How Can I Become a Fitness Counselor?

Research what it takes to become a fitness counselor. Learn about education requirements, job duties, salary 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 Is a Fitness Counselor?

A fitness counselor, also known as a fitness trainer or instructor, serves as an advisor to clients on exercise and other wellness topics. They often work one-on-one with individuals to assess their needs and develop a lifestyle strategy that can help them meet fitness goals, like weight loss or muscle gain. Often, they teach their clients particular exercise techniques, like weightlifting or yoga. They may also offer advice on topics like nutrition and maintaining motivation.

Learn more about this career option from the table below:

Degree RequiredH.S. Diploma or G.E.D. with CPR certification
Associate's (2-year) or bachelor's degree often required
Education Field of StudyPhysical Education
Recreation Studies
Exercise Science
Key ResponsibilitiesAssess fitness and nutrition needs and goals
Design programs tailored to individual needs and goals
Lead in exercise programs
Teach clients to use fitness equipment correctly
Ensure client safety while engaged in exercise activities
Ensure functioning of equipment and cleanliness of facility
CertificationRequired by most employers
Job Growth (2014-2024)8% (for fitness trainers and aerobics instructors)*
Mean Salary (2015)$40,970 (for fitness trainers and aerobics instructors)*

Source:*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Become Certified as a Fitness Counselor

On the path to becoming a fitness counselor there are an increasingly wide variety of qualification requirements, depending on your employer. However, certification programs remain one of the most common and accessible forms of training. Many employers allow their employees to work toward certification by taking group training classes and working under the supervision of an experienced trainer or counselor.

Once you are ready to take the exam, choose one of the top certifying organizations in order to ensure a competitive edge in the job market. You can check the National Commission for Certifying Agencies website for a list of the top organizations in the field (www.credentialingexcellence.org). Usually you do not need to have a bachelor's or associate's degree to sit for a certification exam, but because some employers are now requiring degrees, it is often an asset in the job market. Generally, in order to sit for the exam, the only requirements are a high school diploma and CPR training, but you should check with the certifying agency for specific information.

The certifying exams will always have a written component and, most often, a practical component. Fitness counselor certification is usually good for two years before you have to become re-certified by attending classes and conferences or presenting independent research to ensure that you stay up-to-date with any new issues and trends in the field.

Get Your Degree

Lately, an increasing number of employers in the fitness world are requiring that their employees hold a bachelor's degree in a field related to fitness and health. Qualifying degrees usually include physical education, recreation studies and exercise science. In these programs you will typically take courses like nutrition, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training, physical conditioning and kinesiology. These degree programs often have a core of required courses but then allow you to specialize in a particular area of fitness training, such as coaching, group exercise or personal training. Most of these programs also include internship requirements so you can graduate with a substantial number of experience hours in the field.

Some schools, mainly community colleges, also offer programs specifically designed for students who want to pursue a career in fitness counseling. These programs focus on fitness strategies for one-on-one training and culminate in either an associate's degree or fitness specialist certificate. After completing one of these programs, you may be encouraged to sit for one of the various national fitness worker certification exams.

Find a Job

As a fitness counselor, you will probably want to work in a setting that allows you the opportunity for one-on-one fitness consultation with your clients. The most common of these settings is a gym or some other kind of health club, but other possibilities include universities, health resorts or clients' private homes. Fitness counselor positions tend to be part-time jobs and can include night, weekend and holiday hours depending on the location.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Instead of working as a fitness counselor, you could consider becoming a recreation worker. In this job, you would lead classes at recreational facilities like parks, camps and aquatic centers. Some of these classes may be fitness-related, such as sports or dance. Recreation workers need to have a high school diploma. Alternatively, if you are interested in working at a facility dedicate to helping people overcome injuries, you could get a job as a physical therapy aide, where you would perform clerical duties in the office of a physical therapist and assist with treatment setup and cleanup. The minimum educational requirement for this job is a high school diploma.

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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