How to Become a Certified Personal Trainer in Arizona

Personal training is a great career if you enjoy fitness, working out and helping people. Getting in shape, losing weight and improving health are trends that are not going to slow down any time soon. There is big growth in the fitness industry and demand everywhere, especially in Arizona, for qualified trainers to help clients meet their goals.

As a certified personal trainer you may work for a gym or as a freelancer. You’ll be responsible for bringing in clients, determining their fitness goals, developing fitness programs and workout routines, and motivating clients to exercise, make healthy lifestyle choices and improve their quality of life.

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You may help them also with weight management and nutrition, strength training, in the development of cardiovascular endurance and mobility.

As opposed to taking charge of traditional group training such as zumba classes, beginners pilates or pilates express – where you lead classes in front of many people – your involvement with clients can be at very close quarters. You will spot your clients when working with free weights to encourage them and avoid injury, and you will correct their posture and technique and help them learn proper form for all kinds of lifting and bodyweight calisthenic exercise such as pull-ups.

A personal trainer may also work with professional athletes to design specific sports drills and training programs. They may also work with specific segments of the population such as older adults – who are sometimes insufficiently active, or prenatal women who require low impact workout experience but will still benefit from activities to improve strength.

To become a personal trainer in Arizona, you’ll need to learn about exercise science and fitness, and you should have good communication skills. You may also want to learn some exercise psychology and sports medicine. Taking on new clients will start with a individual consultation.

Requirements for Being a Personal Trainer in Arizona

To start working as a trainer in Arizona you’ll need to have at least a high school diploma or GED, but most employers will also only hire you if you have some amount of post-secondary education as well as certification in CPR and First Aid.

The state does not require trainers to be licensed or certified (there is no such thing as an Arizona personal trainer certification) but simply having a passion for fitness is not enough for most employers or clients to hire you as a personal trainer.

Consider completing a college program in exercise science or personal training and then seeking a certification from a national association to begin your career.


Programs for Personal Training in Arizona

Once you have completed high school, look for personal trainer programs in the state that will give you the skills you need to begin working and the knowledge to pass the national certification exams that will get you started on your fitness career. Your options for personal trainer schools include:

  • Glendale Community College, Glendale. In the Phoenix suburb of Glendale you can complete the certificate program in personal training at this community college.
    The short certificate of completion program is enough to give you a foundation to begin training clients, but it will also transfer to the two-year associate’s degree program in exercise science/ kinesiology.
  • Mesa Community College, Mesa. Also conveniently located in the suburbs of Phoenix, Mesa offers a personal training specialist certificate program.
    It includes 31 credits of courses in topics like exercise physiology, CPR and First Aid, nutrition, client assessment, and strength and conditioning. There is also an internship so you can get hands-on experience in training. They also offer a two-year associate program which is also a good option.
  • Pima Community College, Tucson. For Tucson-area students, Pima offers a professional fitness certificate.
    You can use this program to begin working as a trainer and to achieve national certification, or you can transfer the credits to a degree program in exercises science, fitness or exercise and wellness at Arizona State University.
  • Penn Foster Career School offers a Fitness and Nutrition Certificate in which students study fitness anatomy and physiology, applied food principles, planning therapeutic diets, developing healthy eating habits and weight management, the principles of muscular strength and endurance, health screening, testing, and evaluation.
    Earning this certificate alone, however, may not qualify graduates without previous education or work experience for a job working as a nutritionist, personal trainer, or fitness expert.
  • Grand Canyon University, Phoenix offers a Bachelors degree in Exercise Science.
    This is a four-year degree that prepares undergraduate students for entry into the field of sport performance and strength and conditioning at various levels of athletic activity, such as high school, college, club, professional sports, and private practice.
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Arizona Personal Trainer Certification

While national certification is not strictly required for becoming a personal trainer in Arizona, certified personal trainers draw in more clients and are hired more often by gyms and other employers. In fact, many employers prefer candidates who are certified. As such, certification provides a significant advantage in the job market.

There are several organizations recognized across Arizona and other states offering personal training certification exams: the National Federation of Professional Trainers, the National Council on Strength and Fitness, the American Council on Exercise, the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), who also partner with National Personal Training Institute, Fitness Mentors (FM), The Cooper Institute, American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the American Fitness Professionals and Associates (AFPA), the International Fitness Professionals Association (IFPA), the National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT), the National Endurance and Sports Training Association (NESTA) and the International Sports Sciences Association.

See this page for more information on certification agencies.

Generally, we believe the best personal trainer certifications in Arizona to be NCCA-accredited (National Commission for Certifying Agencies).

The National Personal Training Institute (NPTI or NationalPTI) has personal trainer programs near or in major cities across the country, and has a location in Mesa, AZ. You should note however that the National Personal Training Institute is not NCCA-accredited.

For a broader certification, you can also consider becoming a member of the sports trainers association, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA). Members will have attended an approved college athletic training program.

Some personal trainer certifications require more extensive formal education. For example, the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (NSCA-CSCS) requires a four-year degree.

For the National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT) certification you must have at least two years of fitness experience.

National Endurance and Sports Trainers Association (NESTA) offers a certification for four years, while most others must be maintained every two years. The program is 100% online and includes an introduction to personal training, exercise physiology, kinesiology and functional anatomy, applied biomechanics, flexibility, nutrition, special populations, assessments, program design, exercise application, safety, injury prevention, and treatment, exercise psychology and business strategies and applications for the certified personal fitness trainer.

The NASM curriculum includes the “OPT” Model, developed by Dr. Mike Clark, and is included in their NASM-CPT program. It has five phases: Stabilization Endurance, Strength Endurance, Muscular Development/Hypertrophy, Maximal Strength and finally Power.


Career Opportunities for Personal Trainers in Arizona

On average in Arizona, personal trainers earn $40,990 per year and $19.71 per hour. This rate is higher for certified personal trainers and for a personal trainer with a degree and advanced educations.

You can also earn specialty certifications in things like group fitness, kickboxing, spin cycling or nutrition for a higher salary. Small group fitness instructors tend to be among the higher earners as are those who provide personal training services for professional athletes who require specific conditioning for their sport.

Premium fitness offerings such as CrossFit may also provide higher hourly rates for the personal trainer.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that growth in training careers is strong across the country. Jobs available for qualified trainers are increasing at a rate of 10 percent. In Arizona, the growth is even greater, at nearly 20 percent.

There is a huge demand in the state for certified personal trainers, with more than 1,000 jobs expected to be available each year. With a good certification and growing your personal training experience on-the-job, you can boost your earnings.

Personal trainer earnings can also be sustained and improved by retaining your certification by taking Continuing Education Units (CEU) such as those offered by the National Personal Training Institute.

Finding a Job as a Certified Personal Trainer in Arizona

Most trainers work for gyms and other recreational fitness centers, such as at spas or resorts, helping individuals or small groups achieve their fitness goals. Some work for government agencies or community groups, while about 11 percent of trainers choose to be self-employed and work out of their homes, their clients’ homes or rented spaces at gyms.

In Arizona, Phoenix and Tucson are great areas to start looking for employment as a fitness trainer. These are large population centers with a lot of gyms and fitness clubs and, as such, offer more job opportunities.

Check with large gym chains, like Planet Fitness, Youfit Health Clubs or Lifetime Fitness for personal trainer job openings. Find out what their employment requirements are, as many gyms require that trainers have a degree and are nationally certified.

Modern gyms offer a huge variety of training from gentle yoga and mindfulness practice for stress management, to pilates to help develop balance and develop core control and posture, to interval-style workout yoga, indoor cycling, high intensity interval training, endurance zumba and tabata workouts (a high intensity class) for cardiovascular endurance, to ultimate conditioning sports training and bodybuilding.

All of these activities require committed, enthusiastic and qualified professionals, including those that are prepared to create plans for and provide one-on-one training. The world’s growing workout culture provides a growing range of opportunties for the certified personal trainer.

Other opportunities can be found at your local YMCA, who partner with the Livestrong Foundation to provide individually tailored fitness programs for cancer survivors.

At the time of writing there are job openings advertised on for personal fitness trainers at both Vasa Fitness and Crunch Fitness in Phoenix, the latter offering competitive compensation beginning at $24 per hour and the former offering $22 up to $33 per hour.

Elsewhere, there are job openings at Svetness in Flagstaff and Snap Fitness in Sedona. Also in Flagstaff, tomorrow’s personal trainers should look for openings at Summit Health and Fitness who offer one on one training, partner training, small group training and post physical therapy strength & conditioning.

While entry-level jobs tend require working many hours, becoming a personal trainer with an Arizona personal trainer certification and solid work experience will generally enjoy a high quality of life, being able to pick their jobs and spending time doing what they enjoy.


How do I get an Arizona Personal Trainer Certification?

To work as a personal trainer in Arizona you should have at least a high school diploma or GED. While there is no specific Arizona personal trainer certification, most employers will only hire you if you have some post-secondary education and certification in CPR and First Aid. A national certification from a NCCA-accredited agency such as the American Council on Exercise will significantly improve your chances.

How much does a personal trainer make in AZ?

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, exercise trainers and group fitness instructors in Arizona on average earn $37,670 per year. While 10% of workers earn $25,240 or less, 10% of workers earn $70,720 or more. Personal trainers with experience can run their own business and earn significantly more.

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