By Published On: February 25, 2022

Are you interested in a career as a personal trainer? You might face pretty stiff competition for jobs in California. You’ll make the most money in New York. And growth in that job field is expected to be much faster than the average between 2021 and 2031.

Those are a few of the tidbits the U.S. government collects as it tracks the trends for thousands of job categories across the country — including fitness trainers and instructors. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics maintains detailed information on wages, employment trends and job responsibilities on its website.

Personal trainers “instruct or coach groups or individuals in exercise activities,” according to the BLS description. They “demonstrate techniques and form, observe participants, and explain to them corrective measures necessary to improve their skills.” The data comes from two sources within the Bureau of Labor Statistics: the bureau’s regular entry on the field, updated with 2022 data; and its Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Here are some notable statistics:

  • While California had the most fitness trainers with 35,230, Montana had the highest “density” of people working in the field, with 3.15 workers per thousand serving as personal trainers.
  • On average, personal trainers in New York earned about $35.68 an hour, or $74,220 per year. The national average for wages is $24.12 an hour, or $50,170 annually.
  • It’s estimated that jobs for fitness trainers will grow 19% between 2021 and 2031, which is much faster than the average.

Where did fitness trainers find work?

  • 52% found jobs in fitness and recreational sports centers
  • 22% are self-employed workers
  • 7% work with state, local, and private educational services
  • 6% with civic and social organizations
  • 4% work in government positions

Want to learn more about the overall job outlook for the field? Read our article, “Exercise Science Career Outlook.

How To Become a Certified Personal Trainer

There are a couple of paths to becoming a successful personal trainer. These paths will lead you to a fulfilling career that allows you to help others find optimal health.

Get a Degree in Exercise Science

While this is not technically required to become a certified personal trainer, obtaining a degree in exercise science will set you up for success in your career. Having a degree in exercise science provides you with a comprehensive understanding of human anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, nutrition, and exercise programming. It equips you with a solid foundation of knowledge that goes beyond basic training techniques, allowing you to design personalized and effective fitness programs for your clients based on scientific principles.

Enroll in an Accredited Personal Trainer Certification Program

Regardless of whether you have a degree in exercise science or not, you’ll need to enroll in an accredited personal trainer certification program to become a certified personal trainer. There are several reputable organizations that offer personal training certification programs, such as the American Council on Exercise (ACE), National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), and the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA), among others.

Do thorough research to find the program that best aligns with your career goals, learning style, and schedule. These certification programs typically involve self-study or online courses and may require practical assessments or a final personal trainer certification exam to prove your understanding of the material.

Gain Practical Experience

While earning a degree and obtaining certification provide you with theoretical knowledge, practical experience is equally essential. Look for internships or part-time jobs at gyms, fitness centers, or with experienced personal trainers. This hands-on experience will help you apply the knowledge you’ve acquired in real-life situations and gain confidence in working with clients of diverse fitness levels and backgrounds.

Building a strong practical foundation is vital as you’ll encounter unique challenges with each client and learn how to adapt your approach accordingly. Additionally, working under experienced trainers allows you to observe their techniques, communication skills, and motivational strategies, which can be invaluable in shaping your own coaching style.

Stay Informed and Continuously Educate Yourself

The health and fitness industry is ever-evolving, with new research, trends, and training methods emerging regularly. As a dedicated personal trainer, it’s crucial to stay informed and keep expanding your knowledge base.

Attend workshops, seminars, and conferences related to fitness, nutrition, and health to stay up-to-date with the latest industry developments. Furthermore, consider pursuing specialized certifications in areas that interest you, such as strength training, nutrition coaching, yoga, or corrective exercise. These additional qualifications not only enhance your expertise but also allow you to attract a more diverse clientele.

Develop Communication and Interpersonal Skills

Being a certified personal trainer involves more than just designing workout routines. Effective communication and interpersonal skills are crucial for building rapport and trust with your clients. You’ll need to motivate, inspire, and support individuals throughout their fitness journey.

Develop active listening skills to understand your clients’ goals, concerns, and challenges better. Tailor your coaching approach to suit their personalities and preferences. Learning how to provide constructive feedback and positive reinforcement will help your clients stay motivated and engaged in their workouts.

Promote Your Services and Build a Client Base

Once you’ve gained the necessary qualifications and practical experience to become a fitness trainer, it’s time to start building your client base. Develop a professional portfolio showcasing your expertise and achievements. Create a strong online presence through a website and social media platforms to reach potential clients.

Networking within the fitness community and collaborating with local gyms or wellness centers can also help you gain exposure. Offer free workshops or trial sessions to attract new clients and demonstrate your coaching abilities.

Keep in mind that building a clientele takes time and dedication, but providing exceptional service will lead to positive word-of-mouth referrals, which can significantly contribute to the growth of your personal training business.

Maintain Professionalism and Ethical Standards

As a certified personal trainer, you have a responsibility to adhere to ethical guidelines and maintain professional standards. Always prioritize your clients’ safety and well-being during training sessions. Respect their privacy and maintain confidentiality regarding their personal information.

Continue to educate yourself about industry regulations and standards to ensure you’re practicing within legal boundaries. Upholding ethical conduct will not only earn you the trust and respect of your clients but also enhance your credibility within the fitness community.

How Long Does It Take To Become a Personal Trainer?

This can vary depending on if you get a four-year degree (or more) or if you only take a certification course. If you decide to pursue a personal training certification course, the timeline can be relatively short. Personal training certifications typically range from a few weeks to a few months, depending on the organization and the study pace you choose.

If you want a more in-depth higher education, it could be several years before you become a certified personal trainer.

Personal Trainer With a Degree vs. Certification Only

Both a personal trainer with a degree in exercise science and one with certification only can be competent and effective in their roles. However, there are notable differences in their level of education, depth of knowledge, and the range of services they can offer. Let’s explore the advantages and considerations for each:

Personal Trainer with a Degree in Exercise Science

In-depth Knowledge: A personal trainer with a degree in exercise science has undergone extensive education in various subjects, including human anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, nutrition, exercise programming, and more. This deep understanding allows them to design highly individualized and scientifically sound fitness programs for their clients.

Understanding of Special Populations: With their educational background, fitness professionals with a degree are often better equipped to work with special populations, such as individuals with chronic health conditions, injuries, or specific fitness goals. They can adapt exercise programs to suit unique needs and ensure safety and effectiveness.

Problem-solving Skills: A degree program typically includes coursework in exercise prescription and program design. Personal trainers with a degree have learned to analyze complex scenarios and create tailored solutions for their clients, taking into account their goals, limitations, and preferences.

Versatility: Having a degree in exercise science opens up opportunities beyond personal training. Graduates may venture into fields such as exercise physiology, physical therapy, sports performance, or research. This versatility allows for a more diverse and flexible career path.

Credibility and Marketability: The possession of a degree can enhance a trainer’s credibility and marketability. Clients often perceive a higher level of expertise in someone who has invested time and effort into earning an academic qualification.

Personal Trainer with Certification Only

Specific Expertise: While personal trainer certification programs provide a solid foundation, they often focus on the essentials of personal training, exercise techniques, and client interaction. This can be an advantage for trainers who wish to specialize in particular areas, such as weightlifting, yoga, or nutrition coaching.

Cost and Time: Pursuing a certification is generally more time-efficient and cost-effective than earning a degree. It allows individuals to start their careers sooner and begin gaining practical experience.

Practical Experience: Trainers with certification-only often place more emphasis on gaining hands-on experience. By focusing on practical applications, they may excel in understanding clients’ needs and fine-tuning their coaching skills.

Continuing Education: Many certification programs require trainers to engage in continuous education to maintain their credentials. This encourages ongoing learning and staying up-to-date with industry trends.

Target Audience: Depending on their certification specialization, trainers may attract a specific target audience interested in the particular area of expertise they offer. For example, a certified nutrition coach may draw clients seeking help with their dietary habits.

Who Is Suited for a Career in Personal Training?

A career in personal training is well-suited for individuals who possess certain characteristics, skills, and attributes. While it can be a rewarding and fulfilling profession, it’s essential to have the right qualities to excel and make a positive impact on clients. Here are some traits that make someone well-suited for a career in personal training:

  • Passion for Fitness
  • Excellent Communication Skills
  • Empathy and Empowerment
  • Patience and Adaptability
  • Problem-Solving Abilities
  • Physical Fitness and Competence
  • Continuous Learner
  • Professionalism and Ethics
  • Goal-Oriented
  • Positive and Energetic Attitude
  • Business Acumen

Start Your Career as a Personal Trainer with a Degree in Exercise Science

Concordia University Chicago has been educating students for over 150 years and when you enroll in our online programs you earn the same campus quality degree. Ready to advance your career in health and fitness with a degree in exercise science? Contact one of our Admissions Advisors to learn more or apply today.