find a certified personal trainer

How to Find a Certified Personal Trainer

A personal trainer can help you reach important goals, return to exercise or sports after an injury, or simply provide motivation and accountability when you need it the most. When you’re ready to find a certified personal trainer, we’re here to help.

The search to find a certified personal trainer may require more work and consideration than you would think. Personal training requires skill and it is exactly as the name implies, personal. Each trainer has their own style and approach, as well as their own personality that they bring to the job. You will be working one-on-one with this person on a regular basis. It is important to make sure you and the trainer can work well together.

Finding a trainer who fits you and your lifestyle and who also has the credentials and experience for the job can be a daunting task. We will walk you through the importance of qualifications and the considerations you will need to make before hiring a personal trainer below.

How to Find a Certified Personal Trainer

What is a personal trainer’s job?

A personal trainer’s job is to assess their clients’ current physical fitness and goals, then create a customized plan to help their clients reach those goals. The trainer will coach you on exercise form through each workout to ensure the safety and efficacy of your workouts. Beyond helping you reach your goals, the best personal trainers are also simultaneously working to improve your muscular endurance, coordination, flexibility, range of motion, muscular strength, balance, and cardiovascular endurance. A great personal trainer is always focused on your overall health while helping you work toward your main goal(s).

What makes a personal trainer qualified?

Personal training is an unregulated industry. Unlike other health and wellness-related fields like doctors, chiropractors, massage therapists, physical therapists, and athletic trainers, there are currently no national or state licensing requirements for working as a personal trainer. So how do you know if your personal trainer is qualified to be doing his or her job?

There are a couple of different ways that fitness professionals can gain not only experience and credibility but also the credentials to go along with it. A good personal trainer takes continued education very seriously and stays on top of newly developing research in the world of exercise science.

Certification Programs

Certifying agencies exist for the purpose of equipping individuals with the education and skill set they need to work as fitness trainers. There are varying levels of quality to be found in all the many personal training certification programs that are available. There are hundreds of certification options but only a handful of reputable programs out there.

In order to control the quality of the trainers a program creates, a personal trainer certification program should be a comprehensive program that holds NCCA accreditation. Certifications with NCCA (National Commission for Certifying Agencies) accreditation are the most respected in the industry. The NCCA is the gold standard in the fitness industry. The following certifying agencies are considered the best of the best personal training certifications in the industry.

  1. ISSA – International Sports Sciences Association
  2. FM – Fitness Mentors
  3. NASM – National Academy of Sports Medicine
  4. ACE – The American Council on Exercise
  5. NCSF – National Council on Strength & Fitness
  6. NSCA – National Strength and Conditioning Association
  7. NESTA – National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association
  8. AFAA – Athletics and Fitness Association of America
  9. NFPT – National Federation of Professional Trainers
  10. ACSM – American College of Sports Medicine

To find out if your potential personal trainer is currently certified, simply ask them for their credentials. Many of these agencies have a search feature for their certified trainers on their websites. If necessary, the certifying agency can be contacted directly.

College Degree

A degree in a related field is an excellent credential for a personal trainer to possess. This extensive education is extremely valuable for the purposes of fitness training. A physical therapist, for example, is highly qualified for personal training because their work is basically an even more technical form of personal training. The following degrees are just a few that could be very helpful for a personal trainer to hold.

  • Exercise physiology
  • Athletic training
  • Physical therapy
  • Kinesiology
  • Exercise science

While you would think that this credential alone would qualify a personal trainer, keep in mind that a trainer’s job is not only to know exercise science. Much of what a trainer does with his or her clients pertains to the science of behavior change. The right trainer will have education in coaching models and approaches to behavior change as well as exercise science. For best results, it is important to find a trainer who has both exercise science and behavior science education. A college degree is a definite plus, but a quality training certification is a must either way.


Hands-on work experience is just as important as education in the field of personal training. Before and after a trainer gets certified, they can work in a gym to gain valuable knowledge and experience by shadowing a certified personal trainer. While certification does not require any experience, it’s best to hire someone who has worked with clients in some capacity for at least a couple of years. Education is invaluable, but experience is the best teacher.

How to find a certified personal trainer

Finding a personal trainer seems like an easy job, they are all over the internet, on social media, and at every gym. But narrowing down your options will be tedious and can sometimes feel like an endless task. There are several ways you can approach this task:

  • Search personal training databases created by each certifying agency. For example, ACE has a search tool for their certified trainers in your area.
  • Contact a local gym. This option may only work if you are interested in training in the gym, as many trainers employed by gyms are not permitted to train clients outside of the facility.
  • Post a job ad. Using highly trafficked websites like Indeed would allow you to have the trainers come to you. Many people use job search engines like this to find employment. Your ad can specify all of your needs, different requirements, and wants so the hiring pool will be narrowed drastically, in theory, before applications are submitted.
  • Use a staffing agency. It may be in your best interests to use an agency like ours to provide you with the best options upfront. We have already fully vetted candidates for positions like this and can usually offer you choices immediately.

Considerations to make before hiring a personal trainer

Before starting the interview process for your new personal trainer, you will want to assess your needs, wants, and requirements. There are some questions that the trainer will ask their potential clients, even if your interview for consideration of the job, in order to get a clear idea of what extent he or she will be able to help you and in what ways. You will want to be as prepared as possible with clear and thought-out answers. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do you hope to gain from working with a certified personal trainer?
  • What are your specific goals and time frame?
  • What are your limitations? (Schedule, priorities, anything that may get in the way of your commitment to the trainer/client relationship and working toward your goals)
  • Why haven’t you already made these changes? (Good trainers will ask this to gauge your readiness to change or progress.)
  • What do you expect from a certified personal trainer?
  • What are your preferred methods of outside encouragement?
  • What motivates you most when it comes to your fitness goals?

What questions you should ask your potential personal trainer

Each trainer is different in their experience, approach, personality, specializations, and more. To ensure you choose the right trainer for you, you will want to make sure you ask all the right questions. Here are some you shouldn’t leave out of the interview process:

  • How many years of experience do you have?
  • Do you have a fitness specialty?
  • What are your qualifications?
  • How do you assess new clients?
  • How do you track fitness goals?
  • What is your style of encouragement?
  • What is your preferred training style?
  • What does a typical training session with you look like?
  • How will you help me meet my specific goals?
  • How will you measure my progress?
  • What equipment will we use? Will equipment be provided?
  • Can you provide references?
  • What is your availability?
  • Do you create meal plans? If so, are you certified or licensed to do so? (Providing diet advice or meal plans is outside of the scope of practice for a certified personal trainer. In order to provide such information and coaching, they must hold another certification or license for nutrition coaching.)

Live-in Personal Trainers vs. In-Home or Gym Training

Consider where you want your training to take place and how available you want your trainer to be. Will your trainer come to you, will you go to their gym, or do you need more of a commitment and want your trainer to live in your estate for the duration of your training program?

Live-in Personal Training

Some people choose live-in personal trainers for the many benefits of having a coach nearby at all times. Their presence creates added motivation, accountability, and an almost constant focus on your goals and what it will take to reach them. This option is a great way to speed up your progress because it will be easier to stick to your fitness plan with extra accountability. There are some things to consider when thinking about hiring a live-in trainer:

  • Live-in trainers will require a full-time salary.
  • This living situation will require your full and unwavering commitment to your goals
  • You will need a home gym or a trainer who can provide the necessary equipment
  • You will need to clearly define expectations and requirements as live-in situations can blur lines in the personal nature of the relationship that naturally develops between trainer and client.

In-Home Personal Training

Having your trainer come to you at specific times on specific days, mostly at your convenience, can be just as effective for reaching your personal fitness goals if you are committed. This option works well if you have a home gym or if your trainer is able to bring the necessary equipment for your workouts. The convenience of not having to leave your home to get your workout in is the best option for many busy people. Consider these things when thinking about hiring an in-home trainer:

  • You will need to make sure you will have the equipment necessary to meet your specific needs in your home.
  • Costs will be lower than a live-in trainer but higher than training in a gym.
  • Accountability will come via something like text or email check-ins rather than face-to-face (live-in) between sessions.

Gym Personal Training

This option will be your least flexible and lowest-cost option. Training in a private gym or one of the big box gyms will require more flexibility on your part because of the trainer’s schedule and because you will have to travel to train. Here are the things you should consider for gym personal training:

  • Privacy during training may be limited.
  • This will be the lowest cost option but also offer the least accountability throughout your program.
  • All of the equipment necessary for your program and progression will be available to you in a gym.

Hiring a Certified Personal Trainer

A personal trainer is an important helper in your health and fitness journey and due diligence is important in the process of hiring that helper. That’s why we are here to simplify that process. Leeward Staffing has fully vetted full-time and freelance wellness professionals ready to work with you. Our goal is that every placement is perfect the first time. We would love to find a certified personal trainer who will fit into your life seamlessly.

All employees are bound to privacy and confidentiality agreements and undergo a federal background check, reference checks, social media review, and an interview process with Leeward Staffing. Contact us today to begin the quick and simple process of finding the right certified personal trainer for you.