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Fitness Trainer: Career Information


Woman exercising in health club with trainer
Blend Images- John Lund/Marc/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

Job Description:

A fitness trainer leads people in exercise activities. He or she works with individuals or groups, providing both instruction and motivation. A fitness trainer may specialize in aerobics, weight lifting, yoga or another fitness activity.

Employment Facts:

There were about 251,000 fitness trainers employed in the US in 2010. Most work for fitness and recreation centers but they can also be found working in gyms, exercise studios, country clubs, resorts and universities. Some see private clients in those clients' homes. There are also fitness trainers employed by companies that offer fitness programs to their employees.

Educational Requirements:

Anyone who wants to work in this occupation must have a high school diploma. From that point, the educational requirements vary by employer, by whether one works with individuals or groups, and by specialty. Many employers prefer to hire trainers who have an associate or bachelor's degree in a health or fitness field.

Personal fitness trainers—those who have individual clients—first take classes and then work alongside experienced trainers. Aspiring group exercise instructors train to teach classes and then audition for jobs.

Why Do You Need to Know About Educational Requirements?

Other Requirements:

Most employers will hire only certified fitness trainers. Certification is offered by a number of organizations. It is important to find one that is well-regarded in the industry. Paige Waehner, the About.com Guide to Exercise, has compiled a list of accredited and well-known organizations on her site. She has included links to their websites and basic requirements. Please see How to Be a Personal Trainer: Certifying Organizations and Job Options.

Fitness trainers need a variety of skills, in addition to their ability to teach exercise routines, to succeed in this field. They include good customer service, listening, speaking, problem-solving and motivational skills. They must also be physically fit as they spend their workday exercising.

Advancement Opportunities:

To advance to a management position in a health or fitness club one usually needs, in addition to experience, a bachelor's degree in exercise science, physical education, kinesiology or a related area. Personal fitness trainers may become head trainers and group exercise instructors may advance to positions as group exercise directors. In these jobs they will be responsible for hiring and training others. Ultimately personal trainers and instructors may become managers of fitness facilities.

Why Do You Need to Know About Advancement?

Job Outlook:

The job outlook for fitness trainers is excellent. This occupation is projected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2020 (The US Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Why Do You Need to Know About Job Outlook?


Fitness trainers earned a median annual salary of $31,030 and median hourly wages of $14.92 in 2011.

Use the Salary Wizard at Salary.com to find out how much a fitness trainer currently earns in your city.

A Day in a Fitness Trainer's Life:

On a typical day a fitness trainer's tasks might include:

  • observing individual clients or class participants exercising in order to help them improve their skills
  • teaching people how to get the maximum benefit from exercise routines
  • planning exercise routines
  • developing suitable training programs based on clients' skills, fitness levels and special requirements
  • monitoring clients' progress and making adjustments to exercise routines as needed

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Fitness Trainers and Instructors, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Personal-Care-and-Service/Fitness-trainers-and-instructors.htm (visited April 18, 2013).
Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Fitness Trainer and Aerobics Instructors, on the Internet at http://online.onetcenter.org/link/details/39-9031.00 (visited April 18, 2013).

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