The barrier of entry into the fitness field is quite small compared to many other jobs. In fact, a recognized accredited personal training certification is all you need to get started. Getting into the field is the easier part, becoming successful is much harder. Becoming certified is different than being qualified.

Before even considering in-person or online programs, we have to recognize there are many general differences across programs that we will delve into in another blog post. Some of those differences will also arise when considering between the two types of programs. Let’s get into some differences between in-person vs. online programs

In-Person (Offline) Programs

Offline personal training certifications are taught in person incorporating either a traditional classroom learning environment and/or private gym. Offline programs will teach similar curriculum on the science of personal training but each certification emphasizes different aspects.


  1. Hands on experience: Offline programs allow prospective personal trainers to practice learning, coaching, and teaching each other the material. This provides beneficial practice and experience coaching with real time feedback

    The ability to cue effectively and convey the right information to the client immensely improves one’s chances of success. The better the client and trainer can understand each other, beyond language, the better results the client can achieve.
  2. Structured learning environment: In-person programs will have scheduled classes and cadence to completing the personal training certification that can assist with staying consistent and follow through. Instructors are also available to provide immediate assistance.
  3. Networking opportunities: Connecting with fitness professionals through in-person programs helps to develop a larger network. This opens up opportunities to learn and/or find job opportunities
  4. Higher perceived credibility: In-person programs are often viewed with greater credibility as it allows for practicing and development of soft skills (personality, conversational, problem solving). Being a personal trainer is a customer facing position and having an understanding of how to coach a person is important.


  1. Less flexibility: In-person programs have set days and times for lectures that may make it untenable to attend the program. People looking to transition careers can find it particularly difficult working full time. Individuals are at the mercy of the schedule set out by the personal training program and situational factors such as traffic, travel distance, child care, and more.
  2. Higher costs: Programs will also have a larger cost associated due to the structured learning environment, contact hours with instructors and other students. This can be cost prohibitive when considering the range of wages for personal trainers. There can also be additional costs incurred from travel, accommodations and/or materials.
  3. Geographical limitations: Another obstacle is where the in-person program is located relative to the prospective individual. This can limit access to in-person programs and increase the financial investment. In many instances, individuals may not even have access to an in-person program where they live.

Online Personal Training Programs

The alternative to in-person personal training programs is online personal training certifications. Many accredited personal training certifications also have digital versions of their content allowing them to offer their programs online. Online personal training programs are typically self-study as opposed to class based learning.


  1. Accessibility and Flexibility: Digital content can be accessed from anywhere as long as there is an internet connection. This assists with individuals who have challenging schedules to juggle. Both in-person and online programs will offer online digital content and usually a physical textbook as well.
  2. Self-paced: Individuals who have time constraints or are busy are able to study at their own pace without feeling overwhelmed or rushed. Online programs can let people complete the program as quickly or as slowly as they need to. This is a major benefit compared to in-person programs that have set start and end dates if an individual was interested in joining between the dates, they would be out of luck.
  3. Cost Savings: Self-study programs are typically cheaper than in-person programs and also provide additional savings by not requiring any traveling. The biggest cost savings is in time allocation.


  1. Lack of hands on experience: Online programs notably cannot provide hands on practical experience that is integral to becoming a successful personal trainer. This extends to understanding the nuance of assessments, coaching and cueing as well as personal execution.
  2. Requires self-discipline & motivation: Learning at one’s own pace can be helpful in busy situations, however, it can also make it harder to complete. Completing an online only program means the individual has to stay on top of learning the content, completing their assignments and retaining the information between study sessions.
  3. Reduced networking opportunities: There are less opportunities to connect with other students in the program, instructors and other fitness professionals. Self-study programs don’t have a cohort of students in a class unlike in-person programs further affecting networking after they are certified.
  4. Perceived credibility: Some employers may view online only certifications as less desirable due to the lack of practical hands on experience.
  5. Self-Paced: While self-paced online programs can be beneficial, it can also be a big issue for many people who are not self-motivated or find learning online challenging. Also it’s harder to get support from an instructor or a classmate despite many online resources to assist with comprehension, having someone teach or explain the concept is often more helpful.

Choosing the Right Certification

Choosing between an online or offline personal training program can feel like an either or situation but it should come down to what is better to help you succeed? There are many other considerations such as where the certification is considered valid and accredited. Moreover, considering where the certification is recognized is important to deciding because there are provincial certifications, national certifications and international certifications.

Ultimately, if you have the option of attending an in-person personal training program, that would be our recommendation as there are so many benefits that cannot be made up. While personal trainers can still be successful completing an online only program, it can take more time to develop the in-person coaching skills.

Here at the British Columbia Personal Training Institute, we provide the option of in-person learning, online only, and hybrid learning. BCPTI teaches the NASM Personal Trainer curriculum and is one of the best options to get your personal training certification in BC. This assists our prospective students by offering greater choice and flexibility. Our program teaches students to gain, train and retain their clients through integration of the NASM CPT with industry relevant coaching and support. Learn our system of service, science and sales.

Our program is 8 weeks long with a 1 week reading break to give students the additional time to catch up on content. There are 2 intakes, day and night to provide more options. Full time within our program is 3 lectures per week.

Day Intake: Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8am-3:30pm
Night Intake: Tuesday & Thursday from 5-9pm AND Saturday 9-4pm

BCPTI also integrates a practicum experience with our partners at Fitness World Canada to provide our students the opportunity to shadow and learn from current personal trainers. The practicum experience assists students with exposure to additional facilities, networking with fitness professionals and receiving additional coaching and learning opportunities.

Interested in becoming a personal trainer? Look no further and reach out below to get more information.