Should Personal Trainers and Coaches Be Licensed by the State?

What is the difference between me and the kid at Gold’s with a BA in some version of Physical Education and a piece of paper from the National Strength and Conditioning Association?

Besides the 38 years of experience, the books, the journal publications, the number of athletes and clients we’ve trained, the seminars I’ve conducted, and the organization of coaching professionals my company has educated, developed, and maintained?

In the event the state of Texas passes a law requiring that exercise prescription be administered by a “Licensed Professional,” he can be licensed and I cannot.

Licensure is a method used by governments to regulate the practice of certain professions. Medicine, Law, Physical Therapy, Athletic Training, Accounting, Physicians Assistancy, Pharmacy, Nursing, Dentistry, Dental Hygiene, Speech Pathology, Dietetics, Chiropractic, Optometry, Podiatry, Petroleum Geology, Veterinary Medicine, Architecture, Counseling, Psychology, Irrigation, Massage Therapy, Social Work, Cosmetology, Engineering, Plumbing Inspection, Private Security, Pest Control, Manicure/Pedicure, and countless other activities are restricted to “Licensed Professionals” in Texas, and most other states enjoy a much higher level of state regulation. I happen to know that bakers in Iceland are required to be licensed.

In most cases, this regulation by the state is performed at the behest of the professionals in charge of the activity, more as a way to control the level of competition and access to the supply of their particular commodity than to ensure competence.

The market is quite capable of ensuring competence, but the state is much better suited to restricting the number of other people competing with you.

I do not have a PE degree, and I am not a member of an exercise organization like the American College of Sports Medicine, the National Strength and Conditioning Association, the Pilates Method Alliance, the American Council on Exercise, or the National Exercise Trainers Association. A visit to their websites will show you why: they don’t approach the problem the way we do, and we fundamentally disagree with their approach.

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But their organizations are accredited and ours is not.

Accreditation is a procedure by which your organization submits to a review by another organization that is supposedly in a better position to evaluate the honesty, integrity, and competency of your organization than either you or your customers. The primary concern of the accrediting body is your office procedures -- at no point in the process are the accreditors concerned with the quality, the accuracy, or the veracity of the actual material you teach.

We lack the corporate structure necessary to comply with the byzantine procedural requirements and layers of bureaucratic administration which are inherent in obtaining accreditation through a national or international agency. And in the event of a state law that requires the establishment of a state exercise prescription license, a PE degree and membership in one of these organizations will be almost certainly a requirement.

Colleges and universities are interested in having a better reason to offer the degree, and national associations are interested in having more members.

I have been in the fitness industry since 1977, I have owned a gym since 1984, and I have personally taught thousands of people how to lift weights safely and productively. The methods taught in my books and videos have been used by millions of people and thousands of other exercise professionals, most of whom are in possession of a voluntary certification that I do not hold.

Costa Mesa Starting Strength Seminar