Personal trainers have a variety of backgrounds, from those with a single certification to those with multiple certifications and university degrees. Fitness facility operators have to decide which level of personal trainer best fits their needs and their members’ needs.

A personal trainer with a degree is not necessarily more skilled than a personal trainer who has only a certification, says Robert Goldman, founder and president emeritus of the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), Chandler, AZ.

“There are some trainers without even a university degree that are very, very good,” Goldman says. “But I think the more credentialed, the more education someone has, the more positive impact they can have on that club.”

Personal trainers who lack the education specific to their profession not only hurt the industry but hurt their potential clientele as well, says Brian Oddi, a team member with NASM and an instructor in the department of sports and health sciences at American Public University (APU), Charles Town, WV. APU offers a bachelor of science degree in sports and health sciences with a concentration in exercise science, as well as a master’s of science degree in sports and health sciences. Both Equinox and Sport & Health clubs have participated in APU career services programs, says Jay Richardson, manager of strategic partnerships, sports and fitness, for APU, which offers all of its courses over the Internet.

“To have the education on top of the certification within the field covering all aspects is vital,” Oddi says. “I’ve seen trainers come to the gym with no foundation.”

However, personal trainers with degrees may be overqualified for clubs that do not have the budget for degreed and certified trainers, says Amy Hyams, vice president of educational services at certifying educational body World Instructor Training Schools (W.I.T.S.), Virginia Beach, VA.