Are Certifications Worth It?

Strength Faction Mentor Ross Oberlin is back–this time he’s answering the question, are certifications worth it? Maybe the real question, and the answer we’re seeking, is whether or not it’s about knowledge or status. Let’s let Ross take it from here. 

Each week, the members of Strength Faction are able to get together on video Q&A calls, where they can get questions answered, work through issues they’re having in their career, or just enjoy being part of a community that truly understands what the job of a trainer is like.

A common question asked is; “what certification should I get next?”.


Trainers and Coaches wanting to learn more and get better is a great thing.  Certifications are certainly one of your options for doing this. There are some great ones out there that the Faction has even partnered with before.

Certifications these days aren’t cheap though, and the last thing we want to do is chase every cert out there, spending thousands of dollars in the process.  Couple the high cost of these certifications with imposter syndrome, and you’re at risk of making some very expensive decisions.

Fortunately, we can lean on the experience of others who have spent those hard earned dollars, and gain some clarity on the most valuable way to spend money on our continuing education.


Ideally, you’ll take what you learn from a certification and integrate it into the way you already do things.  Often this presents as a minor change or tweak, and after testing it out for a few weeks, you might decide what is useful and permanently integrate it, while shedding what isn’t.

Sometimes, this presents as a paradigm shift that completely changes the way you view training.  You might have a certain certification or workshop you can recall that completely changed your perspective.

The focus in either case, is on integrating information and concepts. 

This is how you mine value out of any sort of continuing ed you’ll participate in.  That goes beyond certifications.  A seminar, video, article, group (like the Faction!), or conversation with a peer or mentor could all provide you with information or a concept that could change the way you do your work.


Note I said “Ideally”, because the intent behind our pursuit of continuing education can change under the influence of imposter syndrome.  That sense of doubt is a very real thing in the fitness industry.

When you’re a coach dealing with imposter syndrome, you can sometimes find yourself grasping for something – anything that says you’re worthy.

(Quick definition of imposter syndrome: you essentially question your knowledge and accomplishments and persistently fear that you’re going to be found out as a fraud.)

Enter a certification.

Whether it be from a legitimate organization or not, having letters you can put after your name quells that sense of doubt.


Those letters say that this organization vouches for you.  Those letters says that this organization stands behind you, and these letters will put you on par with the best members of their organization.


As convenient as that narrative is, Faction member Mike Bouranis has presented a counter-argument.

In reference to what being certified by an organization actually means: “You’re only as good as the worst person who also holds that certification.”


That doesn’t mean a certification isn’t worthwhile, it just means that you’d better be there for the knowledge you’ll gain, not the status you’ll earn.


If you’re going to a certification, go because you believe that the information you will learn is useful for you.

Don’t go just because you want those letters after your name, or what you think they’ll mean to people.

And remember; when it comes to imposter syndrome, that’s more often tied up with our peers than the people we train.

How much money do you make from regular folks who have no idea what any of these certs are?

How much money do you make from your peers in the industry who do?

So, if the people who pay your bills don’t know or care what any of your certifications are, what’s valuable?


The information and concepts you learn, followed by your ability to integrate them.


What you’ll notice with trainers who are comfortable in their own skin, is that they don’t determine their continuing ed budget based on if they’ll get more letters after their name.  These trainers are seeking out seminars, mentorships, summits, retreats, AND certifications.  They’re spending their money on things that will provide real, tangible value to their career.


I don’t  feel the need for a certification to tell me I’m a legitimate trainer.

I believe we transcend that.

Our knowledge, experience, personality, and style makes us and what we do more than any cert!

I’m thankful for the certifications I’ve attended, as they’ve all played a role in my growth as a coach.  I’m excited to attend more in the future when I find ones that I think will add value!


When you’re deciding how to spend your money on continuing ed, make sure that you’ll get real value from it.

That it will make you better at what you do.

That it’s worth your time away from your business and family.

We’re all trying to be the best trainers we can for our people.

If you’re doing that, the letters after your name won’t even matter.

Here’s a quick list of the certifications we dig. We share these because we have positive personal experience with them and they’ve affected how we’ve built our training systems. If you don’t see a certification on the list that you think is valuable, sorry. We only endorse things that we’ve seen in action.

Precision Nutrition Levels 1 and 2

Certified Functional Strength Coach

FMS Levels 1 and 2

Functional Range Conditioning 

RKC Level 1

Original Strength

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In 2010, two dudes Chris and Todd, started the business that would eventually become Strength Faction.

You know how they say the rest is history? Well, it’s not.

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