How Can I Become a Fitness Technician?

Research what it takes to become a fitness technician. Learn about certification and education requirements, licensure and salary 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 Technician?

Fitness technicians, also known as entry-level athletic trainers, motivate and assist individuals or groups trying to reach their fitness goals. At fitness centers, they may teach group classes on exercises such as yoga or stationary cycling, or they may design personal training programs for individual clients. Some fitness technicians also diagnose and treat injured athletes, and they may develop rehabilitative exercise programs for athletes so that they can return to top form as quickly as possible.

Take a look at the following chart for an overview of how to enter this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree, master's degree preferred by some employers
Education Field of Study Physical education, kinesiology
Other Requirements Licensure and certification required in most states, some employers require work experience
Key Skills Interpersonal communication, motivational, physical fitness
Job Growth (2014-2024) 21% (for all athletic trainers)*
Median Salary (2017) $38,601 (for all entry-level athletic trainers)**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Payscale.com

What Fitness Technician Positions Should I Explore?

You may first want to consider where you'd like to work and whom you'd like to train. According to the Board of Certification (BOC), a national organization that certifies entry-level athletic trainers, also known as fitness technicians, you could work with fitness centers, hospitals, private physicians, professional or college athletes, sports medicine or rehabilitation clinics (www.bocatc.org). Other possible titles include athletic trainer, certified athletic trainer, fitness coordinator, private trainer or sports medicine coordinator, according to O*Net OnLine (www.onetonline.org).

What Skills and Abilities Do I Need?

To work in the fitness field, you'll need to be physically fit and have strong interpersonal communication skills. You'll need to be able to monitor, assess, adjust and motivate the performance of the people you train.

Fitness trainers may work with individuals, groups or both. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) noted that the duties of fitness trainers may range from supervising cardiovascular workouts and strength training to working one-on-one to help individuals reach their fitness goals (www.bls.gov). You may also maintain records and provide lifestyle coaching when needed.

Will I Need Prior Experience?

While some employers require only a year of experience as a fitness technician, others may prefer you possess a bachelor's degree and be licensed as a fitness trainer, according to a December 2011 job search for athletic trainers at Monster.com. This same job search noted you'll need at least two years of experience to work in sports medicine practice and about five years of experience to work with professional athletes or the military.

Do I Need a College Degree?

The BLS noted that athletic trainers need at least a bachelor's degree, with some employers preferring or requiring a master's degree. Bachelor degree programs in physical education and kinesiology provide training to become a fitness technician. If you're interested in management opportunities, courses in business administration and personnel management may help.

What Other Training or Certification Do I Need?

According to the BLS, most states require license and certification by the BOC. Along with an exam, you'll need continuous training to maintain your certification. As of December 2011, the BOC certification covers five general categories, including injury and illness prevention, clinical evaluation and diagnosis, and treatment and rehabilitation.

According to a December 2011 Monster.com search, some fitness trainer positions may require other certifications. These include certification as a strength and conditioning specialist, in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and in automatic external defibrillator. You may also need to be certified by the National Athletic Trainer's Association Board of Certification.

What Opportunities Will I Have for Advancement?

Your career opportunities will depend on your interest. You may want to become an athletic director or administrator for a clinical practice. If you're interested in business, you could sell or market athletic products. You may also become a fitness center manager. According to a December 2011 CareerBuilder.com job search, you'll need between two and five years of experience supervising employees, coaching teams and other fitness-based activities for this type of job.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

You might also be interested in becoming an exercise physiologist. These professionals develop fitness programs for patients who are recovering from chronic disease, in order to help them improve their aerobic capacity, muscle strength and range of motion. Exercise physiologists need a bachelor's degree. Another option is a job as a physical therapist assistant, in which you would assist physical therapists as they conduct pain alleviation treatments like massage and teach patients exercises to help them improve their strength and mobility after injury. Physical therapist assistants need to have an associate's degree, and they must be licensed to work in all states.

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