I’m at the point in my academic career where I’m pursuing college coursework in Exercise Science. I am also studying to become certified through ACE as a Lifestyle and Weight Management Coach. I was looking at the Answers Leaderboard and looking at the “formal” education level of the top 10 answerers. The majority of us either have college degrees or have completed some college. Of the top 10 answerers, less than half have one or more degrees related to fitness or health. It seems as though in this industry, experience (years in the industry) will outpay you faster than higher education. Do you forsee this trend continuing?
In your opinion, what kind of continuing education is “more valuable” or “more easily marketable” today in the world of health and fitness? Were you to hire a trainer for your studio, would you prefer someone with formal education or a trainer with a few (or many) nationally accredited certifications, professional memberships, and plenty of experience? Where do you think time and money would be best spent on continuing education when looking to advance one’s career in the industry?
Traditional education was not based so much on ‘value’ to the student as much as it was based on the best methodology for the times. Now that there is the Internet and supporting hard/software to administer valuable lessons online (i.e. Kahn Academy), there isn’t really an argument for traditional education. My response speaks to a broader issue and so it’s not directly applicable to your question.
Great question and observation Marlan.
Professionally, I would hire a fitness professional who has consistently invested his time and resources in his/her profession and has shown dedication to his profession.
To answer your question regarding “where do I think time and money would be best spend on continuing education when looking to advance one’s career in the industry?” Marlan, I feel strongly that it depends upon what you value and the motivation behind why one has chosen a particular continuing education course or earned a new credential.
I love learning and the credentials and the cec courses that I have taken over the years are simply a natural professional progression for me.
What is “best” is really subjective. I would suggest that you ask yourself some soul-searching questions about what you see yourself doing in the wellness and fitness industry 15-years from now and whether the cec courses you take support your vision.
What worked for me was was putting myself in position to train people with clinical conditions so that I could qualify and earn the ACSM RCEP credential. That would have never been possible if I didn’t earn my masters degree in exercise science. As a consequence of earning that clinical credential I am in a position to earn the Certified Diabetes Educator credential once I accrue the necessary hours. The only fitness professionals who can earn that credential are those who hold ACSM CES and RCEP credentials.
Marlan, I recognize that I am getting older and the educational decisions that I make regarding my career are such that I can continue to work productively in the wellness and fitness industry up until I retire.
I hope my response has helped you a bit. All the best!
I am glad you asked that question because it forced me to review things I had not given much thought lately.
I come to the fitness career from a different path. My original education was in Germany, and I did not come to the USA until I was 34 years old. At that time I was pursuing a professional career with IBM as an international assignee, and fitness was something I did in my spare time. It was also my intention to return to Germany and teach even more computers how to find files and other important things.
Marrying and immigrating to the USA prompted me to review my plans and opened a window to a new world, and I decided to pursue a fitness career. Because of my educational background, sorting through my official credentials to go to a college in the US seemed daunting, and a personal trainer certification (my first one was ISSA) seemed a lot easier.
I gave this elaborate preface to explain why the ‘formal education’ was not even on my radar.
Obviously, over the years I have studied, studied and studied some more. Some of those studies resulted in more certifications with a piece of paper that says so. Many more of my studies has helped me with my personal development, and at this point in time, I can no longer make a distinction between personal and professional. As a trainer, I come as a package with official credentials and then all those intangibles which – I believe – ultimately helped me achieve the success I have.
If I were to hire a trainer, I would, of course, look at the certifications as the backbone of his knowledge and to determine how serious this person takes his job. After that, though, I look at the person and the experience behind it, the approach he or she takes to new situations and the skills in communication. You can always teach a person where muscles originate and insert, but you cannot teach personality.
What a great question and I look forward to reading more of the responses.
I know for myself, I’m also at the same cross roads. Wondering where do I go next, especially as Joanne pointed out, I want a career with longevity.
I find myself wanting to expand further into nutrition and coaching, while still investing in women, moms and pre/post-natal populations. These are the questions I’m asked most and ways I feel I can best assist my clients in reaching their goals. Without more of a formal education in nutrition, the advice I can give is limited. So I’m looking at going back for a masters, while also pursuing the ACE Lifestyle and Weight Management certification (currently studying for that now!).
So I think it all depends on where you want to go next and what professional goals you want to set for yourself. Neither path is wrong, its just what is best for you to reach the goals and client population you want to reach.
Good luck! And great questions!
Hi Marlan. I agree with other posters in that I believe that “the most valuable” continuing education in the final analysis is “what’s most valuable” to you. As I know that you know, the trend nowadays with many national certification agencies is in requiring a certain level of formal education (many require a minimum of a Bachelors degree) to sit for their certification exam. I think that this trend is defining how we as fitness professionals will approach certifications in the future. Additionally with the slow, but seemingly steady march by many States towards licensing fitness professional (i.e. personal trainers), don’t be surprised if the ‘minimum requirements’ for obtaining a license in the future will be some combination of certification and didactic training in a classroom – sometimes leading to a specific degree in the field.
I see our industry as moving towards more formalized education, more standardized levels of knowledge and skill/experience, and minimum requirements requiring a certain level of formal education. Being proactive rather than reactive in my opinion would mean that there is value in pursuing both types of ‘education’ (certification and formal classroom) for the fitness professional. Back when personal training was a fairly new industry, and there were no such things as strength and conditioning coaches etc. you could get by with a certification alone. Nowadays, more and more Universities and Colleges (as you know) have introduced degree programs in Exercise Science, Kinesiology, Sports Performance etc. To remain competitive in this field, I think that we as trainers need both types of education and continuing education. The industry is moving in that direction and we need to move with it to stay competitive and marketable.
I hope that this helps.