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Subsidizing Employee Certification

The demand for fitness professionals to become certified continues to rise, but paying for the necessary courses can be tough on their wallets.... There are many reasons to consider paying for employee certification.

The demand for fitness professionals to become certified continues to rise, but paying for the necessary courses can be tough on their wallets. The initial out-of-pocket expense to a fitness professional can be staggering, and renewing those certifications also stings. It used to be that fitness professionals could either pay up or be left behind, but now more and more facility operators are helping to mitigate the cost of employee certification. "We work with many fitness facilities that subsidize all or part of the certification fees," says Mario Crespo, president of the National Exercise Trainers Association (NETA), Minneapolis, Minn. "Some organizations will reimburse for renewal fees, as well as continuing education."

Staying competitive

There are many reasons to consider paying for employee certification. Highlighting a facility's certification benefits is a good way to attract motivated applicants. "Many clubs use certification as a recruiting tool to get entry-level instructors," says Crespo. As this practice becomes more commonplace, it may become mandatory to stay competitive in the hunt for excellent employees. Currently, certain kinds of facilities are more likely to pay for certification. Says Crespo, "Usually we find that YMCAs, community recreation centers, hospitals and many franchised clubs are more likely to pay for all or part of the certification expense."

"In a competitive field, anything that can tip the scales for your club is obviously beneficial," says Mark York, general manager, corporate wellness, of Sport & Health, McLean, Va. Sport & Health offers reimbursement for "some higher-profile certifications, [like] yoga, Bodypump, etc., along with an exclusivity clause in employment," says York. "Of those eligible, almost all have taken advantage." York adds that group exercise instructors are high on Sport & Health's list of desirable recruits, and paying for their further education is one way to attract them. "Those experienced group exercise professionals can be more selective in their choice of employer," he says.

Retention tool

Another reason clubs are forking over for certification is to improve retention. Though member retention is on everyone's minds, the first step toward beating the industry average is by retaining high-quality employees. Paying some or all of employees' certification costs is one way to achieve this, according to Crespo. "Facility directors often tell us that it works out better for them to retain staff by providing certification and continuing education, than to continuously replace staff," he says. Sport & Health has an impressive employee retention rate. "Of the current crop of employees that have received [the benefit] over the last two years, 80-plus percent are still employed," says York.

Risk management tool

If a facility operator can't afford to subsidize all types of certification, picking and choosing the most vital certifications can help with risk management. Jameie Millis, general manager at the PTO Fitness Center, Alexandria, Va., says the facility's board of directors pays for CPR and AED certifications, but no fitness certifications or continuing education. "It's a nice benefit, and plus it makes sure everyone gets AED certified," she says. "We hold it right at the club, once a year." The convenience of not only paying for the certification, but also hosting it, has paid off for the PTO Fitness Center. A few years ago, Millis had to use the club's AED on a delivery person who collapsed in the gym. She worked to resuscitate him before the paramedics arrived.

Finding the funds

Wanting to pay employees' certification fees is one thing; finding the necessary funds is something else. One way to afford the cost of subsidizing staff certifications is to open up the facility for classes or an exam. "Some facilities host NETA workshops and receive free certifications for their staff in exchange for use of their facilities," Crespo explains.

Another option is to subsidize the cost of one or two certifications, such as CPR and AED education, like the PTO Fitness Center. Or, use it as a motivational tool for employees who excel at their jobs. A fully-paid certification can reward dedicated staff members, and at the same time make them even more valuable members of your team. This also helps avoid the pitfall of paying to educate a lackluster employee, only for them to leave your club and apply that education elsewhere.

Education's importance to the industry - and how it is viewed by potential customers - will likely continue to increase. Though it can have short-term effects on the bottom-line, there are many long-term benefits. Fitness facilities that help facilitate the certification of fitness professionals will not only help improve their own staffs, but the industry itself.

Certification Directory

Academy of Applied Personal Training Education (AAPTE)
631 462-0666;
AAPTE offers a Personal Trainer/Health Fitness Instructor Certificate Program at Hofstra University College for Continuing Education. Hofstra University is accredited by Middle States Association of Colleges, and is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Individuals must attend one semester of classroom study, as well as 18 hours of practical, hands-on resistance-training exercises, assessment skills and methods of teaching resistance-training exercises. An optional three-hour review course is available prior to the written exam. To be eligible for the certification course, individuals must have completed a university-level course in human anatomy and physiology.

Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA)
877 968-7263;
AFAA offers six certifications: Personal Trainer, Primary Group Exercise, KickBoxing, Step, AFAA Challenge and The Wave Workout. Certifications involve onsite workshops, and require written and practical examinations, CPR certification and a one-year membership to AFAA. Specialty workshops are also offered, including Practical Pilates, Practical Skills and Choreography, KickBoxing Skills and Choreography, Step Skills and Choreography, Mat Science, Aqua Fitness, Midlife Fitness for Women, Perinatal Fitness and Senior Fitness.

American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
800 486-5643;
ACSM offers four NCCA-accredited certifications that cover the continuum of care, with two preventive certifications (ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and ACSM Certified Health/Fitness Instructor), and two clinical certifications (ACSM Certified Exercise Specialist and ACSM Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist). ACSM certification means staff will be qualified to work with a variety of people to improve health, fitness and wellness, including those with health risks and who are under a physician's care.

American Council on Exercise (ACE)
800 825-3636;
ACE is a nonprofit organization offering five certifications: Personal Trainer Certification, Group Fitness Instructor Certification, Lifestyle and Weight Management Consultant Certification (requires a current ACE Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor or Clinical Exercise Specialist Certification, a NCCA-accredited certification or a bachelor's degree in exercise science or related field), Clinical Exercise Specialist Certification (requires 300 hours of work experience, as well as a bachelor's degree in exercise science or related field, or a current ACE Personal Trainer Certification or NCCA-accredited certification) and Peer Fitness Trainer Certification Program administered exclusively through the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF).

American Fitness Professionals and Associates (AFPA)
609 978-7583;
AFPA offers distance learning education for certification and continuing education. Certifications include Personal Trainer, Advanced Personal Trainer, Group Fitness (Aerobics) Instructor, Strength Trainer, Functional Training Specialist, Sports Conditioning Specialist, Post-Rehabilitative Exercise Specialist, Nutrition and Wellness Consultant, Sports Nutrition Consultant, Pilates Fitness Instructor, Cardio Kickbox Instructor, Yoga Fitness Instruction (Levels I and II), Qiqong Instructor Training, Children's Fitness Specialist, Senior Fitness Specialist, Indoor Cycle Instructor, Aquatic Instructor, Stability Ball Trainer, Trainer of Special Populations and Pre-/Post-Natal Exercise Specialist. All certifications are home study, and must be completed within three months. Testing is submitted via mail.

American Senior Fitness Association (SFA)
800 243-1478;
SFA offers three certifications: Senior Fitness Instructor for those leading active older adults in group exercise programs; Senior Personal Trainer for those providing specialized one-on-one training for older adults ranging from typical healthy individuals to post-rehab stroke and cardiac clients and active senior athletes; and Long-Term-Care Fitness for those working with frail and disabled older clients in nursing homes, congregate living facilities and adult daycare centers. Programs require the successful completion of a proctored, closed-book exam, as well as proof of CPR and Basic First Aid certifications.

Aquatic Exercise Association (AEA)
888 232-9283;
AEA offers the Aquatic Fitness Professional (AFP) and Aquatic Fitness Instructor (AFI) certifications, both of which are based on the Aquatic Fitness Professional Manual. A Deep Water Module certification, which complements the AFP program, is also available to those already holding AFP or AFI certifications. Review courses and a Home Prep course are available. An onsite written test is required, as is CPR certification.

Certified Professional Trainers Network (CPTN)
416 979-1654;
CPTN offers the Certified Personal Trainer certification, as well as specialty certifications: Certified Pilates Mat & Ballwork Specialist, Certified Post-Rehab Conditioning Specialist, Ice Hockey Conditioning Specialist, Junior Athletes Training Specialist, Periodization Planning Specialist, and Strength and Conditioning Expert. All certifications require current CPR and Emergency First Aid certifications. Written and practical exams are required at onsite locations.

C.H.E.K. Institute
800 552-8789;
The C.H.E.K Institute offers four certifications: CHEK Exercise Coach, C.H.E.K Practitioner Program, CHEK Holistic Lifestyle Coach Program and CHEK Golf Biomechanic Intensive. The C.H.E.K Institute provides cutting-edge, scientifically based educational programs, products and services for the fitness and healthcare professional. C.H.E.K Institute-trained professionals are recognized as experts in their field, can perform detailed assessments and client evaluations as a prerequisite to designing corrective or performance-enhancing exercise programs, can recommend lifestyle changes, or implement stress-reduction techniques.

The Cooper Institute
972 341-3200;
The Cooper Institute, a nonprofit research and education facility, offers courses in Dallas or onsite, plus fitness tools such as books and DVDs. The Cooper Institute Personal Trainer Certification Exam is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies. Kenneth Cooper, M.D., M.P.H., founded The Cooper Institute in 1970. He helped condition America's astronauts for space, and developed the 12- and 1.5-mile fitness tests and the Aerobics Point System, all used today by military organizations, amateur and professional athletic teams, law enforcement agencies, and many public schools and universities.

Dancing Thru Pregnancy (DTP)
800 442-9044;
DTP, a certification for group fitness instructors and personal trainers, was developed in 1984 by fitness and healthcare professionals at the Yale University athletic department and Yale/New Haven Hospital. The certification teaches fitness professionals to work safely and effectively with pregnant and postpartum women in groups and individual settings; to screen and evaluate procedures to help clients prepare and recover from birth; to learn which exercise components are necessary for a healthy pregnancy, birth and new mom experience; and to understand the psychosocial dynamics of working with this special population.

Fitness Instructor Training (FiTOUR)
281 494-0380;
FiTOUR offers both in-home and workshop certifications. Core certifications include Primary Pilates, Advanced Pilates, Primary Yoga, Advanced Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Primary Personal Training, Advanced Personal Training, Primary Group Exercise, Primary Aqua, Indoor Cycling, Group Kickbox, Primary Nutrition and Advanced Nutrition. An additional 13 specialty certifications are also offered. All certifications have four levels: Level 1 Instructor (entry level), Level 2 Specialist, Level 3 Practitioner and Level 4 Master Practitioner. Levels 3 and 4 are for Pilates, yoga and personal training only, and Level 4 also includes group exercise. Exams are taken online at the FiTOUR website.

International Fitness Professionals Association (IFPA)
800 785-1924;
IFPA offers Personal Trainer, Certified Lifestyle Fitness Coach, Sports Nutrition, Sports Conditioning, Elite Education Success Program and Group Fitness certifications, as well as a host of other specialty certifications. Certification materials are purchased online, and workshops and the written exam are conducted at onsite locations. To obtain the certification, individuals must have a high school diploma and a current CPR certification.

International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA)
800 892-4772;
ISSA offers the following certifications: Personal Trainer Certification (CFT), Specialist in Sports Conditioning (SSC), Endurance Fitness Trainer (EFT), Fitness Therapy (FT), Specialist in Martial Arts Conditioning (SMAC), Specialist in Fitness for Older Adults (SFOA), Specialist in Performance Nutrition (SPN), Youth Fitness Trainer (YFT) and Water Fitness Trainer (WFT). Three study options are available: independent study with access to an 800 help line; interactive learning, which includes online courses; and two-day onsite seminars. Exams are onsite.

National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
800 460-6276;
Professionals with the NCCA-accredited NASM Certified Personal Trainer Certification learn how to master goal-specific program design for optimal results; accurately assess first-time clients to high-performance athletes; and develop and modify exercises in a safe and effective manner adaptable to any client. NASM's CPT preparation course is designed for entry-level to seasoned fitness professionals. Optimum Performance Training teaches the scientific rationale behind the program, the teaching tools and the practical experience necessary to perform assessments, how to create individualized programs and how to progress clients to their goals.

National Association for Fitness Certification (NAFC)
800 324-8315;
NAFC offers five certifications through home-study correspondence courses, including its Personal Trainer, Group/Aerobic Fitness Instructor and Wellness Consultant certifications, Sports and Recreation Trainer, and Expecting Fitness: Pre- and Post-Natal Fitness. Students must videotape their practice training sessions and take a written, proctored onsite exam administered by a "responsible" person such as a local librarian or teacher.

National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF)
800 772-6273;
The NCSF Certified Personal Training (CPT) credential can be obtained by completing a written exam that is administered at more than 400 Thomson-Prometric testing centers nationwide. While NCSF courses are not mandatory, three options are available: a weekend interactive workshop, an eight-week training course or a home study course.

National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association (NESTA)
877 348-6692;
NESTA offers Personal Trainer, Advanced Personal Trainer and Master Personal Trainer certifications, as well as a variety of specialty programs such as Sports Conditioning, Nutrition and Weight-Management and Complementary Fitness Training, Spencer Institute Life Coaching certifications, specialization certifications (circuit training, mental skills, senior fitness, etc.), and John Spencer Ellis education and business programs. Certifications are home study, and a test-only option is available. Tests are onsite and proctored.

National Exercise Trainers Association (NETA)
800 237-6242;
NETA offers a Group Exercise certification, a one-day course for beginning instructors; a Personal Trainer certification, a two-day course including 14 hours of lecture, demonstrations and practical, hands-on applications; a Pilates Specialty certification, a two-day workshop providing intensive, hands-on training for beginner-level Pilates exercises; and a Yoga Specialty certification, a two-day workshop on teaching a multi-level traditional yoga class. Home study options are also available, as are test-only options. Tests are administered at more than 500 locations.

National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT)
800 729-6378;
NFPT offers its NFPT-CPT (Certified Personal Trainer) certification, as well as an Advanced Personal Trainer certification, Nutrition Specialist, Weight Training Specialist and Endurance Training Specialist programs. Individuals completing all three of the specialty courses are awarded NFPT's Master Trainer certificate. Home study materials are required; however, individuals may test for the certifications without purchasing materials. Testing is onsite at more than 300 locations.

National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
888 746-2378;
NSCA offers the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) certifications. CSCS is for professionals who design and implement strength and conditioning programs for athletes in a team setting. CPT is for professionals who work with both active and sedentary clients in one-on-one situations. Current CPR certification is required for both the CSCS and CPT certifications. Study materials are available. An onsite three-hour written examination is required, with some of the questions corresponding to a videotape.

National Strength Professionals Association (NSPA)
800 494-6772;
NSPA offers Personal Trainer, Conditioning Specialist, Cycling Instructor and Secondary School Teachers certifications, as well as a Certified Weight Management course. The Personal Trainer and Conditioning Specialist certifications require a current CPR certification, and the Conditioning Specialist requires at least two years of relevant college courses or another equivalent certification. Courses are required and conducted onsite, as are the written and practical exams. Off-site retesting is available in certain regions.

Peak Pilates
303 998-1531;
Peak Pilates offers both equipment and mat certification programs. Peak Pilates' unique coaching models are designed to heighten student's confidence and capability as an instructor, with a focus on how to teach, and not just what to teach. Each program is offered through a modular educational pathway, allowing students to progress at their own pace. Lectures and presentations are combined with practical applications to prepare instructors to teach both private sessions and small group classes with confidence, clarity and success. Comprehensive support materials include manuals and DVDs.

Pilates Method Alliance (PMA)
866 573-4945;
The PMA-Certified Pilates Teacher creates and implements safe and effective individualized programs for apparently healthy clients to improve health and fitness through exercise and physical activity. To sit for the PMA Pilates Certification Exam, individuals must be 18 years of age, and must comply with one of two eligibly options: 450 documented hours of training in a Pilates teacher training program, or combination of Pilates teacher training programs; or 720 hours of employment as a Pilates teacher within the last 12-month period. The exam is comprised of 150 multiple choice questions and lasts three hours.

PhysicalMind Institute (PMI)
800 505-1990;
PMI offers Pilates certification programs, and new products (such as Tye4) and courses (Initiation 301 - Circular Pilates). PMI has low tuition fees cost and two different paths to certification. The first path is mat certification. Required courses are Initiation 101 and Initiation 201. Students learn relationship of fundamentals to Pilates exercises, along with the biomechanics of the pelvic floor and the tranverses. The second path is apparatus certification. Required courses are Initiation 101 and Concentration 101. Students learn anatomy, exercise modifications and contra-indications. Exercises on all apparatuses concurrently.

Professional Fitness Instructor Training (PFIT)
800 899-7348;
PFIT offers Personal Fitness Trainer (CPFT), Rehabilitative Exercise Specialist (RES), Exercise & Sports Nutrition Specialist (ESNS), and Pilates Plus Instructor Training and Mat certifications. To become certified as an RES or ESNS, individuals must first be certified as a CPFT. Courses run multiple days and are available onsite at various locations. Courses are not mandatory prior to taking the exam, which consists of both written and practical sections.

World Instructor Training Schools (WITS)
888 330-9487,
W.I.T.S. provides training programs designed to enhance and expand the practical skill set and workforce knowledge of fitness professionals. Its storefront has DVD programs to assist advanced learners. W.I.T.S. is VA Veterans Education-approved, with graduate lists and internships available for employers. All of W.I.T.S. six-week courses and workshops have college credits from the American Council on Education toward degrees in physical education and exercise science, as well as international CEUs through IACET and Board of Certification (BOC) acceptance for athletic trainers.
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