business!). When I’m not drafting articles for SB, I can be found on my yoga mat, perusing an indie bookstore, and writing (with my cat nearby of course).
This content is for general, informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting, or financial advice. Please obtain expert advice from industry specific professionals who may better understand your business’s needs. Read our full disclaimer
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