The Expensive Route to Certification

When my wife certified as a Fitness Instructor, she entered a B2B2C market focused on education, with a price. The first certification allowed her to teach fitness classes, though it turned out that most fitness centers look for instructors who are also personal trainers, a certification of its own. Certifying as a Personal Trainer was an expensive course, though perhaps based on typical hourly rates in our area, it’s a reasonable investment.

However, part of the certification is a requirement to take further courses, or to attend conferences and seminars. Of course, everything in this case costs more, though some may see it as the cost of retaining currency. However, in addition to the mandatory learning dictated by the certifying body, many of the classes being run in fitness centers require additional certification, from Yoga (which requires years of practice and training) to Resist-a-ball (which has 2 half-day courses to be certified).

Fortunately, the continuing education requirements are designed such that most of these additional courses count as credit toward those requirements. However, when you do the math, it turns out that being certified and being a desired employee are two different things.

To be certified, the cost totals about $1,000 plus the annual membership fee. However, each course runs from a hundred to thousands of dollars. Over the course of an instructor/trainer’s career, the costs of remaining current can be in excess of $1,000 per year. When compared to a university or college degree, it seems to be quite steep. This is further exacerbated by the fact that many people with these certifications will be contract workers, where the cost of maintaining their certification is a noticeable percentage of their annual earnings.

Yet the certification remains incredibly popular, and attendance at the annual conference in Toronto bears this out. Why this is so is interesting – what is the motivating factor for people to pursue a career which, if done part-time as many such people work, will be marginally profitable?

I stumbled upon what might be the answer in a discussion with another member of the family about career options, and this came up. He wasn’t interested in becoming a trainer because of the money, but rather, because he liked to work out. Certified, he could look for a part-time job at a gym in the area (which typically includes a gym membership as part of the compensation) and get a regular work-out. No longer would he be paying to work out, instead, he would be paid to do something he likes.

This is perhaps what is so compelling about this career – people who go into it tend to enjoy their work, and the money is not the point. Though they may not make much money doing it (though some people do quite well if they can find a niche and fill it), they are unlikely to lose money at it. The enjoyment they find in the work itself is the motivating factor.

When looking at work, think about whether the motivating factor is the paycheck at the end of the week, or something else. If you want to be the most successful you can be at your work, find a job where you enjoy the work, and the paycheck is a nice bonus (or, alternatively, is what allows you to spend time doing whatever it is you’re “working” on).