Fitness Instructor: Job Duties, Employment Outlook, and Education Requirements

Research what it takes to become a fitness instructor. Learn about education requirements, job duties, median wages, and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Education - Sports Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Fitness Instructor Do?

Fitness instructors can be divided into two general classifications. You could work as a personal trainer, working one-on-one with clients to help them improve their bodies, or you could be a group exercise instructor, leading groups of people in aerobics, indoor cycling, Pilates, yoga, or other fitness training exercises. You will be in charge of demonstrating particular exercises and promoting good form to those you instruct, as well as provide information on diet and health and apply first aid if needed. A high degree of physical fitness is expected no matter what position you're in.

Consider the information in the following table to determine if a career as a fitness instructor is the right fit for you.

Education Required Ranges from high school diploma to bachelor's degree in health or fitness related field
Training Required Varies among specialized fitness instructors
Key Skills Physical fitness, listening, speaking, and problem solving
Certification Required Required by most employers; CPR certification common
Job Growth (2018-2028) 13% for all fitness trainers and instructors*
Median Salary (2018) $39,820 for all fitness trainers and aerobics instructors*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is the Projected Employment Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), approximately 308,470 people were employed as fitness trainers and aerobics instructors in 2018 ( Demand for these workers is expected to increase by 13% between 2018 and 2028, especially in such settings as health and fitness clubs. The BLS projects that aging citizens, in their quest to remain physically conditioned, will fuel job expansion for fitness workers. In addition, as income levels of the younger population increase, it is believed that they, too, will employ the services of fitness workers. Job prospects are expected to be favorable through the decade, although your opportunities would improve by earning a college degree in a physical fitness area.

What Education Requirements Should I Complete?

Qualifications for fitness workers vary, but in general, it's assumed that you'll know how to perform your job duties upon hire. This feat can sometimes be accomplished by taking certification classes, enrolling in fitness classes and later auditioning for a position, or job shadowing with an experienced exercise and fitness instructor.

However, according to the BLS, it is becoming the norm for employers to hire candidates with bachelor's degrees in a fitness discipline, such as exercise science or kinesiology. If you choose to go the educational route, expect your undergraduate exercise science curriculum to include courses on nutrition, exercise physiology, injury care and prevention, sport management, first aid, and musculoskeletal anatomy.

Certification, while not required, is strongly recommended. You can become certified through health and fitness organizations, such as the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the American Fitness Professionals and Associates (AFPA) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). Certification from any of these organizations requires that you pass examinations consisting mainly of written multiple-choice questions.

The tests will assess your knowledge of such areas as client assessment, human physiology, and exercise program development. Your certification may be renewed after two years, but you must participate in continuing education classes to qualify. Prerequisites for certification include a high school diploma and a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification.

What Are Some Similar Careers?

Athletic trainers are a specific kind of fitness instructor aimed at preventing, diagnosing, and treating various ailments of muscles and bones through different exercises. Exercise physiologists help those struggling with chronic disease by developing fitness programs aimed at improving the body's overall condition. Recreational therapists plan activities and treatment programs for disabled, ill, and injured patients to help them recover through recreational activity.

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