Careers in Personal Training

Research what it takes to become a personal trainer. Learn about education requirements, job duties, median wages and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Fitness Trainer degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Personal Trainer?

A personal trainer is a fitness worker who helps individuals create and meet health and fitness goals. With a career in personal training, you will typically work with individuals or small groups of clients. Most of your time will be spent in the gym, but you might also work with clients in their homes. You'll provide feedback to clients about exercises, demonstrate how to do certain routines and administer first aid if necessary.

With a career in personal training, you might be self-employed or work for a civic organization, but most personal trainers work for health clubs and fitness centers. Personal training is often a part-time job, so you may need to work for multiple fitness centers and put in night and weekend hours if you want to work full-time. Consider the information in the following table to determine if a career as a personal trainer is right for you.

Education Required High school diploma or equivalent is minimum requirement; some employers may prefer those with associate's or bachelor's degrees
Training Required CPR training common
Key Skills Customer service, physical fitness, motivational and problem solving skills
Job Growth (2014-2024) 8% for all fitness trainers and instructors*
Median Salary (2015) $36,160 for all fitness trainers and aerobics instructors*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Are My Job Duties as a Personal Trainer?

Your job duties as a personal trainer include helping set fitness goals based on their current fitness levels, risk factors and desired outcomes. You then work with clients to help them reach these goals by designing workouts, providing spotting and motivational services, demonstrating proper techniques and keeping records to monitor progress. You might also provide lifestyle advice that goes beyond the gym, such as ways to fit more physical activity into everyday routines and how to eat more healthfully.

How Do I Get Certified?

In order to work in personal training, you need to gain certification. There are several organizations that offer certification, but not all are equal in an employer's eyes. The National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) accredits certifying organizations that meet particular standards. As of 2017, accredited organizations included the Academy of Applied Personal Training Education (AAPTE), American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and American Council on Exercise (ACE).

Most certifying organizations offer some type of training program or study materials, but no standardized program or curriculum exists. Any provided materials and workshops are typically optional, and it's up to you how you prepare to take the required certification exam. You usually need to pay a fee. Many community colleges also offer personal training certificate programs designed to help prepare you to take the certification exam, which includes a written and, sometimes, a practical exam. A high school diploma and CPR certification is usually required, and you need to earn re-certification every two years.

Do I Need a Degree?

Certification is the most basic and important component for getting a job in personal training, but some employers prefer trainers who hold a bachelor's degree in a fitness field like exercise science or physical education. Many colleges offer bachelor's degrees in fitness-related fields. For example, you could pursue a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Exercise Science with an emphasis in health fitness. Such a program is designed to teach you how to assess clients' health and fitness levels and screen for risk factors like cardiac problems. You can also learn about nutrition and designing exercise programs.

How Much Might I Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that jobs for all fitness workers - including personal training, group exercise instructing and fitness directing - will increase by 8% between 2014 and 2024, an average rate when compared to all jobs (www.bls.gov). Part-time personal training jobs are expected to remain more common than full-time positions, and clients may increasingly prefer trainers who hold fitness degrees.

The BLS reported a median salary of $36,160 for fitness trainers and aerobics instructors as of 2015. In November 2016, PayScale.com supplied national salary data specifically for personal trainers, with $20,764 reported as the total pay at the 10th percentile and $85,484 reported at the 90th percentile. Beyond just hourly rate, these figures included overtime, tips, commission and bonuses, which can collectively account for a significant amount of a personal trainer's income.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Physical therapist assistants work under physical therapists to help injured individuals improve movement and manage pain. They must earn associate's degrees, and their duties focus primarily on rehabilitation, treatment and other aspects of chronic conditions or injuries. Recreation workers are in charge of activities for volunteer groups or recreation facilities. They must have at least a high school diploma, and the activities they lead include arts and crafts, music and camping.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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