American Council on Exercise scholarship helps veterans become personal trainers

A new scholarship program from the American Council on Exercise will offer more than $1 million worth of scholarships for veterans to get certified as personal trainers. (Jennifer M. Caprioli/Army)

Two problems, one fix.

That’s what the folks at the American Council on Exercise concluded when they looked at the growing obesity epidemic alongside veterans struggling to find meaningful employment after leaving active duty.

Their solution: Help those vets get jobs in the fitness industry.

ACE is launching a more than $1million scholarship program designed to help veterans get certified as personal trainers.

ACE will offer at least 1,000 full-ride, self-study training programs and certifications through the rest of 2013, ACE chief Scott Goudeseune tells OFFDuty. Anyone with an honorable discharge is eligible to apply within six months of leaving active duty.

“It just made so much sense for us with all the returning veterans — 300,000 over the next five years transitioning into civilian life — for us to help place them” into a fitness career, he says.

He hopes the “cause of helping Americans become fit” will resonate with former troops who know what it takes to get and stay fit. “The great thing about veterans is they already know what it means to be part of a much greater cause,” he says.

“Dedication and perseverance is also important, because working with people can be a little challenging. People who have been
to Afghanistan and Iraq have spent a large amount of time working with people to rebuild their lives, so in many ways these people are already qualified to help others rebuild their lives” through fitness.

The scholarships will cover study materials, online support, one-on-one counseling, exam fees and job placement programs for those looking to work in a gym or start their own business.

“If purchased separately, all that would cost more than $1,000,” Goudeseune says.

The certification process usually take four to 10 weeks to complete.

There are more than 50,000 ACE certified trainers across the country and most are in high demand.

“Personal trainers are making on average between $55,000 and $60,000 a year. There are some that make well over six figures,” he says.

ACE certifications are considered the gold standard for fitness professionals, says YMCA executive Mike Landers, a retired Navy captain.

“The YMCA has literally thousands of personal trainers in their facilities across the country, and ACE certification trumps all other certifications,” Landers says. “ACE is an innovator with this because they’ve combined two significant social issues — the obesity epidemic and veterans unemployment — and found a pretty unique solution.”

Former military, he says, often make great personal trainers.

“They’ve lived a very healthy lifestyle, they’re already very regimented and often know how to train, so this can be a great fit those who want to stay fit while helping others,” he says.

Those interested in applying can go to acefitness.org for more information.

Jon Anderson is a staff writer for OFFduty.