November 27, 2019

ISSA Certification: Everything You Need to Know

Personal training is one of the most promising jobs in today’s market.

With an ever-growing interest in health, fitness, and beauty, it is hardly surprising that the client base of this industry is growing. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the expected job growth for Fitness Trainers and Instructors is projected at a whopping 13% for 2019. The average across all other occupations is only 5%.

Considering that qualified Personal Trainers are in high demand, and the fitness industry is only expected to grow in the years to come, now is as good a time as ever to start a career as a Personal Trainer.

A certified personal trainer in a red tank top helping her client with a workout

How Much Does a Certified Personal Trainer Make?

While the median annual income for a personal trainer in the U.S. is around $40k, a personal trainer can end up earning about $81k on the high end in some markets.

That said, earning potential depends on several factors such as location, specialization, experience, charisma, and of course, qualification. Regardless of where a personal trainer ends up on the earning spectrum, this is a career that can afford someone a very comfortable lifestyle.

How to Become a Personal Trainer

Personal training has long been an established profession. 

That said, its relatively recent boom has brought some fly-by-night bad actors into the industry.

While personal trainers do not necessarily need a license or qualifications, many of the high paying and stable positions available prefer to hire a licensed professional. These eligibility requirements are primarily designed to maintain an organization’s reputation and credibility, especially given the lack of regulations enforced by authorities. 

Regardless of the relatively low barriers to entry on the startup side of personal training, this is not necessarily a particularly easy field to succeed in. Although good personal trainers are in high demand, the clientele seeking out personal trainers can be discerning. 

The key to success as a personal trainer lies in the balance between accreditation and skills. 

Not only do you need to be in good shape, but you also need to understand the science of helping others achieve their fitness goals and the best ways to get them there while avoiding injury. 

Most personal training clients have two primary concerns:

  • Getting in Shape or Getting Healthy
  • Not Getting Injured in Process

To give clients the peace of mind of knowing you are the person for the job, it’s best to hold a professional license like the ISSA certification.

The ISSA licensing process not only helps teach the fundamentals of practical training, but their reputation as a leader in the training industry also adds value to holders of their licenses in the eyes of clients.

About 64% of personal trainers hold an exercise-related bachelor’s degree, while 89% hold at least some form of certification. 

These statistics are telling; if you are seriously interested in being competitive as a personal trainer, the best way to get ahead is to become certified. 

While many agencies provide certifications in personal training, you need to ensure you are investing in the right institution. 

Why ISSA Certification?

If you are looking into certification, the first institution on your list should be the International Sports Sciences Institution.

Many people are surprised to find out that the ISSA is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, a recognized accrediting agency by the U.S. Department of Education.

This is very important because accreditation is essentially the backing and endorsement behind your certification. To earn a high paying job, or even an entry-level job for that matter, you need to prove your knowledge. There is no better way to do that than by holding the proper certification.

One of the many perks of the ISSA certification is that it is entirely online.

All you need is access to a working computer and a stable internet connection, and you are well on your way to getting your certification.

How Much does ISSA Certification Cost?

ISSA tuition is quite low when compared to other schools.

The current price for ISSA courses is $220 per quarter credit for U.S. citizens and $440 per quarter credit for International students.
How Long Does ISSA Certification Take?

The ISSA personal trainer certification usually takes about 8 – 10 weeks.
That said, the length of the program depends on the work the student is willing and able to put in.

Personal training experts recommend trying to go for a pace of between 8-10 weeks in the interest of making sure you absorb all the information without overwhelming yourself in the process.

Because ISSA courses are self-paced, the certification is something you can earn while holding down a full-time job, making it a desirable option for people looking to transition from the corporate world into entrepreneurship.

Because the goal of the program is to help you learn the material well, students aren’t penalized for taking more time to complete modules or needing to retake a test.

Which ISSA Certification is Best?

The ISSA certification program currently has two route options:

  • Master Trainer Certificate
  • Elite Trainer Certificate


Both programs have the same fundamental goal, which is to train graduates in science and exercise information they will need to asses, train, and motivate their clients. 


These programs are holistic and combine many fields of study to equip their graduates in all the information they will use throughout their careers. 


Either program will help you build your fitness expertise, professionalism and customer care skills. 


By the end of your training, you should have a good grasp of what the general public is capable of doing, and how you can help them reach their goals. 

Getting a Job as a Certified Personal Trainer

With your ISSA certification in hand, you will need to decide if you want to work independently or get hired on at an established gym.


While both options have their own unique advantages and disadvantages, most new trainers start their careers working in a gym. Starting off working for someone else can be advantageous for several reasons, including, but not limited to:

  • Base Salary While you Are building your clientele
  • Help Building Your Client List
  • Additional Free Training 
  • Lower Startup Cost

Because the ISSA certification program is held in high esteem and accredited by several authorities, most gyms will happily hire an ISSA certified trainer on the spot.

How to Succeed as a Certified Personal Trainer

While getting certified may very well be the most crucial part of succeeding as a personal trainer, it is certainly not the only part.

Another critical piece of becoming a successful personal trainer is rooted in charisma and empathy.

The clientele that seeks out personal trainers are often on a very personal and intimate self-improvement journey themselves, and the best way to draw in and help them achieve their goals is via customer service skills.

Beyond the qualifications and certifications, a personal trainer needs to develop their interpersonal knowledge before they can expect to become successful in their field. The key here is to build up your experience working with people until you learn the right way to motivate a diverse array of clients.

If your trainer is providing you with the support and motivation you need to succeed, you will very likely stick with them through thick and thin.

This is the type of relationship you need to build with your clientele.

Personal Trainer Entrepreneurship

It’s no secret that many personal trainers work freelance.

Working as an entrepreneur is often more lucrative than working in a direct partnership with a gym because you’re effectively cutting out the middleman. 

Once you learn enough to handle your clientele on your own, your recommendations will often spread through word of mouth. A freelance personal trainer also can set their own schedule and be their own boss. 

This is an attractive arrangement for many young personal trainers who dream of starting their own business. 

And with the job growth boom anticipated for personal trainers, as well as the ‘wild west’ landscape of the fitness industry today, it is ripe for business savvy youths. 

With the foundation laid by a thorough educational program, such as the ISSA, and the qualifications in hand, all you need is a bit of motivation and a keen knack for customer service, and you can very well become a very successful personal trainer. 

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