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Can a Felon Become a Personal Trainer?

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It is quite challenging for a felon to find a job after leaving prison.  Work they once had is gone.

Felons often think no one will hire them, but there are resources available.

This might be the time to start a different career.

This blog post will address the question of whether a felon can become a personal trainer.

  • What is a Personal Trainer?
  • What Education/Training Does a Personal Trainer Need?
  • How Much Does a Personal Trainer Earn?
  • An Opportunity for Felons?
  • Recommended Action


What is a Personal Trainer?

A personal trainer is a person who oversees an individual’s fitness program.

They help individuals develop a healthy lifestyle, a commitment to exercise, and a focus on fitness.

They educate people about physical exercise and healthy living.

A personal trainer typically meets once or twice per week with individuals and takes them through a workout routine designed specifically for them.

They serve in a variety of roles for their clients, including as an instructor, educator, coach, mentor, and friend to those they help.

Detailed knowledge in a number of areas is necessary to be a personal trainer:

  • Human anatomy and the basics of exercise and nutrition
  • Ability to assess individuals’ fitness and exercise progress
  • Ability to design wellness, health, and physical fitness programs for individuals
  • Exercises in the areas of cardiovascular, flexibility, and resistance training
  • Dedication to personal and professional integrity

A personal trainer works in a variety of settings, including a gym, health club, corporate location, or a person’s home.

The skills necessary to be successful as a personal trainer are:

  • Desire for fitness and helping others
  • Communication skills and interpersonal skills to work effectively with individuals
  • Strong work ethic to convey the importance of exercise and a health routine
  • Enthusiasm to convey the importance of a healthy lifestyle
  • Commitment to learning
  • Ability to demonstrate exercises and routines
  • Physical stamina to work with multiple clients in a day
  • Flexibility to schedule sessions according to a client’s needs

What Education/Training Does a Personal Trainer Need?

A personal trainer is not required to be licensed, but there is certification offered.

Many personal trainers are college graduates with an associate or bachelor degree related to personal training.

An individual may achieve a degree in exercise science, health and fitness, exercise physiology, or physical education.

A degree program usually focuses on specific course work in physical conditioning, kinesiology, motor development, and anatomy and physiology.

A person can also attain the essential knowledge to become a personal trainer from a community college, training program, or online instruction.

Most personal trainers achieve a certificate from an organization that oversees personal trainers, including:

  • American Fitness Professional and Associates (AFPA)
  • American Council on Fitness (ACE)
  • National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
  • American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
  • National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
  • National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF)

Each of these programs has slightly different requirements, but typically they include taking and passing an exam with a written part and often a practical section.

Each exam tests knowledge in human physiology, proper exercise techniques, and ability to assess an individual’s fitness level and design an appropriate exercise program.

Often, a personal trainer needs certification in CPR and automated external defibrillators (AED) to be prepared to deal with emergencies occurring in a gym.

Certification must be renewed through the organization from which it was obtained either annually or biannually.

Some personal trainers may want to pursue being an athletic trainer or exercise physiologist.  Areas of interest could involve a focus on a particular population like athletes, adolescents, or senior citizens, or they may chose to focus on major athletic clubs.

Personal trainers will either get a job with a major athletic club, a smaller gym, or choose to work independently.  In any event, they must receive privileges to train clients at a specific gym.

How Much Does a Personal Trainer Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that there were approximately 280,000 personal trainers or instructors in 2015.

This occupation is expected to show an 8% growth by 2024.  The reason for this growth is the increasing age of the population and the continued emphasis on living a healthy lifestyle.

The median salary of a personal trainer in 2015 was $36,100 annually.  The median salary is the one for which 50% earn more than this and 50% less.  Experience and setting will make a difference in how much a personal trainer earns annually.

Those on the East or West coast typically earn more than a personal trainer that works elsewhere.

An Opportunity for Felons?

Those wanting to become a personal trainer may have developed this interest in prison when they had the time to work out and began learning to take better care of themselves.

The field of health is all about people trying to make themselves better, so becoming a personal trainer is possible for felons.

A felon is able to take the certification exam offered by accredited associations.

The critical factor will be in finding a job as a personal trainer or a gym that will allow them to train clients there.

A career as a personal trainer for felons is possible depending on the nature of the crime committed. Anyone who has been convicted of sexual harassment, murder, child pornography, or rape will find it difficult to work at any gym.

Some gyms do background checks on new personal trainers while others don’t.  The large, high-end fitness clubs typically do a background check on all new employees while many of the smaller ones don’t.

Fitness clubs associated with a hospital may also do a drug test in addition to a background check.

It is important to assume a gym will run a check unless finding out otherwise.

Many employers like gyms have discovered that felons make good employees.

Felons who developed a keen interest in physical training in prison often make excellent personal trainers because they have dedicated themselves to a training regimen and have established a hard-body mentality they can pass along to their clients.

A felony that isn’t reported but discovered on a background check is fraud, a punishable crime that could result in being sent back to prison.

When applying for a job as a personal trainer or to receive privileges to train at a gym, it is important to be up front about their history.

Having their felony expunged can give them the chance they need to start over with a clean record and succeed in becoming a personal trainer.

Expunging a criminal record allows anyone to honestly state on an application that they have not been convicted of a crime.

Recommended Action

Any felon wanting to become a personal trainer needs to remember that they have learned about improving themselves through their time in prison, working out to develop their physical strength and stamina as part of a healthy lifestyle.

They can dedicate themselves to helping others become physically fit and tuned into their health.

Having their record expunged could be helpful in wiping out their conviction.

Then, it would be beneficial to document any education or training they have completed since their release.

Taking time to develop a strong resume will boost their chances.

Having support from family and friends along with a counselor or someone knowledgeable about their dedication is essential.

We aren’t defined by the mistakes we make but by how we recover from them.

A felon doesn’t have to be defined by their crime.  They can begin again and establish an honest life no matter how difficult it might seem.

What do you think about this blog post?  Are you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to become a personal trainer with a felony?  What was that like for them, and how did they achieve success?  Please tell us in the comments below.

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