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The Cooper Institute (CI) was founded by the guy who wrote the book "Aerobics" in 1968 and started the whole world on this fitness craze. Since most of us are too young to remember a time before physical fitness was a common factor in our lives, it's interesting to see how much Dr. Cooper's book changed the way we live.
CI is located in Texas and runs many of their education courses in Dallas. If you're not local to Dallas (or willing to take a vacation), then their education programs may be of little help for you. Even their DVD course has a 'hands on' component that's given for a day and a half at their Dallas headquarters.
The Cooper Institute Personal Trainer Certification, also known as "CI-CPT" is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). Therefore it qualifies as one of our premier certifications around. It's accreditation is relatively recent, however that isn't a negative at all. The NCCA takes so long to permit new members, it's a very positive sign that CI has made it through the tough process.
For our purposes, we're interested in the CI-CPT designation...or the Cooper Institute Certified Personal Trainer certification. (This use to be known as the CI-PTr, in case you see old references, it's the same thing.)
The eligibility isn't too difficult. You must be 18 years old, like all the others. You must have your CPR training from a trusted organization. By trusted, they mean American Red Cross. Online Certifications are given the standard "Not Accepted, No Exceptions" answer; so don't even try to use that as your entry pass!
Guess what, that's it! Really. As you noticed, you do NOT need to pass one of their classes in order to take the exam. Which is a nice deal compared to a few of the certifications that want you to pay them for classes and materials you may not need just to be eligible to sit for the exam.
Well, the one problem with the exam is its only given in Dallas, TX. So if you aren't going to be in Dallas on your exam date (which is around twice a month), you aren't going to be Cooper Institute Certified.
Which is really too bad, as the CI Certification is a good certification that's well respected in the area and slowly getting more popular around the country. Until they start to branch out (if they even intend to...), it'll probably be more of a regionally recognized certification. That doesn't mean that walking into a gym with a CI-CPT certification will be a negative, but you should be prepared to describe what CI is and have a reference for them to check out.
Disregarding the travel cost if you are out of town (they do have a hotel at the Institute!), the certification isn't prohibitively expensive. To take the exam it costs $250 to sit for the exam. You can even register 48 hours before the exam. (It's given twice a month and the dates are known for about a year out)
The retake fee is a tad bit less, $195 to retake the exam again. You get a year to retake the exam at that rate. I don't believe there is a minimum wait period...other than the 2+ week wait between exams.
There are two 'workshops' that Cooper Institute offers, both are non-mandatory to sit for the exam, but very helpful in preparation for the exam.
Personal Training Education Workshop
Personal Training DVD with Live Training
They both cost over $500 and you have to be in Dallas to participate.
The CI-CPT certification is valid for three years from when you pass the test. That's a good period of time, since most are for 2 years.
Like all NCCA accredited certifications, the Cooper Institute requires mandatory Continuing Education Credits before you can renew after the three year certification. They expect their certificate holders to stay current with at least 30 hours of the new information in the industry.
To make sure you take all the right courses, they suggest you check their website (http://www.cooperinstitute.org)
Renewal isn't really that difficult. Here's what you need to do:
1. Complete a Renewal Form
2. Pay the Renewal Fee ($62.50, with an extra $50 if you need to extend an extra 6 months to get all your CEC's completed)
3. Submit proof of your minimum 30 hours of continual education over the last 3 years.
That's it! It's really not too bad with no ridiculous requirements or anything that is just a sham payment back to Certification Company like a few organizations do.
Acceptance / Popularity
The popularity and value of the CI-CPT is much greater in the Dallas / Texas area than in, say, Maine. It's seen as a regional certification, not because it's worse than an ACE or NCSF, but because it's just locally administered and therefore harder to find outside of the immediate area.
In the Texas region, there are few better certifications than the CI. It's very well respected in the area and has a TON of resources for local trainers. In fact, it's a fantastic set up for the Texas area, such that I wish I had that type of support in my area from my organizations.
Until CI starts to branch outside of its immediate area, it's going to be a limited option for the most of us. However, if you're in the area, I think you should definitely check it out. Keep in mind the entire experience - not just the exam - and support network they have in the Dallas area. You may find it is your best option by far.
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