Develop your knowledge, skills and abilities, and you’ll be rewarded. You’ll need a combination of formal education, recognized and respected certifications, and practical business skills.
- Formal education: Earning at least a bachelor’s degree in an exercise science/wellness field is important when working with a physician or other health care provider. Physicians appreciate the value of a science-based college education; whereas they often don’t understand the confusing landscape of fitness certifications. A college education improves your chances of becoming a valued member of the extended health care team. If you do not currently have a degree, do your best to attain one.
- Credentials: Become certified by an NCCA accredited or ISO/IEC 17024 fitness organization such as ACSM, NSCA, ACE or NASM. You will likely have to explain the value of NCCA certification by educating a provider that this is the same organization that certifies other respected health care professionals such as emergency medical technicians (EMT), registered dietitians (RD), respiratory therapists (CRT), and many nursing subspecialties. Possessing the ACSM EIM Credential can give you additional knowledge and credibility and may be required to facilitate EIM programming. Accredited certifications require that you possess a current certification in CPR/AED. This is critical for your client’s protection as well as your own and will be expected by a referring health care provider.
- Practical skills: Expand your knowledge and skills through internships, seminars, conferences and varied employment settings. Find a mentor with expertise in your area of interest and create opportunities to work with them, even if it means volunteering your time. If you plan to work with a specific population, participate in hands-on continuing education to enhance your ability to tailor a workout program to their special needs.
- Work Experience (medical fitness, corporate, club/private studios, etc.): Working in a variety of settings can teach you how to effectively guide different populations (i.e. seniors, students, sedentary individuals, or those with chronic health conditions or medical challenges) using a variety of tools and techniques. Take the opportunity to learn from seasoned and respected exercise professionals, teachers and health care providers who can provide you with valuable insights.
- Obtain and maintain professional liability insurance. Consider ACSM’s insurance partner Forest T. Jones. To obtain rate information, contact FTJ directly at (866) 820-5183 and identify yourself as an ACSM Member or ACSM Certified Professional.
Be a Lifelong Learner
Every exercise professional, particularly in the medical fitness space, should stay on top of the latest developments in the science and practice of exercise prescription, training and testing. This means attending conferences and workshops to acquire new skills and knowledge, reading relevant articles and journals such as ACSM’s Health and Fitness Journal, visiting ACSM’s website, reading ACSM’s e-newsletters, and utilizing the latest publications to inform your practice. Consider some of these essential ACSM titles for your library:
- ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, 10th edition
- ACSM’s Resources for the Exercise Physiologist, 3rd edition (June 2017)
- ACSM’s Exercise Testing and Prescription, 1st edition (January 2018)
- ACSM’s Clinical Exercise Physiology, 1st edition (October 2018)
- ACSM’s Complete Guide to Health & Fitness (2017)