Purdue University is now offering a four year degree in Personal Training – yeah, that’s right, the same job that until now only required little more than a weekend certification can be yours after four years of pricey full-time college education. Depending on how you look at it, this could either be a very good idea or a scam, so we need to go deeper.

Right off the bat, it doesn’t sound like a good idea to me. Not that having a degree is bad; there are already degrees in specialized areas of athletics like kinesiology and exercise science that are important for those that want to specialize in those areas. But to offer a degree in Personal Training seems blatantly like an attempt to cash in on the popularity of this field.

Personal Training, at least in my mind, is a leadership, mentoring, and coaching position in general fitness. For that reason, success in this job has as much or more to do with personal attributes and integrity of the trainer as it does with any particular body of knowledge or skill.

Sure, if you want to get a job you need a degree. If you want to play that game, you’re going to have to show up with a resume. But Personal Training isn’t a job; you can’t really go and apply for it somewhere if you want to have the freedom and income you want. Success in Personal Training is completely different – you’ve got to go out and get it. That’s what you’ll hear in the story of every top trainer you meet or read about on Super-Trainer. You don’t need a degree for that.

People have been telling me they like my amateur videos so I recorded a little commentary to go along with this post too:[youtube W_YpfUryWec nolink]

In the course description they mention that the many health clubs across the country will need qualified people to run their programs. That’s the first red-flag right there. For those of you that already have jobs at health-clubs you know what I’m talking about. I respect my colleagues that go to work every day in the country’s health clubs – I know how hard and frustrating your job can be. But Personal training in the major health-club setting is about long hours, making sales, playing a corporate game, and getting robbed in your paycheck. That’s not for me and it’s certainly not for you.

Personal TrainingI was watching the best news show on TV recently, The Colbert Report, and he delivered the answer: that colleges were now starting to charge more for popular majors. Just another example of supply and demand here; if there’s a demand for a particular degree, the universities will gladly charge you for it. Personal Training until now has cost about $500 for a certification. But I’m sure Purdue and other schools have noticed the popularity that the field is getting, and the high pay, prestige, and lifestyle that can come with it. I’m sure they’re seeking to make some money off of all the people that assume success in this field is just like it is in every other. They’re charging $170 per credit for126 credits neccesary to get the degree – you do the math.

Personal Training has never been as hot as it is right now. We’ve got our own reality TV show – what more do you gotta say? Personal Training When the public sees this I’m sure they understand the potential and feel the desire to be like one of these trainers. The mistake they may make is to think that they’ll have to go through traditional channels to do it. What they don’t realize is the process to becoming a successful trainer is much easier than that, but also requires more bravery. Being a University student myself for nearly 8 years (don’t ask), I can tell you clearly that degrees today for most people are a cop-out. They’re just a form of validation they need so they can get a job, and then coast and collect a check until retirement.

But as a Personal Trainer you sign your own check. This forces you to look yourself squarely in the mirror, face all of your internal demons, and decide exactly how much you’re worth.

  • What am I willing to put in?
  • What value am I bringing to the table?
  • How badly do I want this?

Most people are either not brave enough to ask these questions, or to go about answering them.
Personal TrainingThere are no doubt advantages to a college degree (that’s clear from looking at the comparative earnings data), but not necessarily for the reason many may think. One of the main advantages of college graduates is that they feel a sense of entitlement from all the effort they put into their education. They’ll work harder towards establishing good businesses, earning higher incomes, and working for better clients. It’s this internal drive that’s really the only advantage they have in the training marketplace – they’re more likely to take the steps necessary to succeed. However, if one of these university educated trainers has horrible personal and professional marketing they’ll be just as miserable as a Personal Trainer that doesn’t even have a certification. They’ll be qualified for busy sales and management positions in health clubs, but I doubt that’s really what any trainer aspires to.
In summary, if the students going for this degree are depending on the strength of their diploma alone to get by they’ll be in for a shock. The profession of Personal Training as it’s generally practiced hearkens back to the old days in society, when experiential knowledge and character were what made a great professional. It’s kind of like survival of the fittest. Bad trainers, ones that haven’t identified how to give people value, will find it hard to get and keep clients, and will soon need to find work in another field. Whether you have a degree or not, it won’t make a difference.