How to Become a Fitness Trainer in Tennessee

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The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development projects that between 2012 and 2022, the number of personal trainer jobs in the state will increase by 18 percent statewide.

As a personal trainer you will work with clients from a multitude of ages and backgrounds to promote health, strength, and vitality throughout the state. You will be up against many challenges posed not only by Tennessee’s barbeque festivals – there is also the Knoxville Bacon Fest and the Nashville Oktoberfest. If your clients insist on going to festivals like these you can at least advise them to exercise afterward, and insist that they also attend the Healthy Memphis Food Festival.

Fitness and health clubs are the largest employers of personal trainers in Tennessee. Exclusive Fitness, for example, employs six highly skilled personal trainers who each specialize in different areas – some focus on particular muscle groups while others focus on diet and nutrition. Personal trainers at this facility also teach one-on-one and group fitness classes like yoga and Pilates.

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In a state where virtually everybody seems to be into outdoor recreation, you will also likely find yourself training your clients to prepare for their favorite activities in Tennessee’s great outdoors:

  • Mountain biking in the Chickamauga National Military Park
  • Hiking in Big Cypress Tree State Park near Greenfield or along the Appalachian National Trail
  • Spelunking in the Cumberland Caverns
  • Cycling through trails in the Great Smokey Mountains
  • Skiing in Gatlinburg
  • Jogging along the Mossy Ridge Trail near Nashville

A successful and exciting career as a personal trainer starts when you earn the qualifications employers are looking for.

Meeting Personal Trainer Job Qualifications

Both prospective employers and your clients will want to know you have a solid foundation in the areas of knowledge vital to being a qualified professional in your field. That is why most health clubs and gyms will require or prefer that you have a relevant college degree, national certification, or both.

Traditional Education Options in Tennessee

Colleges throughout Tennessee offer degree programs that are directly relevant to personal training. You can often find these offered online, as schools recognize that you may already have a busy work and training schedule of your own. Taking online courses can also save in unnecessary time spent commuting.

Some of the many relevant degree programs that employers may look for in personal trainer job candidates are:

  • AS in Dietetics, including classes like:
    • Principles of nutrition and dietetics
    • Medical nutrition therapy
    • Community nutrition
    • Metabolism of essential vitamins and minerals
  • BS in Exercise Science, with courses such as:
    • Leadership and exercise techniques
    • Exercise physiology
    • Program planning for exercise prescriptions
    • Exercise measurement and evaluation
    • Therapeutic rehabilitation
  • BS in Kinesiology Education, including classes like:
    • Exercise prescription and fitness testing
    • Strength and conditioning regimens
    • Psychology of sports and coaching
    • Pediatric exercise science
    • Life span nutrition

Professional Certifications for Personal Trainers

Employers will often expect you to have at least one nationally recognized personal trainer certification. These are offered by a variety of agencies, with some of the most respected listed here:

  • American Council of Exercise (ACE)
  • American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
  • International Sports Science Association (ISSA)
  • Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA)
  • National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
  • National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
  • National Federation of Personal Trainers (NFPT)
  • National Exercise Trainers Association (NETA)
  • International Fitness Association (IFA)
  • The Cooper Institute
  • Professional Personal Trainers Association (PROPTA)
  • National Personal Training Institute (NPTI)
  • Lifetime (LT) Academy

Each agency has its own certification requirements. Certain organizations require you to have a college degree before you can qualify for certification.

Almost every health club and gym also requires that you have CPR, first aid, and AED certification.

Starting your Career as a Personal Trainer in Tennessee

As you begin work in your new career you will appreciate just how important a strong educational foundation is. Each day you will actively use what you have learned in situations like:

  • Helping one of your clients train for Chattanooga’s 7 Bridges Marathon
  • Using your dietary knowledge to advise a client on eating habits that will encourage a healthy lifestyle and allow for activities like kayaking on the Tennessee River
  • Using your business skills to attract and retain an active client list for events like group fitness classes in Clarksville’s Pettus Park
  • Applying what you have learned as an exercise science major to prescribe a fitness regimen for an older client who wants to be capable of long walks in the Appalachians

A recent survey of personal trainer jobs revealed the following vacancies and their associated requirements (March of 2015). These are examples of what can be expected from the personal trainer job market in Tennessee and are shown only for illustrative purposes:

  • Gold’s Gym in Knoxville was looking for a personal trainer who had a nationally-recognized certification plus the preferred qualification of a college degree in a related field.
  • Youfit in North Parkway was advertising for a personal trainer with related job experience in sales and at least one nationally-recognized certification.
  • LA Fitness in Memphis was looking for a personal trainer who had at least one nationally-recognized certification.
  • Life Time Fitness in Collierville was searching for a personal trainer who had at least a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology, Sports Medicine, or other related field, plus at least one nationally-recognized certification.
  • Brick Bodies Fitness Services in Nashville was looking for a personal trainer who could design individual exercise programs as well as interact with clients to explain how exercise machinery works.
  • Workout Anytime 24/7 in Antioch was looking to hire personal trainers who had at least one nationally-recognized certification.
  • Guiding Fitness in Nashville was seeking a personal trainer with a national certification at minimum.

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