Personal Trainer Career Profile

Personal trainers are body transformation specialists who enable their clients to reach physical goals, including sport and athletic achievement, general fitness, physical rehab, and weight-loss.

Basic skills include an experience with a wide variety of athletics and exercises, and an inspirational personality. Additionally, many trainers have closely studied kinesiology and exercise science, anatomy and physiology, nutrition, physical rehabilitation, and non-western modalities, such as yoga, Tai Chi, and meditation.

There are a variety of certifications available to the prospective personal trainer proctored by organizations like the International Sports Science Association (ISSA), the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), American Council on Exercise (ACE), the National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF), the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AAFA), and the National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT).

It is highly recommended that a personal trainer is certified; in fact few gyms will employ a trainer who is not certified. The cost of certification ranges from $130 to $800, with material costs either included or an additional $100 to $400.

Work Environment

Personal Trainers work in a gym setting, either in a large public facility or a private gym. The main requirements of a personal trainer are:

  • Identify a clients strengths, weaknesses, and goals

  • Formulate an effective workout strategy

  • Establish tracking system to record progress

  • Inspire client to reach goals with mini-milestones

  • Draw upon and integrate multiple exercise styles and techniques to keep the program exciting

  • Coach client to push harder than they would alone

  • Give advice regarding nutrition

Additionally many trainers create and lead group classes. These can vary from basics, like aerobics, Pilates, and spin, to highly entertaining combinations of music, dance, and resistance training. Group training requirements include:

  • A high-energy, outgoing, motivating personality

  • An ability to tailor workouts to all skill levels

  • Creating problem-specific classes, like Six-Pack Attack or Core Cut

  • Developing unique amalgamations of multiple modalities, like Kick-Boxing Cardio and Latin Dance Aerobics

The success of a personal trainer working with individual clients is determined by client retention and satisfaction. Trainers leading group classes are also concerned with attendance. Additional certification and experience paves the way for advancement.

Many highly certified trainers specialize in a specific training method or sport, such as a Pilates instructor or a triathlon coach. These trainers advance to become a senior trainer, gym manager, or group training manager.

Wage

Entry-level personal trainers rarely receive a salary, and most often are paid per session an hourly wage ranging from $40 to $90 per hour. If the trainer uses space at a gym, this wage is usually split with the gym. Sometimes a gym will pay the trainer a small flat hourly rate as well. If training sessions aren't scheduled sequentially, there can be significant unpaid downtime each week.

Additional certification, experience, and job responsibility (such as managing trainers, developing class schedules, etc.) equate to higher hourly wages and salaries ranging from $35,000 to $65,000.

Hours

Personal trainers generally are busiest during non-traditional work hours when clients are available—before and after 9am to 5pm, during lunch breaks, and on weekends.

Career Environment

Personal trainers are generally employed through large established gyms or their own private practice. Since the hours and business very dramatically, many trainers find additional employment to supplement their income, sometimes in the exercise/sports science field, sometimes not. Sample adjunct jobs include coaching positions, nutrition advisor, fitness model, supplement store manager, fitness writer, and exercise equipment sales.