The fitness field is growing rapidly, and the demand for personal trainers remains high. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for fitness workers should increase by another 29 percent from 2008 to 2018. Most fitness workers will need to be certified, the BLS reports. ASFA offers a number of personal training certifications designed for trainers already experienced in the field who want to enhance their credibility and marketability with one or more certificates.
ASFA's certification exams are designed for fitness professionals who already have experience in the field or for aspiring trainers with a very strong background in exercise or strength and conditioning. While AFSA does suggest specific study materials for each exam and sells these resources through their online store, these materials are not required. The organization does not provide any classes, workshops or other structured preparation for the exam.
As of 2010, the fee for a one-year certification as an ASFA personal trainer was $129. Candidates who choose to do so may take the exam immediately upon paying the testing fee. ASFA tests are multiple choice, and candidates must answer at least 70 percent of the questions correctly in order to pass. Certificates are emailed in .pdf format to successful candidates.
As of 2010, ASFA offered three personal trainer certifications: Master Personal Training, Advanced Personal Training and Personal Training. AFSA also offers a variety of niche-specific certifications. Fitness professionals interested in working with athletes might choose the Sport Specific Trainer certification, Golf Strength Training Specialist certification or Martial Arts Strength and Conditioning certification. Depending on which age-group a trainer prefers to focus on, the Senior Fitness Instructor certification or Childhood Obesity Specialist certification may suit his goals best. Other options include certifications for self-defense instructors, pilates instructors or sports nutritionists.
While every certification probably gets negative reviews from time to time, it's important to keep in mind that certain organizations generally do garner more respect than others. Earning a certification from a prestigious organization doesn't necessarily make one trainer more qualified than the next, but many employers and clients do prefer some certifications over others.
The value of an ASFA personal trainer certification is sometimes questioned, for several reasons. For one, as the trainers at Askthetrainer.com state: "Every legitimate personal trainer certification requires a current Cardio Pulminary Resuscitation (CPR) card." ASFA certifications have no such requirement. Askthetrainer's Mike Behnken, MS, CSCS, also warns that "some [personal trainer certifications] are as easy as taking a test online and getting your certification in minutes. Beware of anything that sounds too good to be true." Since ASFA certifications allow fitness workers to do just that, some people in the fitness industry feel that the certification is not as worthwhile as a program requiring applicants to take classes or attend workshops. (Note that ASFA does list recommended study materials for each exam, which applicants can purchase directly from the organization.)
Lastly, the exam has a reputation in some circles for being "easy," which may or not be a factor in a possible employer's opinion of the certification.
For people who have already worked in the fitness field or who have solid previous experience in fitness or strength and conditioning--for example through military experience or an athletic career--having to fulfill extensive educational requirements and take classes for a personal training certification may seem redundant. The expenses and time commitment involved in buying textbooks or traveling to workshops may not be worthwhile for such people, and an ASFA certification may be a good option. ASFA's certifications also are well-suited for experienced fitness professionals who want to increase their marketability by focusing on a specific niche or niches--for example working with senior citizens, working with golfers or leading kettlebell workouts.
In addition, ASFA allows fitness workers to purchase lifetime certifications--an unusual feature, since, as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, most certifications for fitness workers must be renewed every two years. Finally, a candidate does not have to pay for any AFSA exam unless he successfully completes it.