both ACE and NASM are respected certifications, and you cannot go wrong with either one of them.
I have a preference for NASM. In addition to their personal trainer certification, they have many specialty certifications, all of which are tied into the concept of their OPT (Optimal Performance Training) model and thus create an integrated whole.
Many novice trainers start as employees at a gym. It is an easier way to start; it gives you exposure to potential clients, and you do not have the start-up expenses of running a business. It’s a way to getting your feet wet without having to buy a swimming-pool. It also does not preclude you from having your own business later.
I am sure that one of my colleagues can answer your question on the GI bill if you cannot find the answer from your sources at this administration.
I wish you good luck. It’s a great career.
Hi Tyson, my comment to your question gets bounced; so here it is as an add-on to my initial answer.
“Evidently not. I was saying that a very large operation like LA Fitness (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LA_Fitness) has its pros and cons. Not sure whether it is a hierarchical structure which mandates how clubs are run or whether clubs have some leeway. Large chains usually have set structures, and you either fit or not. There would be little room for negotiation. But it is a start and gives you experience, and you do not have to be there for the rest of hour life it you do not like it. Some clubs can offer in-house training and development, other look more for salespeople than trainers. Once you are ready to find a place to start, look around and see how it feels. I am a great believer in gut-feel.