Should personal training exams have a practical portion?
I've heard commotion on and off about how easy it is to become a personal trainer. Have you ever done a practical with a company to pass a test? What about with an employer? Share your thoughts with me, I'm curious what the people have to say! Should trainers need a college degree to work with people?
As for having a degree in order to become a trainer it's a great idea but not necessary in order to get hired or become a great trainer. Today most of the employers do require those who go through their hiring process to do a practical portion as part of their interview.
many respected personal trainer certifications such as ACE or NASM do not have a practical component but they require that the exam be administered at a proctored site, and that is a fair way to do it. If a practical exam is required, then it places for many aspiring trainers an undue burden of travel expenses which is to the disadvantage for students at more remote locations.
I have an AEA certification which has a practical component, and much of that evaluation is in the eye of the beholder.
As to the question of requiring a college degree: some certifications require it, and that is a way for those who have one to set themselves apart. I do not see a need for a college degree, simply because those do not have an expiration date but that knowledge goes out of style after not too many years. I did not become a trainer until I was 40, and even it I had obtained a degree in something relating to fitness when I was in my twenties, what value would that degree have now beyond being a pretty piece of paper?
There are lots of ways to become "good" as a personal trainer, and what makes one trainer capable, safe, and marketable can be very different than another. Some traits can't be tested. Empathy, listening skills, and people skills in general are a CRITICAL part of being an effective and successful trainer. This would be hard, if not impossible, to test for on a practical exam.
College degrees also tend to be book-heavy, not experience-heavy. My degrees aren't fitness related so perhaps nowadays there are classes that have trainers-to-be work with clients. That might help. There's one trade school that I know of, NPTI (500-hour program) that has a few hundred hours of working with clients as part of the curriculum.
I'm not a big fan of regulation in our industry. An added layer of government means an added layer of expense in an industry where many of us aren't well paid to begin with, and how to ever agree on what is the most important for a trainer to know?
But if I had it my way, new trainers would shadow at least 20 hours with an experienced trainer, and would have their workout plans for their first few clients coached / commented upon by an experienced trainer.
I do think the fitness industry should should set a standard to include a practical portion for personal trainers. I had a practical portion when I did my AFAA Group Exercise test many years ago. When I became a trainer, and received a respectable certification, there was no practical. My first job as a trainer was a dive in, learn as you go position. Although my group exercise background helped, there was a lot more direction I could have used.
A college degree, while very useful, is not necessary to become a personal trainer. A respectable NCCA certification with continuing education requirements is sufficient. A college degree does show a level of education and knowledge, but the degree itself is finite. Research and continuing education are infinite and necessary for the advancement and respect of the fitness industry. Furthermore, a college degree does not necessarily translate into personal connection with a client, empathy, focus, and a passion for helping clients--all necessary beyond learning from textbooks.
Good question---and I do hope the fitness industry moves toward a practical component for all certifications.
ASCM offered it with Group but I don't think they offer it any longer.
Personally I would love to see expansive mentorship program and i would love to see a 50 hour hands on requirement for trainers as a part of their certification.
True we are not regulated and I agree it would be very difficult to maintain regulation but I think that every "sub" certification such as "Cross fit"and or "ZUMBA" as examples should be required to have their trainers certified with a Nationally Accredited Organization.
There are many great responses from everyone.
I chose to take my personal trainer course at the local college with the best nursing program since training is all about health...good decision. It was run by ACE with practical work throughout the course...across the country from California.
About education; I have met plenty of uneducated college graduates and educated high school drop outs. Education is what the students make for themselves.
Only about half the people who try to become certified trainers actually pass; many do not put the work into learning. I wonder if any of the people you speak about, having less than acceptable trainer traits, have an NCCA certification.
I choose to study continuously since the health industry is constantly evolving.
As for a practical exam portion, the population does not fit into a box; that is why sometimes working outside the "correct form" is acceptable for some people...including the trainer. This practical test portion would need to be very general with certain protocol, if it were regulated.
Natalie aka NAPS 2 B Fit.
Karin Singleton is correct about why the industry shifted away fro m practical exams when they were trying to qualify for accredited statis.
Many answered honestly about the book smarts not necessarily transferring to practical application.
I love Sue D' Alonzo suggestion of 50 hours hands on. Maybe that's an intern phase.?
I also have to agree with NatalieSmith about what the individual makes of their education. I oversee 60 ish trainers across 6 locations. I have hired and mentored hundreds, and I can confirm that no one certification or degree ( including masters and PHD )will guarantee whether or not they succeed as a trainer or fitness coach.
Also on the table for conversation should be a standard test like a BAR exam or BOARDs for medical.
Would that craate a better foundation to which we add specialty certs on top of?
Just a question to keep the thoughts going.
I personally vote for the option that best sets our industry up for success for future generations.
Best industry ever,
What about the AFAA practical did you find to be beneficial for testing candidates? What would you change?
I like what you said in your 2nd paragraph and completely agree with you - well put.
As an exam question writer and teacher of 15 years I have to wonder what kind of practical would suit the industry and how we could ensure consistency between testing locations. I'm curious to hear any ideas you have.