What happens after the crisp and shiny “Certified Personal Trainer” certificate you’ve been waiting for arrives? You get down to business. Until it’s time to renew your certification. Then, you’re back to making choices and decisions again and often spending money too.

I fondly (and nervously) remember waiting for my “license to train” in the mail even though it was 15 years ago. I thought of where I wanted to work, what type of clientele I wanted to train, and how I would approach marketing my services and skills.

What I didn’t consider was how costly continuing education could be – add that on top of the recertification fee and any and all business expenses I might incur and the bill gets a little bloated.

Here’s how you can maximize continuing education opportunities and locate quality and affordable options.

Making a Plan for Continuing Education and Costs

Take it slow. The first step is to avoid overloading yourself with multiple memberships and/or certifications. When you first begin your career, it will take time to build a solid clientele and turn a profit in order to pay for higher priced continuing education events like conferences and workshops.

Know the numbers. Each certifying agency has a different education cycle and is usually related to your date of certification. Additionally, each organization will have a different number of “units” or “credits” required to maintain the license. Examine your organization’s continuing education policies and cycles and identify the number of units you will need by the end of that cycle.

Keeping CPR current is priority. Some organizations require a current CPR license to recertify while others will count a recertification of CPR as part of education units if it is completed during the cycle. Make sure CPR is current and you know how to recertify before it expires.

Set a budget. If you know you want to attend a workshop, you will need the funds (conference fees, travel costs, and room and board, etc.) to get you there. If you aren’t able to swing these lavish costs early on in your career, do not let that stop you from keeping that as part of your plan.

Set a budget for the certification cycle.Start by reviewing what your certifying agency offers for continuing education and examine the overall cost of what it would be to complete all required units “in house” – this gives you a benchmark. From there, you can look at other NCCA agencies to see what their options are and compare the cost.

NOTE: Make absolutely certain that your certifying agency will accept credits from other sources. Most of them do; however, if it is not specified in the description of a course, webinar, quiz, etc. inquire with your organization first before paying for it.

Save for your future. Just as you would set aside a portion of income to pay for taxes, do the same with continuing education.

Establish a calendar. Schedule time for yourself to complete continuing education. For example, if you know you have a 2-year cycle to complete 2 units, break those units up over the course of that two years and set short-term goals for each month. Use this to help you stay on track.

Negotiate for funding. Sometimes it’s possible to have your employer pay for a portion or all of continuing education units – especially if it is a benefit to your employer and/or is required for you to perform your contracted duties (in the case of a personal trainer, it absolutely would be).

Petitions are possible. Ask your organization what its petition policy is. If you come across an event that you feel would be a quality continuing education opportunity (teaching a class, hosting a workshop, authoring articles, etc.), approach the education department and ask to petition for credit. For example, a course about business or marketing might count even if it wasn’t pre-approved by your organization.


Quality Continuing Education Options

Believe it or not, there are countless education opportunities for the field of fitness and not all of them require travel or time off work. It’s possible to find these affordable gems of knowledge if you invest the time to mine them.


Home study courses. These generally count for a significant portion of required credits (depending on the organization you belong to). For example, Human Kinetics offers top quality at home study and online learning options for a variety of topics. Search for a few classes that seem interesting to you and budget them.

Money saving tip: some courses don’t require that you purchase the text – check out the cost of the same text using the ISBN of the book and see if you can acquire it cheaper from Amazon or another reputable seller. Can’t find it? Opt for the eBook version. Other quality sources for home study include Health and Fitness Continuing Education and Exercise ETC.

Webinars. Webinars are a great way to knock out a couple of units of education in as many hours. Some organizations offer free webinars (make sure it notes the number of units you earn – if it doesn’t, it might not have any attached). Other webinars can come with a cost, but it’s usually nominal.

One of my favorite webinar providers is the Bell Institute. Register for free on their site and you will be notified of opportunities – some are free as well.

Look for value bundles. Organizations sometimes package continuing education units for a lower cost than purchasing credits individually.

Get credit for your skills. Host a workshop, a webinar, or class. If you craft a quality opportunity, your organization may be willing to award you credit – even if it’s a small amount. Although organizations list approved providers and courses, it doesn’t mean those lists include every possible scenario or opportunity that is developed almost daily by thousands of quality agencies.

In other words, in never hurts to ask to have other options considered. Before approaching your organization, research what the criteria are for education units. Understanding these guidelines will help you ensure your proposal or petition meets each one.

Continuing education is part of the job of a personal trainer. It is essential you stay current in your knowledge, abreast of new developments, sophisticated in your skills, and committed to your passion and purpose. You cannot accomplish any of that without cultivating a belief in lifelong learning.

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More info on CEC’s:

Continuing Education for Personal Trainers: What it IS and What it ISN’T

NFPT Continuing Education Credits, CECs. Free. Convenient.

Erin Nitschke

Dr. Erin Nitschke, NFPT-CPT, NSCA-CPT, ACE Health Coach, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Therapeutic Exercise Specialist, and Pn1 is a health and human performance college professor, fitness blogger, mother, and passionate fitness professional. She has over 15 years of experience in the fitness industry and college instruction. Erin believes in the power of a holistic approach to healthy living. She loves encouraging her clients and students to develop body harmony by teaching focused skill development and lifestyle balance. Erin is also the Director of Educational Partnerships & Programs for the NFPT. Erin is an editorial author for ACE, IDEA, The Sheridan Press, and the Casper Star Tribune. Visit her personal blog at belivestaywell.com