How to Use the Civilian Education System Initiative to Start Your Fitness Career

By Alex Hoffmann on October, 7 2020

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Alex Hoffmann

Dr. Alex Hoffmann is the President of the College of Exercise Science. He earned a doctorate in Sports Management from the United States Sports Academy, a master's degree in kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton, and a bachelor's degree in exercise science from Central College. Prior to his career in academia, Dr. Hoffmann worked as Master Fitness Trainer course instructor for the United States Army, and as a strength and conditioning coach, personal trainer, and nutritionist.

Using the Army’s Civilian Education System (CES) Initiative is a smart way to begin your career in health and fitness. As an Army soldier or veteran, you have a specific combination of both physical acumen and mental discipline that can transfer to a career in the fitness industry. 

Not only are you a motivator, but you’ve been supporting others and focusing on your own physical fitness for many years—and those skills translate perfectly into a career in health fitness.

What’s more, the job outlook in this field is projected to increase by 15 percent over the next decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That translates to extensive opportunity, even as a new trainer.

But don’t just get your certification. Instead, use your assistance to attend a school like the College of Sports Medicine to graduate with a degree. With the CES initiative, tuition and travel costs of your degree will be covered by the United States military. Tuition is also supported with military tuition assistance programs, like the Post-9/11 GI Bill. 

If you’re ready to become a personal trainer, learn more about how you can take leverage these military resources to get there.

 

Familiarize Yourself With the Army CES Trainer Rules of Engagement

Personal trainers earn a median salary of $40,390 and can work in many environments, from corporate gyms to privately owned studios to recreation facilities. You can also turn your degree into an entrepreneurial venture and start an online or mobile personal training business. 

The opportunities in this field are extensive, but if you want to use the Army’s Civilian Education System Initiative to become a certified personal trainer, there are a few steps you need to take. 

  1. Upon completion of Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training (AIT), you can access tuition or credentialing assistance to fund your education. 
  2. Complete a short course that teaches about the financial benefits available and how to apply those benefits to schools and academic programs.
  3. Create an account on the website GoArmyEd.com and submit an application form. If interested in a college education, apply to the school of your choice, then list it as the primary school in your GoArmyEd account. 
  4. Once the school admits you, register for courses and apply the tuition assistance toward your enrollment and program costs. 
  5. If you choose to pursue an individual certification outside of a college institution, visit ArmyIgnited.com and register for a certification program. You can apply for credentialing assistance on this website too.
  6. When the tuition assistance is processed and you are enrolled in the school, you will receive access to an online classroom, and hardcopy course materials will arrive in the mail through FedEx within 4 to 6 business days. 
  7. Upon the completion of a degree or certification, you can train clients independently or work as a staff personal trainer at a fitness center.

Understand the Army Credentialing Assistance Program

You could be eligible for Credentialing Assistance (CA). This financial incentive will help pay for books and other materials required for a training course or exam. These funds can also be combined with tuition assistance to help cover the enrollment fees of a certification program, as long as the cost does not exceed $4,000 per fiscal year. 

To be eligible for CA, you have to meet the following requirements:

  • Basic Federal TA eligibility requirements
  • Can’t be flagged under provisions of AR 600-8-2
  • Can’t be a contracted ROTC scholarship cadet—receiving tuition and fees or room and board—or a Green to Gold ROTC program cadet. 
  • Have enough time remaining in your service to complete the credential before you separate from the Army.

Get to Know the Post-9/11 GI Bill

When attending a credentialed academic institution, like The College of Exercise Science, you can use your Post-9/11 GI Bill to get assistance with your tuition for up to 36 months. These funds will provide financial support in a number of ways, including:

  • Tuition and fees: For those who qualify for the maximum benefit, the Army will cover the full cost of public, in-state tuition and fees. The rates are capped for private and foreign schools, and those rates are updated each year. You can see the current rates at VA.gov.
  • Housing: You’ll receive money for housing if you’re in school more than part-time. Your allowance is base on the cost of living where your school is located.
  • Books and supplies: You can receive up to $1,000 per school year for books and supplies.
  • Moving: You can receive financial assistance to help you move from a rural area to go to school. You can qualify for this one-time payment of $500 in three ways:
  1. You live in a county with 6 or fewer people per square mile.
  2. You’re moving at least 500 miles to go to school
  3. You have no other option but to fly by plane to get to your school.

To use these benefits, you must be eligible under the following conditions, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs:

  • At least 90 days serving on active duty—all at once or with breaks in service—on or after September 11, 2001, or...
  • Received a Purple Heart on or after September 11, 2001, and were honorably discharged after any amount of service, or...
  • Served for continuous days, at a minimum—all at once, without a break in service—on or after September 11, 2001, and were honorably discharged with a service-connected disability, or...
  • Are a dependent child using benefits transferred by a qualifying Veteran or service member.

Use the Civilian Education System Initiative 

Whether you’re a soldier pursuing an education on the side or a veteran transitioning back into civilian life, this could be the ideal next chapter for you. A career in the fitness industry is both exciting and dynamic, allowing you to teach others how to perform the intensive physical skills, feats, and regimens you learned in the Army. There is a reason “military workouts” are always in-demand—and the Civilian Education System Initiative can help you put those skills to good use!

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Alex Hoffmann

Dr. Alex Hoffmann is the President of the College of Exercise Science. He earned a doctorate in Sports Management from the United States Sports Academy, a master's degree in kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton, and a bachelor's degree in exercise science from Central College. Prior to his career in academia, Dr. Hoffmann worked as Master Fitness Trainer course instructor for the United States Army, and as a strength and conditioning coach, personal trainer, and nutritionist.

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