How Do I Become a Fitness Specialist?

Research what it takes to become a fitness specialist. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average 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 Specialist Do?

Fitness specialists offer exercise and nutrition programs tailored to individual clients' needs. They lead exercise and nutrition classes which they often choreograph themselves, sometimes with musical accompaniment of their choice. It is their responsibility to ensure that the rigor and mobility of the moves in a workout match the fitness and skill of their clients to reduce the chance of injuries. For the same reason, they are also responsible for teaching individuals proper workout technique and monitoring progress when appropriate. Review the table below to learn more about the career of fitness specialist:

Degree RequiredH.S. Diploma or G.E.D.
Associate's (2-year) degree
Bachelor's degree
Education Field of StudyAn exercise-related field such as Physical Education or Exercise Science
Key Responsibilities Analyze client's health and exercise needs
Design and develop individually tailored exercise and nutrition programs
Lead exercise and nutrition classes
Teach clients proper workout techniques including safety procedures
Maintain exercise equipment in good working order
Counsel and motivate clients to practice healthy eating and exercise habits
Licensure/CertificationCertification is often required by employers
Job Growth (2014-2024)8% (for fitness trainers and instructors)*
Median Salary (2015)$36,160 (for fitness trainers and instructors)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Is a Fitness Specialist?

Fitness specialists analyze clients' health and exercise needs and develop suitable exercise and nutrition programs. As a fitness specialist, you could lead exercise and nutrition classes or teach a client proper workout techniques. You motivate your clients to practice healthy eating habits and encourage them during daily exercise routines. Most fitness specialists work in a gym or sports center, but you could also conduct employee health and fitness programs for businesses.

What Education Do I Need?

Although fitness specialists are not necessarily required to have a degree, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that many employers desire instructors and trainers who have earned a bachelor's degree in an exercise-related field (www.bls.gov). Some certification organizations also require a degree for higher-level credentials, such as certification to train athletes.

A bachelor's degree program in kinesiology or exercise science can give you skills in nutrition, biomechanics and exercise testing. Other topics of study may include strength and conditioning, exercise behavior and anatomy. You can complete one of these bachelor's degree programs in four years, and most programs will prepare you for certification. If you'd like to teach a particular type of exercise, such as yoga, you can find organizations that specialize in training instructors for these fields.

How Can I Become Certified?

According to the BLS, earning a fitness certification is often required by employers if you seek a job in a gym or corporate exercise facility. You should apply to a certification program accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies. Continuing education is often required to maintain certification.

The International Sport Sciences Association offers Personal Trainer and Fitness Nutrition Certification. You could also choose to earn the Certified Health Fitness Specialist certification from the American College of Sports Medicine. These certifications require you to pass an exam that tests knowledge of physiology and exercise techniques. A degree isn't always required, and you can usually learn the tested material in any manner you choose. You also need to have a CPR certificate from the American Heart Association or American Red Cross.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Personal fitness trainers are fitness specialists who work 1-on-1 or with a small group of exercisers, which can allow them to focus on ensuring proper technique for more rigorous (and therefore potentially more dangerous) workouts. Many fitness specialists lead group classes in a particular type of workout such as aerobics, muscle conditioning, Pilates, or yoga. Fitness directors are in charge of the equipment and scheduling in a fitness facility such as a gym or a health club.

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