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Becoming a certified personal trainer can be a rewarding and productive way to help people improve their health and personal fitness. The fitness industry has exploded in recent years, and there are dozens of options for pursuing a career as a personal training career. Personal training services can find a home in many different settings – not just in gyms like you might expect.
8 Best Personal Trainer Jobs
- Commercial Gyms
- Community Centers
- Cruise Ships
- Clients’ Homes
- Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist
- Online Personal Trainer
- Corrective Exercise Specialist
Personal trainers work typically with clients in a one-on-one setting to design and implement a specific exercise program to help increase strength, lose weight, improve athletic performance, or simply maintain health and wellness. Personal trainers will introduce clients to individualized exercises based on their current fitness level, personal fitness goals, skill level and needs. To be most effective, trainers must stay current on the latest trends and professional recommendations in both fitness and nutrition.
Overall, the fitness industry can offer a great lifestyle and livelihood for those who want to stay active and keep their bodies as healthy as possible, while getting paid to help others do the same. For most personal trainers, this is a tremendously rewarding career path. The job offers several options that you might not intuitively associate with personal training, and there are several career development paths that a certified personal trainer can choose to pursue.
8 Best Personal Trainer Jobs
Let’s examine personal trainer career options in more detail – including ways to expand on your personal trainer certification. Personal training certification can lead to a variety of specialties and areas of focus.
1. Commercial Gym Personal Trainer
Working at a commercial gym is probably the most common way that people begin their personal training careers. Once you’ve received your personal training certification, it’s typical to sign on at a local or national gym chain, where you can begin seeing clients and helping them meet their fitness goals. Commercial gyms also offer great potential for group training.
Salary – Salary can be all over the place for a commercial gym. You’ll typically be paid an hourly rate just to “work the floor,” to get to know gym members and sign people up for personal training packages. For every session you sell, you usually earn a commission as well. Generally, a respectable salary for a commercial gym personal trainer will average around $40,000.
Hours – Varied and may include nights and weekends to accommodate clients’ schedules.
Required Experience – Typically none. You can start at a commercial gym as a brand new certified personal trainer.
Education/Certifications – Requirements may vary from gym to gym, but usually a high school diploma is required, along with a certification through a recognized agency like the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) or the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). A gym may require CPR/AED certification as well.
2. Community Center Fitness Instructor
Working as a personal trainer at a community center is a great way to have a positive impact on the people of your particular neighborhood or community. Many community centers offer fitness services ranging from group classes and sports to consultations, aquatic classes and personal training sessions. By working at a community center, you may also qualify for free memberships for you and your family.
Salary – Community or recreation center personal trainers may earn anywhere from $15-30 per session, depending on their level of experience and number of sessions trained.
Hours – 40 hours per week. However, your schedule may be dictated by client preference and convenience.
Required Experience – No specific experience needed.
Education/Certifications – Must have a high school diploma and valid personal training certification from an accredited organization.
3. Cruise Ship Personal Trainer
A cruise ship may not be the most intuitive option for a certified personal trainer, but how can you beat sailing the open seas to exotic destinations while helping people maximize their health and well-being along the way? Every cruise line is different, but most offer room and board to their employees, so not only will you be earning money, but a good portion of it will be able to stay in your pocket.
Salary – Personal trainers on cruise ships can earn anywhere from $22,000-30,000 per year, depending on the cruise line, the length of the employee contract and the trainer’s experience in the field.
Hours – Varies by cruise line and driven by client preference.
Required Experience – The most attractive candidates are those who have previous experience in sports medicine, sports instruction, or exercise physiology.
Education/Certifications – Personal trainer certification through an accredited certification body.
4. Spas/Resorts Fitness Instructor
Spas and resorts around the world often employ personal trainers to help guests maximize their fitness during their stay. Imagine working in some of the most beautiful and remote areas of the world as you help clients relax, focus on their health and well-being and make the most of their physical fitness during each session.
Salary – You can generally expect to find the salaries at premier health clubs ranging from $28,000-52,000 per year.
Hours – Typically, 40 hours per week. Hours can vary, depending on the resort and its fitness program, plus the preferences of guests.
Required Experience – Previous hands-on experience as a personal trainer preferred.
Education/Certifications – Certification through a recognized and accredited organization.
5. Clients’ Homes – Private Fitness Trainer
Doing one-on-one training with a client in his home is an effective way to build a solid client relationship and make a measurable difference for a client’s fitness level. It’s convenient for the client and can be especially helpful for those who are unable to travel due to health issues. By caring for clients at their homes, you can elevate yourself above the competition and enjoy a more personal connection with each client.
Salary – Salary can vary since you are making your own schedule and determining how heavy a client load you can carry – but some independent personal trainers make upwards of $75,000 or more per year.
Hours – As an independent contractor, you can make your own hours. It’s important to be flexible so you can adjust to the schedule of your clients.
Required Experience – Most personal trainers gain 5-7 years of experience as a trusted certified personal trainer before going out on their own.
Education/Certifications – Personal training certification through an accredited organization.
6. Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist
Earning a certification like C.S.C.S. can help put you a step or two above the average personal trainer. These fitness professionals apply their scientific knowledge toward the goal of helping clients achieve their athletic performance goals—specifically those related to muscular strength and muscular endurance. They may design specific diets and strength conditioning plans, along with carrying out specific athletic performance testing and fitness assessment.
Salary – The average salary is $46,000 per year.
Hours – 40 hours per week, though your work schedule is largely driven by client convenience.
Required Experience – 2-3 years of traditional training experience is usually required before specializing in C.S.C.S.
Education/Certifications – Traditional personal training certification, plus the additional C.S.C.S. certification.
7. Online Personal Trainer
While a certified personal trainer often works with clients at the gym or at their home, fitness trainers also work with clients on behavior modification and developing habits that contribute to their overall health and physical fitness. Along this line, many fitness trainers and instructors have begun offering online personal training services. With the hectic schedules of many clients, offering online training can give them a similar level of flexibility as that offered with in-home training, but without the trainer having to drive all over town to various clients’ homes.
Online personal trainers provide training videos, webinars and virtual personal coaching sessions. This is a relatively new area of the personal training field, but one that offers tremendous potential in terms of creative freedom and entrepreneurship. For those who are especially savvy with social media, the sky’s the limit. The difference between knowing and not knowing the best times to post on Instagram might make or break a trainer’s online success. The reach of the internet is essentially boundless, so online training offers a great deal of potential for growing your business and increasing your net worth. Online personal training is also an effective way of earning passive income by being an influencer for expert brands.
Salary – Varied, but with great potential for six figures or more.
Hours – Hours are completely set by you, but driven by client preference and convenience.
Required Experience – In order to establish credibility, you’ll need to have a few years of traditional training under your belt before launching an online business.
Education/Certifications – Personal training certification through an accredited organization.
8. Corrective Exercise Specialist
With their unique knowledge of body mechanics, posture and movement, corrective exercise specialists can help anyone suffering from joint pain, flexibility issues, or muscle instability. A corrective exercise specialist performs fitness assessments and develops a corrective, individualized strength and conditioning program with the ultimate goal of restoring pain-free, full-body movement. A Corrective Exercise Specialist certification is available from the National Academy of Sports Medicine, which is a supplement to the traditional personal trainer certification.
Salary – The average salary is $45,000 per year.
Hours – 40 hours per week. However, hours are dictated largely by client schedules and preferences.
Required Experience – No specific experience is required, though it’s wise to have two years of hands-on experience as a personal trainer before choosing to specialize.
Education/Certifications – Specific Corrective Exercise Specialist certification, plus traditional personal trainer certification through an accredited body.
Personal Trainer Organizations to Consider
One of the best things about becoming a certified personal trainer is the support and networking opportunities provided by the professional community. There are several professional organizations you can join that will help you meet other like-minded fitness professionals. These groups can provide continuing education and development that help you continue to grow as a professional. Below are just a few of the organizations to consider:
The National Academy of Sports Medicine – NASM has been the industry standard for personal trainer certification and continuing education for more than 30 years. With its emphasis on evidence-based practice, NASM is the gold standard for professionals who want to help clients meet their health and fitness goals by using cutting-edge scientific techniques. NASM is considered by many to be the world's foremost resource for health and fitness information.
ExpertVoice – By joining the ExpertVoice community, you have the opportunity to connect with fellow fitness consumers and professionals. You’ll be able to share your experiences with others and offer expert advice on the gear and equipment that fitness professionals and enthusiasts use on a daily basis. You’ll not only gain access to a variety of discounts and pro deals, but you’ll also have a platform to share your expertise with others who can benefit from your professional counsel.
The International Sports Sciences Association – Founded in 1988, ISSA offers 12 different certification programs to its members from 91 different countries. With a mission to bring healthy living to everybody in the world through education and community, ISSA is a leader in providing an education for fitness professionals that is grounded in industry research and best practices.
The American Council on Exercise – With a membership of more than 85,000 professionals, ACE is a nonprofit provider of fitness education, certification and professional development. Through ACE, fitness professionals can earn certification in the following areas: personal trainer, group fitness instructor, health coach and medical exercise specialist. ACE supports its own primary scientific research and encourages the highest standards of professionalism and community engagement to help people live their healthiest lives.
The American College of Sports Medicine – Boasting more than 50,000 members and certified professionals, ACSM focuses specifically on exercise science and sports medicine. This group represents more than 70 professions across the globe from 90 different countries. Members are personal trainers, academics, physicians and students. ACSM’s mission is to help people worldwide live longer, healthier lives.
The National Strength and Conditioning Association – NSCA is a nonprofit professional organization dedicated to advancing the strength and conditioning profession around the world. It does so by sharing research journals, career development services, continuing education opportunities and providing industry-leading certifications.
Personal Trainer Gear
When you become a certified personal trainer, your work may require you to invest in particular gear and equipment in order to effectively help your clients. If you work in a health club or commercial gym, some equipment will be provided to you. But if you’re working in-home with clients or starting your own studio, you’ll need to invest in proper gear. Don’t forget to join ExpertVoice to score amazing daily deals on personal trainer gear, equipment and supplements. Some standard training equipment you may need in order to be successful as a personal trainer include:
Stopwatch – You might be able to track client performance and progress through a variety of smartphone apps, but oftentimes, a simple, reliable stopwatch is all you need. Stopwatches are small and portable—and you’ll find that having one handy will prove helpful in a variety of settings.
Exercise Mats – Having a collection of exercise mats allows you to work out with your clients virtually anywhere. An exercise mat can transform any surface into a cushioned, clean area for everything from stretching to strength training.
Medicine Ball – This is another simple, yet highly effective, piece of fitness equipment that’s highly portable. Medicine balls can provide intense strength training for both the upper and lower body. In fact, many trainers place medicine ball high on their list of must-have equipment.
Foam Roller – A foam roller can help you guide your clients toward both effective stretching and cool-down of key muscle groups. Using a foam roller can go a long way toward helping your clients achieve muscle recovery after a workout.
Jump Rope – This all-purpose tool is essential for any personal trainer. Jump ropes are simple, lightweight and easy to transport. A jump rope routine can provide an effective cardio workout for your clients.
Dumbbells – Whether you’re looking for a mobile fitness gear collection or leaning more toward stocking your own studio, dumbbells serve as the foundation of any personal training equipment collection.
Resistance Bands – Resistance bands are a must-have for your personal training arsenal since they’re lightweight, easily transportable and also highly effective. You should have a collection of several different levels of resistance in order to guarantee that you have something appropriate for every client. No matter a client’s fitness level – from beginner to elite athlete – resistance bands can be an effective component of any workout.
How to Become a Personal Trainer
There are many different paths to becoming a fitness trainer. It’s a job that offers a great deal of flexibility and creativity in terms of how you shape and grow your career. The forecast for continued opportunity looks positive—according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth within the fitness industry is expected to grow by more than 23,000 jobs between 2014 and 2024.
Education – Personal trainers must start with at least a high school diploma in order to become certified. Many others pursue a bachelor’s degree in everything from kinesiology to exercise science, sports medicine, physical education and more. In addition, some trainers go on to complete a master’s degree or even a doctoral degree in fitness-related areas.
Certification – Personal training is an industry-regulated profession. Certifying organizations administer examinations that every personal trainer must pass. Earning your certificate signals to your clients (and potential clients) that you have the knowledge, skills, expertise, integrity and commitment to the industry. Many different certification bodies exist within the personal training industry, including the following:
- The American Council on Exercise
- National Strength and Conditioning Association
- American Fitness Professional and Associates (AFPA)
- National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT)
- American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
- National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF)
- National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
There are other choices for certifying bodies, but just make sure you choose an organization that is recognized by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, which is the primary accrediting body for personal trainer certification. To become certified, the process typically entails passing a written certification exam on human anatomy and physiology, as well as the scientific principles behind effective fitness training. To remain certified, you will also need to complete continuing education credits throughout your career.
Some certification organizations offer a trainer certification program that includes test preparation or materials that can help you study and prepare to pass the exam. They might also offer online classes or encourage you to purchase test-prep materials, such as DVDs, course packs, official textbooks and study guides. Some personal trainer certification exams may feature a hands-on or practical component in addition to the written portion.
Always check with potential employers on their certification requirements. For example, some employers will also insist that their personal trainers be CPR and/or AED certified on top of their professional trainer certification. As a trainer, you may find yourself in situations with clients where they could experience some type of distress, so it’s a good idea to add these certifications even if they are not required.
How to Start a Personal Training Business
Once you have a few years of personal training experience and expertise, it may be time for you to take an entrepreneurial approach to your career by becoming an independent contractor. You can start your own personal training business by following the steps below.
Step 1 – Research and make a plan. You need a clear picture of your options when starting your own personal training business. For example, what are your startup costs—including rent, equipment, marketing, etc.? Who is your target audience? How will you expand your client base? Where will your business be located? Will you also launch a website and a social media presence? How much will you charge your clients? As you think about marketing yourself to potential clients, it’s important to consider the consumer journey.
Step 2 – Form a legal business. If you establish a legal business entity as an LLC, it protects you from being personally liable in the event of a lawsuit.
Step 3 – Register for taxes. Before you can formally open your business, you’ll need to register for both state and federal taxes. This process includes registering with the IRS for an Employee Identification Number, which is less scary than it might sound. You can get an EIN for free from the IRS website, or you can do it by mail.
Step 4 – Open a business checking account and a business credit card. Keep your personal finances separate from your business finances. Otherwise, your personal assets could be affected if your business gets sued. By opening a business credit card, it becomes much easier to track your business expenses. It also helps build a credit history for your newly created business entity. You can use your new business credit card, for example, to take advantage of ExpertVoice promotions like REI pro deals.
Step 5 – Arrange for any appropriate state or local licensing. Check with your local small business association to learn how local tax or license requirements will affect your business. If you don’t have the appropriate permits and licenses, you could get hit with hefty fines, or even have your business shut down.
Step 6 – Get business insurance. You’ll need liability insurance as a personal trainer. If you plan to hire any employees, you’ll need additional employer insurance as well.
Step 7 – Promote and market your business. Once you’ve established a business, it’s time to attract customers. If you have existing clients, enlist their help. Offer special deals to current clients for referrals and introductory specials so that new clients feel good about giving you a try.
You can also offer free workshops in locales, such as local gyms and community centers. Doing so can increase your visibility and also highlight your skills and expertise, which can be an effective lead-generation tool.
The Best Personal Trainer Jobs
Personal training is a flexible, fun and effective way to make a living. Helping others improve their physical fitness and quality of life are just a few of the intangible benefits of becoming a personal trainer. Today, there are more opportunities to pursue a personal training career than ever before. The overall fitness field is wide and diverse and almost guaranteed to grow in coming years. In fact, growth potential for a personal training business is very high—the field is expected to climb at a steady rate for the coming decade.
Join ExpertVoice today and get to know other experts and professionals in the industry. You can serve as a mentor to those seeking how to become a personal trainer. With access to pro deals and a community of like-minded fitness enthusiasts, there’s no better way to grow a rewarding career improving people’s lives.