How to Become a Fitness Trainer in Virginia

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In Virginia, a career in personal training may mean trimming the waistlines and chiseling the biceps of Washington D.C.’s diplomats, heading to the coast to prepare new moms for bathing suit season, or becoming one of the most highly sought after trainers in one of Norfolk’s hottest fitness centers.

Occupational projections reveal that the number of personal trainer jobs in Virginia is expected to increase 16 percent between 2012 and 2022, making it a great time to earn the qualifications you need to secure a job in your favorite gym, specialty studio or helath club.

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So whether your personal training expertise is in strength training, aerobics, Pilates, or yoga, Virginia presents plenty of opportunities for a health fanatic like you. But before you can become a fitness force to be reckoned with, you’ll need to ensure that your credentials can get your career off the ground and take it to the next level.

Qualifying to Become a Personal Trainer in Virginia

Personal trainers, both in Virginia and throughout the U.S., must possess solid credentials to earn a reputation as being an expert in their field. This means considering your options for a college degree and/or professional certification.

Degree Options Related to Personal Training

Although not always required to become a personal trainer, post-secondary degrees in personal training or related areas have become common among personal trainers in Virginia. Specifically, associate and bachelor degrees in areas such as personal training, exercise science, kinesiology, exercise physiology, and health and wellness are excellent ways to achieve a solid foundation of knowledge in the human body and how it responds to physical activity.

Typical degree programs include:

  • Associate Degree in Exercise Science
  • Associate Degree in Advanced Personal Training
  • Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science
  • Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology

For example, an Associate Degree in Exercise Science involves studying human movement, understanding health promotion and disease prevention, and creating health behavior change strategies, among other focus areas. As a graduate of relevant degree program, you will be able to successfully administer, plan, and evaluate wellness and fitness programs and understand how to establish exercise programs and achieve exercise-related goals and objectives.

The curriculum of this type of program includes:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Nutrition
  • Exercise physiology
  • Programming and prescription
  • Kinesiology
  • General psychology

Most schools offering degree programs in personal training and related subjects require the completion of a practical internship upon the completion of your coursework. Internships are designed to allow you to gain experience while working under the supervision of an experienced personal trainer in a real-world setting.

Professional Certification Options in Personal Training

Professional certification, which may complement your college degree, is designed to display your level of professionalism and commitment to the personal training profession. It also serves as a guarantee that you have acquired a certain level of knowledge and expertise as a personal trainer. Most employers in Virginia now require personal trainers to possess some type of professional certification.

There is a wide array of certification options in personal training. Although the type of certification you choose to earn will be dependent upon your specific professional goals, it is always wise to do your due diligence and learn about the top certification programs sought out by Virginia’s top employers. It is also wise to make sure the organization you choose is accredited by a national accrediting body, such as the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).

Personal trainer certification programs generally include a course of study (either in-person or online) that is followed by an examination. A number of certification programs provide on-site workshops or classes, while others allow you to complete the majority of your study through distance learning methods, such as streaming videos and lectures, webinars, and DVDs.

The most reputable professional certification organizations include:

  • The Cooper Institute
  • Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA)
  • National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
  • National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT)
  • American Council on Exercise (ACE)
  • National Exercise Trainers Association (NETA)
  • National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF)
  • National Council for Certified Personal Trainers (NCCPT)
  • American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
  • Academy of Applied Personal Training Education (AAPTE)

Working as a Personal Trainer in Virginia

To fully understand the expectations placed on you as a job candidate, it is smart to review recent job postings. Although the following job postings are for illustrative purposes only, they can provide you with a great deal of information regarding the education, experience, and certification expectations of Virginia’s employers:

  • An Alexandria fitness center is seeking a personal trainer who can build relationships, give great workouts, and deliver results. The desired requirements include a four-year degree in exercise science or kinesiology or professional accreditation.
  • A personal trainer job posting in Fairfax seeks a personal trainer who can demonstrate the value of personal training by creating an outstanding personal training experience. To qualify for this job, applicants must possess a degree in kinesiology, exercise science, or a related field or an approved personal training certification.
  • A Fredericksburg fitness center is seeking a personal trainer who possesses:
    • Excellent communication and customer service skills
    • Experience in designing and implementing fitness regimens
    • Current CPR/AED certification
    • A college degree in a fitness-related field

Just a small sampling of the many fitness centers, personal training studios, and gyms throughout Virginia where you could begin your career include:

  • Jim White Fitness, Virginia Beach
  • USA Elite Trainers, Virginia Beach
  • Battle Fitness, Fairfax
  • Lisa Reed Fitness, Arlington
  • Every Body’s Personal Trainer, Centreville
  • Body Transformation Studio, Fairfax
  • Foundation Fitness, Fairfax

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