Taking Your Special Education Degree to the Next Level

Elevate your career with our exclusive guide on “Taking Your Special Education Degree to the Next Level.” Navigate through strategic insights and practical tips tailored for special education professionals looking to enhance their impact. Unlock advanced teaching methodologies, specialized intervention strategies, and stay abreast of the latest trends in inclusive education. Whether you’re a seasoned educator or a recent graduate, discover avenues for professional growth, leadership development, and maximizing your positive influence on students with diverse needs. Embrace this opportunity to expand your skill set, foster innovation, and make a lasting difference in the lives of individuals who benefit from specialized educational support. Elevate your special education journey with knowledge that transcends the ordinary.

Personal trainer certification for special needs

Now that you have your Special Education Degree, what are you going to do with it? You can simply go to work as a teacher working with special needs kids. But, is this why you spent so much time earning your degree? Have you given any thought to taking your education to the next level by becoming a personal trainer for special needs?

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By earning your Special Education Degree, you’ve already proven that you want to work with those who have special needs. The demand for personal trainers for special needs kids and adults is growing. Keep in mind the term “special needs” covers a wider range of conditions than you might think. These include:

  • Amputees
  • Aspergers
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Down Syndrome
  • Emotional Disturbance
  • Intellectual Disability
  • Learning Disabilities (LD)
  • Paraplegia
  • Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)
  • Spina Bifida
  • Stroke Victims
  • Traumatic Brain Injuries

Earning Your NASM Personal Trainer Certification After Your Special Education Degree

Interest in physical fitness and good health is on the rise and with it the need for skilled personal trainers. Becoming a personal trainer for special needs is the perfect way to put your Special Education Degree to work. But before you can become a special needs personal trainer, you must be certified. You should look for courses that have accreditation from the National Commission for Certifying Agencies or NCCA. Their stamp of approval is the gold standard in the health and fitness industry.

The National Association of Sports Medicine or NASM offers courses in personal trainer certification. This is one of the most recognized certifications in the industry and a perfect addition to your Sports Education Degree. The best gyms and fitness centers look for this certification and are likely to hire those with it first.

While you don’t need a Special Education Degree for this certification, having one is a bonus. It puts you at an advantage because you will have a solid anatomy and physiology base to work from. You will need to become CPR and AED certified before you can take the course. If you aren’t already certified, contact your local Red Cross Agency.

Adding an ACE Personal Trainer Certification to Your Special Education Degree

The ACE or American Council on Exercise is another type of personal trainer certification. It would also be a great addition to your Special Education Degree. ACE is a leading nonprofit professional certification organization. In operation since 1985, ACE has NCCA accreditation and there are over 80,000 ACE certified trainers worldwide.

The first step in the ACE program is to choose your specialty, in this case, it would be the personal trainer course. Once you register, ACE will ship all required study materials to you as both digital and hard copy. You can work on the course at your own speed, keep in mind it is going to take between 80 and 100 hours to complete in approximately 3 to 4 months. When you feel you are ready, you can register for the final exam. Before you can take the exam, you must become CPR and AED certified.

NASM vs ACE: Comprehensive Insights

Both NASM and ACE are highly respected certifications in the health and fitness industry, each with its unique focus and approach. NASM is often preferred by those seeking a deep dive into sports performance and functional training, emphasizing the science and biomechanics of exercise. On the other hand, ACE covers a broader spectrum, focusing not only on exercise science but also on health coaching and preventive health.

Ultimately, the choice between NASM and ACE may depend on your career goals, the populations you wish to serve, and your personal philosophy towards fitness and health. Both certifications can serve as a solid foundation for a fulfilling career in the fitness industry.


The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) is a global leader in the health and fitness industry, offering certifications and advanced credentials to professionals. Established in 1987, NASM provides a comprehensive approach to fitness education, emphasizing the Optimum Performance Training (OPT™) model. This model is a systematic and integrated (flexibility, core stabilization, balance, strength, power) training program that helps to improve athletic performance and reduce injuries.

NASM’s Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) certification is highly regarded and focuses on functional training, sports performance training, and corrective exercise. NASM also offers specialization certifications such as Nutrition Coaching, Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES), and Performance Enhancement Specialist (PES), among others. These programs are designed to equip trainers with a deep understanding of both the science behind the exercises and the practical skills needed to apply them effectively.

NASM-certified professionals often work in a variety of settings, including gyms, studios, rehabilitation centers, and as private trainers. The organization is renowned for its evidence-based approach to fitness and wellness, relying on the latest research to inform its certifications and training programs.


The American Council on Exercise (ACE) is another prominent player in the world of health and fitness certifications. Founded in 1985, ACE has committed itself to enriching quality of life through safe and effective exercise and physical activity. The ACE Personal Trainer Certification is one of its four primary certifications, alongside Group Fitness Instructor, Health Coach, and Medical Exercise Specialist.

ACE places a significant emphasis on creating inclusive, accessible fitness plans that adapt to diverse populations, aiming to inspire people to live their most fit lives. Their certification programs are built on a foundational belief that movement is for everyone, and thus, they prioritize training professionals to work across various fitness levels and health histories.

An attractive aspect of ACE’s certifications is their focus on preventive health measures alongside exercise science. This broader focus on wellness and behavior change strategies equips ACE-certified professionals to support clients not just in achieving their fitness goals but also in adopting sustainable lifestyle changes.

ACE-certified professionals find opportunities in a wide range of settings, from gyms and wellness centers to corporate fitness, healthcare facilities, and community organizations. They are known for using an empathetic and personalized approach to health and fitness, which is grounded in the latest scientific research in exercise science and behavioral change.

CIFT Certification

As you can see there are numerous online courses offering personal trainer certification to add to your Special Education Degree. One that you should definitely add to your repertoire, is the Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainer certification or CIFT.

This particular certification is offered through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). This program is a collaboration between the ACSM and the National Center on Health, Physical Activity, and Disability (NCHPAD).

Becoming CIFT Certified Is Challenging

CIFT training is not for the weak at heart, this is a very difficult course. The ACSM will provide you with all materials. This includes a wealth of study material and six webinars that are 90 minutes long. Once you complete the course, there is a 3-hour long test to earn your certification. Be aware that before you can take this course you must already be an ACSM certified personal trainer.

And you thought getting your Special Education Degree was tough. This is an advanced personal trainer certification. You will study more about physiology, anatomy, and the various physical and mental disorders, illnesses, and disabilities you are likely to encounter. You will learn coping skills that will prove to be invaluable as you work with recalcitrant special needs kids and adults. Much of which was probably part of your degree program, some of which was not.

After building your skills to become a personal trainer, adding this certification to your resume is an important step. During the training, you will also learn the social skills and sensitivity you will need when working with special needs. This includes ways to provide useful and positive reinforcement as well as encouragement. So many of those with special needs have been the victims of ignorance and discrimination that they require “special” handling. This is all part of the course and examination.

Special Strong Certification After You Finish Your Special Education Degree

Here at Certify Strong, we offer our own Special Strong Certification program that is perfect for those who have their Special Education Degree. Founder Daniel Stein is the creator of this program using his CBSE Training Model. This training model is based on scientific research and evidence-based studies. The goal is to teach personal trainers for the disabled how to help their clients become “Special Strong in mind, body, and spirit.” With this training, you will be in a good position to help many of your clients to enjoy a more abundant and independent life.

This program focuses on four very specific areas:

1. Core, Balance, and Flexibility

Balance, core, and flexibility are a fundamental part of what makes it possible for the human body to move. Many special needs clients suffer from low muscle tone and neuromotor difficulties. Because of this, they experience problems with balance, poor core activation, and flexibility. During this phase, you will learn to a variety of functional movements designed to improve balance and core strength.

2. The Brain and Sensory System

According to medical and scientific research, the human brain and how it functions can be changed at any time in our lives. With the right exercise, such as that taught in our CBS Strong Model, we can help “change” the way your special person’s brain functions. The exercises we teach can help new neurological pathways to form in the brain, which can help with things like social skills, multi-tasking, and reducing the number and severity of meltdowns. Studies show this can help reduce heightened sensory sensitivities and anxiety levels.

3. Muscle and Strength Development

As part of our dedication to working with our special needs clients, we have found ways to adapt a variety of standard resistance training exercises. Our new versions of these exercises help build muscles and strength. They also help to reduce the person’s body fat percentage. This is a very important job and one your Special Education Degree may not have covered.

4. Adaptive Endurance and Stamina Training

One of the main purposes behind aerobic training is to boost your heart rate and push more oxygen-rich blood to every corner of your body. The more aerobic exercise you complete, the more your body will adapt to the changes. It’s a great way to teach your body how to deal with stress and frustration. At Special Strong, we have a range of modified cardio exercises to meet the needs of our special needs clients.

Final Thoughts

If you have a Special Education Degree and are NASM or ACE certified as a personal trainer, becoming Special Strong Certified is the next step. We offer individual training for personal trainers, group facilitators, service providers, parents, and educators. You chose which course you want to take, either our Private Trainer or Group Instruction Certification. Both courses have NASM and ACE accreditation and offer some of the CEUs you need to maintain your license. Let Special Strong help you become the best personal trainer for the disabled you can be. Contact us today!

Special Strong provides adaptive fitness for children, adolescents, and adults with mental, physical and cognitive challenges. Start your own Special Strong gym franchise today and create a lasting impact on your community.