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Personal Training Career

Career Description

Personal Trainers instruct or coach groups or individuals in exercise activities and the fundamentals of sports. Demonstrate techniques and methods of participation. Observe participants and inform them of corrective measures necessary to improve their skills.

Common Work Tasks

  • Lead, instruct, and motivate individuals or groups in exercise activities, including cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and stretching
  • Work in health clubs, country clubs, hospitals,  universities, yoga and Pilates studios, resorts, and clients’ homes
  • Organize and direct health and fitness programs for employees of all ages
  • Work one-on-one with clients either in a gym or in the client’s home
  • Help clients assess their level of physical fitness and set and reach fitness goals
  • Demonstrate various exercises and help clients improve their exercise techniques
  • Keep records of their clients’ exercise sessions to monitor clients’ progress toward physical fitness
  • Advise clients on how to modify their lifestyle outside of the gym to improve their fitness

Other Job Titles

Personal Trainers are also known by other titles, including:

  • Fitness Instructors
  • Group Exercise Instructors
  • Fitness Directors
  • Aerobics Instructors

Education,  Training, and Experience

Education and Training
Fitness workers usually do not receive much on-the-job training; they are expected to know how to do their jobs when they are hired. Workers may receive some organizational training to learn about the operations of their new employer.  They occasionally receive specialized training if they are expected to teach or lead a specific method of exercise or focus on a particular age or ability group. Because the requirements vary from employer to employer, it may be helpful to contact your local fitness centers or other potential employers to find out what background they prefer before pursuing training.

The education and training required depends on the specific type of fitness work: personal training, group fitness, or a specialization such as Pilates or yoga each need different preparation. Personal trainers often start out by taking classes to become certified. They then may begin by working alongside an experienced trainer before being allowed to train clients alone. Group fitness instructors often get started by participating in exercise classes until they are ready to successfully audition as instructors and begin teaching class. They also may improve their skills by taking training courses or attending fitness conventions. Most employers require instructors to work toward becoming certified.

An increasing number of employers require fitness workers to have a bachelor’s degree in a field related to health or fitness, such as exercise science or physical education. Some employers allow workers to substitute a college degree for certification, but most employers who require a bachelor’s degree also require certification.

Certification and Licensure
Most personal trainers must obtain certification in the fitness field to gain employment. Group fitness instructors do not necessarily need certification to begin working. The most important characteristic that an employer looks for in a new fitness instructor is the ability to plan and lead a class that is motivating and safe. However, most organizations encourage their group instructors to become certified over time, and many require it.

Most certifying organizations require candidates to have a high school diploma, be certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and pass an exam. All certification exams have a written component, and some also have a practical component. The exams measure knowledge of human physiology, proper exercise techniques, assessment of client fitness levels, and development of appropriate exercise programs.  There is no particular training program required for certifications; candidates may prepare however they prefer. Certifying organizations do offer study materials, including books, CD-ROMs, other audio and visual materials, and exam preparation workshops and seminars, but exam candidates are not required to purchase materials to take exams.

People planning fitness careers should be outgoing, excellent communicators, good at motivating people, and sensitive to the needs of others. Excellent health and physical fitness are important due to the physical nature of the job. Those who wish to be personal trainers in a large commercial fitness center should have strong sales skills. All personal trainers should have the personality and motivation to attract and retain clients.


The median annual salary for a Personal Trainer is $27,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $59,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $15,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of personal trainers are:

  • Other Amusement and Recreation Industries - $34,040
  • Civic and Social Organizations - $29,330
  • Other Schools and Instruction - $29,380
  • Local Government - $29,780
  • General Medical and Surgical Hospitals - $32,740

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  27%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 63,000
  • Employment 2006 : 235,000
  • Employment 2016:  298,000
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