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Importance of Continuing Education for the Fitness Professional

When I initially got my personal training certification from the National Strength and Conditioning Association, I was unhappy to find out that would need 60 hours of continuing education every three years to maintain my certification. It seemed unfair and costly that I would need to get continuing education credits. Since that time, I have found the process to be extremely important in my professional development.

Continuing education should be a mandatory process for personal trainers and other fitness professionals. In a survey of physical therapists in states with a continuing education requirement and those with no state requirement, the physical therapists in the states where it was mandatory averaged 33.8 hours, compared to the states with no requirement average of 28.3 hours (Landers, McWhorter, Krum, & Glovinsky, 2005). The physical therapist typically has a high attainment of education and is intrinsically motivated to seek knowledge, which accounts for the relatively high number of continuing education hours all physical therapists attained (Landers et al., 2005). However, the educational barrier for entry for becoming a personal trainer is much lower than becoming a physical therapist, and many do not see the value of education in advancing their skill set. Therefore, the required continuing education requirement is necessary for most personal trainers. I know I would still get them even if they weren’t required. I’ve since become certified in nutrition, corrective exercise, youth exercise, senior exercise, suspension training, kettlebell training and Spartan Group Exercise.

People have different preferences in regarding getting their continuing education credit and barriers to getting them. Armstrong and Weidner (2010) concluded that athletic trainers prefer formal hands on workshops to get their credit, and travel and cost were the biggest deterrents to getting credits. I also prefer formal workshops, because they usually present quality information whereas in an informal setting, like a networking situation, it is more of a hit or miss situation. It is true that continuing education credits may be costly, but if a person views it as an investment in themselves rather than an expense, it can make the price more palpable.

If I could propose one major change to the continuing education process, it would be adding mandatory business or marketing credits. I know when I first started I had a solid basis of understanding in exercise science, programming and instruction, but little idea on how to run a business. It was not featured in my undergrad curriculum, and I know many beginning trainers struggle in business skills. I would add business/sales/marketing to required types of credit a trainer would need.

Overall, continuing education is an important process that can help keep fitness professionals up to date on changing practices. It should be required, because not every training sees the intrinsic value of furthering their education. If one looks at the expense of continuing education as an investment in one’s personal development, it might eliminate that barrier. Lastly business education should be a requirement of all continuing education, because it is the least developed of the average trainer’s skill set.

References

Armstrong, K. J., & Weidner, T. G. (2010). Formal and informal continuing education activities and athletic training professional practice. Journal of Athletic Training, 45(3), 279-286.

Landers, M. R., McWhorter, J. W., Krum, L. L., & Glovinsky, D. (2005). Mandatory continuing education in physical therapy: Survey of physical therapists in states with and states without a mandate. Physical Therapy, 85(9), 861-871.