Update 1/27/20. Can you be a personal trainer with a criminal record? This is a question I've seen asked quite a bit online but I don't think I've ever seen it discussed in any fitness publications. While I'm sure some might think the answer is obvious, I don't think it necessarily is. I think for some people, yes, it's possible. I want to discuss this not only because nobody else seems to want to, but also because I want to speak directly to those in prison now – as well as paroled individuals – to give them insights into how to do this if they feel fitness is their calling. If you want to add anything or think I missed something, leave a comment below. I'll be interested in reading what you think.
Also, See These Reports Too
- Personal trainers who smoke
- Top gym scams
- Violent crimes in the gym
- Emergency plan for fitness centers
- Too old to be a personal trainer?
- How young can a personal trainer be?
Personal Trainer With a Criminal Record?
I'm sure a lot of people, after reading the title of this post, probably thought, “No, You can't,” but after thinking about this question for a bit, I came to the conclusion that Yes. It's possible to be a personal trainer if you have a criminal record. I say this because fitness organizations don't ask people if they've ever been in prison (nor should they) prior to taking their fitness certification test.
But more than that, I say yes, because I believe in redemption for everyone. Who among us has not made a mistake in his or her life? I know I have.
Having said that, I think the nature of some crimes, might make a career in personal training more difficult than others. For example, I'd think that crimes involving:
- Sexual harassment
- Child pornography
would make working in a gym as a trainer, almost impossible. While there are always exceptions to everything, I just don't think the managers of most gyms would take the chance of allowing someone with this type of criminal background to interact with their members.
On the other hand, crimes such as:
- Car theft
- Not paying alimony
as bad as they are, might pose less of a problem ―especially if they occurred many years ago – and the person has since kept out of the legal system and made a conscious effort to better themselves.
There really is no way to predict how a gym owner or general manager might react to someone with a criminal record applying for a fitness job. I think it really depends on the nature of the crime and the person doing the hiring.
So, what might a person do to increase the odds of getting a personal trainer job if they were previously convicted of a crime? In my opinion, it's all about making yourself look as good as possible in the eyes of the gym management ―and I don't mean looking good physically.
Simply looking good on the outside will not cut it with savvy gym managers and owners. Good looking personal trainers are a dime a dozen. Health clubs today are really looking for “ambassadors” of their organization more than anything else. This is especially true for the more elite health clubs.
When I say ambassador, I mean someone who represents the core values of the gym. Some of the core values gym managers look for include:
- Customer service
Personal trainers who have these virtues will make more money than those who don't. Since personal training is likely the gyms #1 source of monthly income, these are the people that managers like to employ.
Another attribute gym managers value a LOT is the ability to sell. That's because managers /owners think a trainer with sales experience can make more money for them than a trainer who does not have sales experience. In the fitness world, there is this saying:
“It's its easier to make a salesman into a personal trainer, than a personal trainer into a salesman.”
So, if you have the gift of gab, this might help you. One book I like on this topic is The Personal Trainers Sales Education Handbook which is all about getting clients while working in a gym.
While I like this book, I prefer the book I wrote even more – 101 Personal Trainer Marketing Secrets. In my book, I didn't focus so much on selling as I did the tips and strategies to help you get clients and keep them. You don't need to be a salesperson to get personal training clients. I'm proof of this.
OK, sales aside, let me now outline some steps and things to think about, before walking into a gym to apply for a job.
Anyone who is serious about becoming a personal trainer has to educate themselves to stay educated. There is no getting around this crucial fact. That means:
1. Getting a personal trainer certification
2. Learning as much as possible about exercise, after getting certified
3. Getting personal trainer insurance, especially if you are self-employed.
Those who only go into the fitness business because they learned “convict workouts” while in prison won't stand a chance of getting hired as a personal trainer in most health clubs today. That's because those types of workouts are likely too difficult for the average person and have an increased risk of injury. If you injure your clients, you won't be making much money from them.
Becoming as educated as possible about the world of exercise and personal training will not only give you a leg up on getting a job in a gym ―but it will also help that person to be a successful personal trainer, especially if they one day decide to make the leap to becoming self-employed.
Tip. For those who don't know about the different types of personal trainer certifications, it's a good idea to go to local gyms and ask the manager for a list of the certification organizations they do accept. Not all gyms accept all certifications. So, by asking for the list, you can save time.
If the manager doesn't have a list to give you, ask the manager to write down a list of organizations they accept. Then you can go on the internet and do some research about those organizations themselves.
See my how to be a personal trainer review for more info on this.
Some personal trainer certifications can be very expensive. Some can cost thousands of dollars. Fortunately, many can be obtained for less than $1000 and some are only $100 or so. If you have limited funds, I suggest you contact your parole officer or local department of corrections to ask if they offer any assistance in helping parolees obtain job skills.
You may have heard of online certs that you can take at home. These are not cheaper than traditional fitness certifications and because its easy to cheat on most online certs, I dont know how many gyms accept them. Regardless, some online certs are well respected, such as the ISSA certification.
Yes, some gyms do accept online certifications, but because you may be at a disadvantage when you apply for a job, I think its best to avoid most of them for now and get a more traditional cert (ACE, IFTA, AAAI/ISMA, NSCA ). It sends a subtle message to employers that you took the time to study and that you travel to a location to take a proctored exam.
Here is my review of online personal trainer certs if you are interested.
Most personal trainer certifications have an expiration date. Most expire every 1-2 years. In other words, you have to get re-certified before the expiration date. If you are taking a personal trainer certification while you are in prison, I feel it's important that the certification date begins when you are released from prison. This is good because you don't want to pass the exam, only to have it expire while you are still incarcerated. I believe most fitness organizations will work with you on this.
If you are in prison now, seek out whoever is in charge at the prison to reach out to the fitness organization you are interested in to ask about this before paying for the cert. Another option is to have a family member contact the organization on your behalf. If you can, I feel having a representative at the prison do this as it will be more official.
Before applying for a personal training job, you need to have a resume you can bring with you to the interview. Again, parole officers, friends and family may be able to help you with learning how to do this.
Here is my review on how to make a resume for more info on how to do this.
If you perform an internet search for “resume tips” this should also bring up additional ideas on how to write a resume to make it sound good. If you are able to, include references or letters of recommendation from people of good standing (ministers, etc.) as this can improve the odds of getting hired.
CPR and AED Certification
In addition to fitness certification, you also have a CPR/AED certification too. I say for 3 reasons:
1. Medical emergencies in the gym happen all the time (click the link to learn more)
2. It can make you look better than other trainers who don't have it
3. All trainers really need to have a CPR/AED certification.
I recommend you get the CPR/AED cert before you attempt to get a fitness certification. Many fitness organizations will require you be CPR/AED certified before they let you take their certification exams.
Be sure to add the CPR/AED cert to your resume because it will help you stand out during the interview.
Many places offer CPR/AED certifications such as hospitals, YMCAs and community colleges. You can find a list of those in your area by going to AmericanHeart.org. Or just do a Google search for “CPR /AED + your zip code”
For those in prison now, ask if the CPR/AED certification is offered where you are incarcerated.
I do not feel you should take an online CPR/AED cert if this is the first time you are getting this certification. CPR and AED are best learned hands-on. See my review of online AED /CPR certification for why I believe this.
How to Dress For The Interview
Whether people are just walking into the gym to ask for the list of accepted personal trainer certs―or meeting the owner for a job interview―it's important to dress appropriately.
Because personal training is a casual business, I usually tell people that Dockers and a Polo or button-down shirt with some comfortable shoes are enough to put you over the top with most managers.
But, for those who have a criminal record (especially if it's been fairly recent since getting out of prison), I'd say go above this and wear a suit and tie if possible. Again, the idea here is to try, as much as possible, to overshadow previous transgressions.
The Personal Trainer Interview
Usually, the manager or owner of the gym will want to interview people before they are hired. I believe getting the conviction out of the way immediately is the best way to get past it and move on. So, this is what I'd suggest you do.
Sit down with the gym manager or owner and let him/her look over the resume. As they begin to ask questions, look them in the eye and politely say that you feel you be up-front with them and let them know that you had previously spent time in prison. For example, say something like this:
“Mr. Smith, before we proceed, I really want to be honest and let you know that 2 years ago I was in prison for car theft. I've been paroled and have turned my life around. Fitness and wellness is my passion and where I know I can do the most good in this world. I understand my previous mistakes may hurt my chances of working with your organization but I believe in starting off with no secrets, so I wanted you to know.”
I think it's important to get the crime stuff out of the way quickly, because:
1. It saves you time to move on to other opportunities (jobs) if they are not interested in you.
2. Being upfront also saves the manager time― and money ―because if they are interested, they may do a criminal background check. If that happens, it's going to come up. Again, it's best to get out in front of this as soon as possible.
It's at the interview where all of your prior preparations―getting certified/ being educated, dressing well, speaking well, being honest ―will all come together to present the best case for them to employ you.
See my Fitness Job Interview review post for more insights on what to expect and how to do well in the interview.
Make Your Jail Time Work For You
Can your time in prison work to your advantage? I think it can. Here's why.
One thing business owners tell me – regularly – is their employees lack common sense. Sometimes they don't even know how to make a change! That's a true story by the way…
Because you spent time in prison, you have had to navigate a very complex environment, interacting with a diverse group of people. Whether you know it or not, you have learned:
- Conflict resolution
- Quick thinking
- Respect for others
And you learned all this while dealing with some of the scariest people on Earth. There is no situation in fitness you cannot handle!
Remember, employers hire people who can best solve their problems and make their lives easier. So, instead of shying away from your time in prison, try to spin it so they understand how the time you served makes you a more valuable asset to their organization.
Criminal Background Checks
Some gyms do perform background checks on new employees. This is especially true for employees who come in contact with children. This often includes personal trainers. At high-end fitness clubs, I'd think a background check would be mandatory on ALL new potential employees. While, smaller, local gyms might not do this, I think its best to assume there will be one until you know otherwise.
Also, health clubs associated with hospitals or businesses may also require a drug test for personal trainers as well.
Personal trainers should not use illegal drugs. There is no gray area here. You need to get clean for life – not just for the drug test – if you plan on being a personal trainer. Just to get you thinking, consider what what would happen if the gym did random drug tests? Some do. You can't prepare for random drug tests.
But, what if the gym doesn't do a background check? I still think honesty is the best policy because it's a secret that will always be hanging over you.
Personal trainers are highly visible in the gym. What if your past mistakes were brought up by a member? Then you'd have to explain why you didn't tell the manager during the interview.
You should not be a slave to a mistake you made years ago.
For those who want to change their lives and move on, I can imagine how easy it might be to “forget” to bring up spending time in prison during a job interview. I really think in the long run, being honest will be in the best interest of everybody.
Are You Too Old To Be a Personal Trainer?
If you really want to do this, I don't think age is a thing you should think about. As I mentioned in my review of “Am I too old to be a personal trainer' you can make your age work for you. People most likely hire trainers are in their 40s. So if you are also in your 40s or older, your clients will think you have more experience than someone who is in their 20s -whether you do or don't. Don't let your age stand in your way.
You're Hired. Now What?
I think it's important to remember that after being hired, you need to be as professional as possible when working in the gym. Basically, you need to make a statement to management that you are ―and continue to be― the right person for the job. When I say professional, I mean things like:
- Wearing the uniform when working
- Not wearing the uniform when working out
- Being polite to members
- Not using cell phones or texting when training clients
- Arriving early for appointments
- Accommodating members when possible
Let me be clear. I say these things ―not because they are obvious ―but because I want you to succeed. Sometimes, after getting out of prison, it may seem like the deck is stacked against you in terms of getting an opportunity to better yourself. So, when an opportunity does occur, it's time to take the bull by the horns and use it to create another, bigger opportunity.
Becoming Self Employed
Eventually, people may decide that they enjoy helping people so much that they decide to go in business for themselves. When this happens, getting a job isn't the hard part ―it's getting clients. Unlike fitness centers, who may pass clients on to trainers, those who are self-employed, need to get them for themselves.
I feel making the best use of your time in the gym, is an excellent way to get a reputation as a good personal trainer. Then, if the decision to be self-employed is made, some of those gym members may decide to hire you outside of the gym.
Before becoming self-employed, learn everything possible about personal training, home training and health and wellness because training in a gym is much different ―and often easier ―than training people in their home.
Like all personal trainers, remember it's likely your clients will google your name. People do this because they want to learn more about who they are hiring. This can be especially challenging for those convicted of crimes. As such, I recommend people google their name now to see what shows up.
Don't just use “Google” either. Use other search engines also such as Bing, Yahoo, Ask Jeeves and Duck Duck Go for example. One search engine might contain information that others don't.
See if anything about your previous incarceration shows up on the first 1 or 2 pages of the search engine. If it does, think ahead of time at how you will overcome this. For example, one possible way is to advertise yourself as an expert in “convict workouts” or something like that.
I know, I previously said convict-type workouts might not be the right way to go. Mostly they aren't. But, I bring this up as a way to turn a negative into a positive.
If the people you are trying to market to are interested in hard-core bodyweight workouts, then some might prefer to learn these workouts from someone who has been in prison -and lived it – as opposed to someone who didn't.
That's just a suggestion and if you do this, remember to read my review of rhabdo (read the comments too!) to learn more about how to recognize it and avoid causing this serious medical condition in your clients. For much more insight, read my rhabdo book.
So Can You Be A Trainer If You Were in Prison?
For some, this is a controversial topic and there may be those who might feel uncomfortable working with a personal trainer who has a criminal record. That's a question each of us will have to answer for ourselves. That said, I've always felt that fitness is a big tent with room for a wide range of people. And, If you think about it, health clubs are all about redemption – full of people who join in the hopes of bettering themselves.
At the end of the day, we all make mistakes in life. Granted, some mistakes are harder to overcome than others, but with patience, and help, I think we can overcome a lot. For those who feel otherwise, I'll respect your opinion but I'll leave you with these words: If it's true, that our mistakes define who we were – then it's also true that what we do with our lives― because of those mistakes―define who we are.
Anquanette Jordan says
If someone is in jail and wanna get a personal trainer certificate how do they go about doing that
Anquanette, I think the first step is to see if the prison has an activities director. I may not be using the right term for this. Maybe one of the guards knows the correct term or someone else here does? Whoever that person is can give you information on how to obtain a personal trainer certification while in prison.
I believe IFTA (interactive fitness trainers of America) does live lecture courses. They would have to be invited into the prison to do this. Another organization is International Sports Science Association (ISSA). they have a correspondence course that people take on their own. They study the textbook on their own and when they are ready they can send away for the exam. They then send the exam back to ISSA to be graded.
I hope this helps. If you have any other questions let me know and I’ll try to help.
I was just given my offer letter as a fitness manager making a good amount $. the entire staff I spoke to and interviewed with where very impressed with me and basically told me 2 weeks ago welcome aboard… BUT I got a completely harmless and stupid ONE TIME DUI. Just i months ago. my offer letter States that the job is contingent upon the following excetera which includes of course a background check and MVR or motor vehicle Report.
My license is not suspended but it is restricted. This job is a huge thing for me I have had a tough few months because of all of this and I’m finally feeling like the light is at the end of the tunnel. But I am so afraid to fill out this background information because I don’t want to be excited just to be told thanks but no thanks.
Mind you the entire supervisory staff above me was overboard in their Pursuit Of Me and have been extremely interested and impressed but of course, they never even asked for a license or if I ever had a crime and so on now that I have the offer letter and that makes it official I suppose, Contingent upon my passing a background check.
It’s corporate which is a bigger fear of mine because I know that corporate tends to just look at a simple piece of paper and say oh no he has a DUI he lied which I never did I was never asked.
In anybody’s or experience, Has a DUI conviction prevented you from getting a job after an offer letter, and salary location, title, all and everything else is in place?
Jay, sorry to hear you are going through this stressful situation. I wish I had some words of wisdom for you except to say just continue down this road and see where it leads. It sounds like you are very close to being hired. I would fill out the background check info and see what happens. I also think it would help if you told the supervisor staff about your DUI and how it may impact things. At least you will not be in the dark as much. Explain to them just as you did here what happened. its quite possible that since it was your first offense they may overlook it.
I know this will be difficult to do – I can tell you are stressed – but sometimes getting out in front of something can be better than waiting for it to creep up on you from behind.
I hope you will let us know what happens..
Does anyone else have guidance for Jay about this?
So I was arrested for breaking into a house 5 yrs ago. Ive cleaned myself up and have been working out. I want to be a personal trainer. Will my previous transgressions be a problem for me?
Hi Timothy, If that’s the only thing that occurred then I dont see a problem. If what you did was a felony then ask the certification agency up front if this will be a problem for you taking their test. I know the NASM (national academy of sports medicine) does not allow people who’ve commented felonies to be in their organization. I believe they are one of the few though. I believe for most organizations (AAAI/ISMA, IFTA, ACE, NSCA, ISSA and others), this should not be a problem.
If a person is in still in prison which organizations allow for exams to be taken on their own since they can’t get to a testing facility?
Hi Danielle, excellent question and I WILL be writing a big post on all the different fitness organizations which help those prison become personal trainers. If you join my newsletter list you will be alerted when I post it (I will hope to have it up soon). For now, I can tell you this organization is “prison friendly”
ISSA. International Sports Science Association. https://www.issaonline.edu/ Their course is $799 but they may offer a discount to those in prison. I spoke to ISSA about this. To learn more call them mat 805-755-7208 and ask for Ryan. That is who I spoke with.
Again, stay tuned. I will be posting a great deal more on this topic very soon in a separate post.
Any other questions, just ask.
PS, like your email name 🙂
I was charged with petty theft and am scared to death that it might end up a conviction. I made an idiotic choice and regret it ever since. I have turned my life to fitness as it has always been a passion and personal training is something I want to do to help others with their fitness goals. I just wanted to ask if I have a chance with some education and a personal training certification. It hasn’t been a year yet so time has past by not a lot.
Thanks, your article gives me hope.
Hi Rey, you are very welcome. I’m so glad I was able to ease your stress level. Keep me posted on your progress in training or if you have any other questions
Thank you Joe but I just wanted to know in your opinion does a petty theft, one-time, past stop your from becoming a personal trainer? I am still going to attempt it because as I said fitness is my passion and will educate myself to learn as much as possible. I have a long way to go for my training to excel but I will get there, thanks again for replying.
Hi Rey, we all make mistakes in life and if this is all that occurred, I dont think it will be an issue especially as time goes by. I think the best thing is to get out in front of it when you go for interviews. Bring it up before they do. Be nice about it and say something like “this is what happened in my past and while Im not that person anymore, I wanted to share it with you in case it matters. If it doesn’t great but if it does, then let me know now.”
As far as fitness certification’s are concerned, some wont certify people who’ve been convicted of felonies. Not sure if your mistake was a felony or not. One of those that are like that is NASM, the National Academy of Sports Medicine. I dont think that’s a big deal because they are over hyped and over-priced anyway in my opinion. I dont think most fitness organizations are like this though. Before you sign up for a certification – and pay for it – call the organization and ask them if they have any policies that prohibit those who’ve been convicted of crime from taking their exam. I dont think most do but it cant hurt to ask just in case.
I think the best thing you can do now is build up as much good stuff as possible. Make yourself look as good on paper as you can. Fitness certs, CPR/AED cert can help and even volunteering at church etc., can make people look past what happened in the past and see you for the person you are now.
Keep me updated on how everything is going. Sign up for my free newsletters. I have a LOT of information I pass along to trainers there.
Okay, I see, and no mine was a misdemeanor charge but still has an effect. I am always willing to work harder towards my goals! And with the advice you present me with, I am going to take action on it. I do have a job so I am not unemployable, just not a clean past over a mistake.
I will proceed to get certified and get educated as much as possible, and I will even look into volunteering at my church, thanks again for the advice and boost of confidence. I definitely look into the newsletters!
Sounds good Rey, I wish you much success!
I’ve made the mistake of getting into a fight with my Mom while I was 19 back in 2011. I got charged and convicted with misdemeanor domestic battery and spent up to two weeks in jail. Nowadays I haven’t been in anymore legal trouble, me and my Mom have a better relationship than before and I’ve taken anger management, family therapy and individual therapy in order to help me develop coping skills.
I’m currently going to school to be a personal trainer and I was wondering will my past stupid mistake keep me from getting a job as a personal trainer at a gym? This is something I’ve been thinking about for years and I hope I didn’t pick the wrong career with my misdemeanor.
Joe Cannon says
Hi John, based on what you said, I don’t think you have anything to worry about. If it ever comes up during an job interview, just be honest and say it was an unfortunate family altercation and leave it at that. There is no need to go into the details. If you eventually become self employed (which I hope you do – check out my marketing book for ideas), this will almost certainly never come up.
I say don’t worry anymore about the past and focus on your future. I’m glad you and your mom have a better relationship now too.
I made the mistake of assaulting someone while ill in 2005. After doing 2 years in prison, I never got in trouble again. I looked up many code of conducts on personal training organization’s websites and most said you can’t be a convicted felon. I have been reading so many personal training books to prepare myself before attending school, but I want to make sure I can become a personal trainer with a record before spending so much money on a vocational school.
I plan on earning a certificate from the government that states I’m fully rehabilitated, and I can’t be turned down most jobs and licenses, just because of my record, but there are limits, like I can’t become a cop or get a license to practice law. My main question is: should I still pursue a career in personal training?
Joe Cannon says
Hi Michael, is this something you truly want to do? If yes, then I say go ahead and do it. Yes there will be some in the job market who may hold it against you. We all have obstacles that will stand in our way from time to time. When I run into those types of things, I look at them as something to make me better. I try not to get depressed over them. Neither should you.
Can you list the organizations that said being a convicted felon is against their code of conduct? I think that will help others who are thinking about this save time by avoiding those organizations.
Before you pick a certification go to with, call them and ask if your prior conviction is against their code of conduct. Given what you said and that it was from 2005, I’d be surprised if it still came back to haunt you.
Yes, I can. According to my research, the organizations with specific felon clauses are the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), the American Council on Exercise (ACE), and the National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT). The most lenient, usually following policy by government laws, are the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), and the American Fitness Professionals and Associates (AFPA).
Joe Cannon says
Michael, thanks for those names. Have you personally called them to explain your situation? Im wondering if they would bend their rules on a case by case basis. Of those organizations you mentioned, ACE would be the most well rounded in my opinion. I also know most gyms accept ACE too. I dont know much about AFPA but they have been around a long time so that is good. Call them and see what they say.
Other organizations to call include NSCA, IFTA (interactive fitness trainers of America), AAAI/ISMA and ISSA (international sports science association).
Hey i have a question as well… I am 28 years old i am interested in getting in the field of personal training. I have a record and have been to jail. Never for anything serious. I got a dui when i was 21 and just kind of kept driving and kept getting caught during the time i was supposed to be suspended. My last conviction i did 120 days and they took my license for 3 years. That was 2.5 years ago. I have an interview with a fairly high end gym thursday. I’m trying to get as much info as i can regarding a background check. What do you think i should do.
Joe Cannon says
Hi Dan, If it’s a high-end gym, odds are they are going to run a background check so your past DUIs will come up. If it doesn’t come up during the interview, wait until the person asks if you have any questions for them, and then bring it up. Explain it was a stupid thing and that you are much more mature now. Tell them just what you told me and ensure them that its in the past and that you don’t do anything like that anymore. I’d think if your fitness credentials and personality are good, the gym might overlook it since its been almost 3 years ago. Given alcohols connection to increased estrogen levels, not to say cancer, I’d say dont even drink anymore. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/dietandphysicalactivity/alcohol-use-and-cancer
let me know how the interview on Thursday goes.
jamie chavies says
again thanks for the help.
jamie chavies says
Sorry get back to you late i did find out information on this.
what happen is that if you are denied from your prison then you will ave to wait till you are out to take class and exams. but if you are denied from the school you can appeal you denied and if approve take the class and exams.
So in my husband case he was denied by the prison after we paid for everything and he was ready to take exam. so as soon as he out in a couple of months the school will allow for him to go straight in to take exam.
Thank you for your help.
Joe Cannon says
Hi Jamie, thanks for letting me know. I didnt know about the prison’s role in all this. Glad your husband will be out in a few months. Just tell him to keep studying. By the time hes out rolls around, he will be even better prepared to take and pass the exam. Let me know how it goes.
jamie chavies says
here is the name of the organization (NFPT) national federation professional training
Joe Cannon says
Hi Jami, Here is the website for the NFPT : https://www.nfpt.com/
Here is the NFPT contact page: https://www.nfpt.com/contact-us
Here is the NFPT contact phone # : 800-729-6378
They are open M-F 9AM-5PM (EST)
Let me know what happens.
jamie chavies says
thank you so much i will let you know everything that happens. i sending him the information to give now.
Joe Cannon says
Good Im glad 🙂
jamie chavies says
hello my husband is trying to get his cert in personal training in prison. He brought his books and now ready to take exams but the prison is trying to tell us that now he can not take the exam because of his felon but gave him the information and had him pay for everything. is it true or not that he can get his cert. thanks
Joe Cannon says
Hi Jamie, That is 100% incorrect. There is no universal rule that felons cannot take a personal trainer certification test. This is what I suggest you do:
1. Find out the name of the fitness organization your husband is trying to be be certified by. For example it might be “ISSA” – International Sports Science Association or it might be “NASM” – National Academy of Sports Medicine. Ask your husband. He has the books and the name of the organization will be on the front and back covers of those textbooks.
2. When you know the name of the organization you can call them on the phone. If you cant find the phone number, let me know the name of the organization here in a comment and I will find you their contact phone number.
3. When you speak to the organization on the phone, ask this question “Do you have any rules against felons in prison taking your certification test?” Say it just like that. My guess is that the organization has no rules that would prohibit your husband from taking the test in prison. Also tell them that your husband has already purchased their study materials and is ready to take the exam.
4. Ask the organization for an email or letter that says they have no restrictions. Take that to the prison and show it to the warden or whoever is in charge.
That should take care of your problems.
Jamie, do let me know what happens. I’m really curious to know how this turns out.
I am enrolled in NASM already I have previous Felonies just 2 non violent and non drug offenses will that bar me from getting certified?
Joe Cannon says
Hi Ledell, generally, I’d say no, it wont impact your ability to take the NASM test and if you pass get certified. It may come up during job interviews but if you take the advice I gave, it might help smooth things over. good luck in the test and keep me posted on how things go after you pass.
Hello my name is Duell. I am 26 years old and I am considering becoming a PT. I was charged with aggravated assault (class 3 felony) and possession of paraphernalia (class 6 felony) in 2010. I didn’t actually touch or hurt anyone, I just threatened a guy and i never went to prison, just a little bit of jail time.
I am intelligent and I can speak and communicate extremely well. I have also worked in customer service and sales for years. could I please get some honest opinions about the odds of me becoming employed through a gym after my certification.
Joe Cannon says
Hi Duell, have you had any problems with the law since 2010? If you have left your former life behind and are willing to learn all you can about health and fitness, then I don’t see a problem. Your past may show up in background checks if the gym does any so it will be up to them to decide if something that happened in 2010 is relevant today or not.
Keep me posted on how things go for you if you decide to pursue a career as a personal trainer.
Thank you for the input. I haven’t been in any trouble since then and its been almost 6 years now, I’m feeling confidant. I will let you know what happens for sure.
Joe Cannon says
Duell, sounds good I’m glad I was able to help.
Haven’t been in prison, however a month ago I made terrible judgement and drove a car after going to a baseball game with a few drinks in my system. Unfortunately, the embarrassment and guilt is added to the misdemeanor that will be on my record for the rest of my life. I am planning to move in September and will be pursuing a career as a personal trainer in my new destination. I am already certified with 6 months of experience and am hoping that the gyms I interview with will be able to understand my transgression. It was a HUGE eye-opener for me. No one was hurt, and although the situation could have been better it could have been so much worse. Anyway, your article is helping me feel a little better about my situation.
Joe Cannon says
Patrick, I’m glad I was able to help and also glad that you are OK also. It sounds to me like you will be just fine.
Paul Thomas says
Always on the cutting edge – aren’t you. Bold article. I definitely believe that people are capable of redeeming themselves after making mistakes & deserve second chances. But for me, it depends on the crime. Child predators, violent rapists, murderers – sorry – not hiring as a personal trainer, especially if I’m having you go to people’s homes. Stealing a car as an 18 year old & stayed out of trouble for years – I’ll consider it. I’m going on a case by case basis here.
Joe Cannon says
Paul, I agree, we have to go case by case with this. Ive had former inmates in classes Ive taught and that’s what got me to thinking about it. Hopefully this makes its way to the people who need to see it.
Hey when I was 19 a girl lied about her age saying she was 18 but then I find out she was 15 and we hooked up. Nj is crazy with this law. She had tattoos and everything she was fully developed for her age and I was completely fooled. Now I’m stuck on parole until 2027 just cause of an age difference. Am I screwed to ever get hired at a gym I’ve been on parole for 5 years now and haven’t gotten in trouble at all. I love fitness and I wanna become a personal trainer. Are my chances non existent now?
This happened in 2009. I am 27 now this was seriously almost a decade ago. I now have a wife and a child. I’m not a violent person just got lied to
Joe Cannon says
Hi Tony, Have you tried to get a job at a gym as a personal trainer yet? If you are certified now as a trainer, I say give it a shot and see what happens. If you are not yet certified, do that first. Get the CPR/AED cert too as this will make you even more attractive to gyms. Then, when you apply, Follow my guidelines for what to do during the interview and if the topic of the background check comes up, be open and honest with them. State what happened calmly (practice what you will say ahead of time) and don’t curse when you describe the events.
I don’t think what happened to you totally closes the door on you becoming a personal trainer. you just may have to work a bit harder but its not impossible. Its also good that you have been out of trouble for over a decade too. The best advice I can give is be calm, have patience and expect some of this to haunt you as you apply for jobs. If you expect it to come up, then you wont be blindsided when it does. That’s ok. Just take this one day at a time and one step at a time.
Keep me posted on how you are doing.