Fitness Majors: Salary and Career Facts
Research what it takes to become a fitness instructor. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average wages, and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you.
What Can You Do With a Major in Fitness?
Earning a bachelor's degree in fitness can prepare you for careers in a variety of fitness settings, such as exercise centers, schools, and hospitals. Your job options vary, ranging from personal training to yoga instruction to aerobics instruction and many more. In all these positions, some of your main duties will be instructing clients on proper exercise form to maximum effectiveness and safety, as well as motivating and encouraging your clients to stick to their workouts despite the challenges. The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.
|Degree Required||Bachelor's degree|
|Key Responsibilities|| Develop training routines for clients |
Instruct clients in various exercises
Educate clients in proper use of equipment
|Licensure/Certification Required||Certification commonly required|
|Job Outlook (2018-2028)||13%* (for all fitness trainers and aerobics instructors)|
|Average Salary (2018)||$44,580* (for all fitness trainers and aerobics instructors)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
What Jobs Can I Qualify For With a Bachelor's Degree in Fitness?
With a bachelor's degree in fitness, you'll be eligible to pursue entry-level fitness positions in various industries. Fitness majors commonly work in medical and surgical hospitals, fitness, and recreational sports centers, schools, health clubs, resorts, and clients' homes. Corporate workplaces also hire fitness instructors to run special in-house programs for their employees. You may also find work in local, state, and federal government agencies.
Depending on your degree program and training, you may work with injured, ill, or elderly individuals. Alternatively, you may focus on general health and become a strength and conditioning coach, wellness coordinator, or weight management consultant. Other occupations you could hold include:
- Aerobics instructor
- Group exercise instructor
- Personal trainer
- Exercise specialist
- Fitness program coordinator
With experience, fitness workers generally have advancement opportunities. You could become a head trainer or fitness director for a health facility. With the necessary business skills, you could also open your own fitness center.
What Will I Need In Addition to My Degree?
In general, fitness workers must be certified to teach classes and work independently with clients. Certification requirements vary by the type of work and certifying organization. Personal trainers often take classes to become certified and work alongside an experienced certified trainer before working with clients independently. Most health clubs and fitness facilities require fitness instructors to be certified at the time of hire or soon thereafter.
Many professional organizations administer certifications for different types of fitness workers. For instance, the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) offers a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist credential and NSCA-Certified Personal Trainer credential (www.nsca.com). In addition, the American Council on Exercise offers certifications for personal trainers, group fitness instructors, health coaching, peer fitness trainers, and advanced fitness specialists, among other specializations (www.acefitness.org).
Yoga Alliance is an organization that establishes teacher training standards, as well as registers schools that offer training programs for yoga instructors (www.yogaalliance.org). To work as a fitness trainer, you may consider certification from the American College of Sports Medicine (www.acsm.org) or National Academy of Sports Medicine (www.nasm.org).
Specific certification requirements vary, but candidates generally need to be certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and pass a qualifying exam to become certified. Continuing education is generally required to update your skills and maintain certification. Most organizations offer their own continuing education programs, which can include courses, workshops, and advanced credentials.
What Will My Job Duties Be?
As a fitness worker, you'll lead group or one-on-one classes to help individuals reach their fitness goals. You must ensure classes are safe, effective, and motivating. You must also adjust the level of each class based on the participants. Establishing and maintaining a good rapport with clients is important to build your clientele.
In a smaller fitness club or facility, you may also perform administrative tasks, such as greeting clients, recruiting new members, creating advertisements, and maintaining the facility's website. In larger facilities, the fitness director or manager may perform these tasks.
The work of fitness directors and managers may also involve coordinating classes and training programs, selecting equipment, running promotions, hiring new fitness workers, budgeting, and answering client inquiries. As a personal trainer, you will demonstrate exercise routines and show clients how to obtain maximum results. You may keep records of clients' sessions and progress to recommend additional exercises. Many personal trainers also give overall health and lifestyle advice in support of fitness regimes.
How Much Can I Expect to Earn?
The salaries of fitness workers typically vary by geographic location and industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual salary of fitness trainers and aerobics instructors was $44,580 in May 2018 (www.bls.gov).
Fitness workers are often paid by the hour and can receive overtime pay and bonuses. PayScale.com reported that the median hourly wages of fitness trainers and aerobics instructors were between $11.54 and $34.94 in 2019.
What Are Some Similar Careers?
Athletic trainers focus on preventing injuries during workouts, as well as identifying and diagnosing them to facilitate treatment. Exercise physiologists create treatment plans for those with serious and chronic ailments to help improve their overall physical condition and quality of life. Both athletic trainers and exercise physiologists need a bachelor's degree.
Physical therapist assistants and aides help physical therapists treat clients, helping those recovering from injuries and illnesses to strengthen their bodies. Assistants typically need to hold an associate's degree, while aides don't need postsecondary education; rather, they get trained on the job.