How to Become a Personal Trainer

How to Become a Personal Trainer

Jobs in personal training are hybrids–some combination of businessman and exercise professional. Personal trainers prescribe exercise programs for their clients but must also maintain their small business. There are very few personal trainers who don’t also manage their own careers.

Personal trainers meet clients, set exercise and training goals (as well as weight loss goals), prescribe specific exercise and sometimes dietary programs, and instruct and participate with their clients in these exercises and fitness programs. Most personal trainers work independently of gyms and fitness centers, though some are employed as part of a gym’s staff.

How to Become a Personal TrainerWork as a personal trainer is limited to a trainer’s ability to take on new clients. They are contractors, signing agreements with clients one on one and must compete with other trainers for business.

Personal Trainer Salaries – How Much Do Personal Trainers Make?

There are three basic factors that influence how much a personal trainer earns:

Location-A personal trainer in Los Angeles will make more money than a personal trainer in Mississippi. The average income of the area where a trainer works is the single biggest factor in how much they can charge and how much clients are willing to pay for their services.

Experience-No one wants to hire an expensive personal trainer who hasn’t ever worked in the field before. Experience in personal training equals a higher salary. Having ten or twenty years experience as a personal trainer implies that you’re not only a great trainer, but you also have an excellent mind for business, and clients are looking for that experience, especially if you’re charging higher than the average rate.

Certifications-Personal trainers get certified in different fields in order to offer more services and to prove to their clients that they are experts. If a trainer only has one or two certifications, they can expect to earn less money than a trainer with several certifications in exercise and training.

Because the amount of money earned by trainers varies so drastically, it’s impossible to give a simple average range of salaries. Here are some personal trainer salaries reported by Personal Training Magazine based on these trainer’s location, experience, and certifications.

A personal trainer in Dallas with 7 years experience and three certifications earns between $70,000 and $80,000 a year depending on her client load.

A personal trainer in New York City with five years experience and two training certifications reports earning $95,000 a year with an average number of clients.

A personal trainer in Duluth, Minnesota with just one year experience and three certifications earns $45,000-$50,000 a year depending on the number of clients he works with.

Trainers who work for gyms earn a basic hourly wage plus a percentage of a client’s fee based on their experience and their number of certifications. At one national gym chain, trainers earn a $7 per hour fee plus 10% of the client’s fee for each certification they have. With fees around $60 an hour, a trainer with three certifications will earn $25 an hour, working 4-6 hours a day usually 7 days per week. That’s about $54,000 before taxes.

Personal Trainer Certification and Training

Because the money you earn as a trainer depends partially on your own training and expertise, earning more certifications makes the most financial sense. What kind of training and certification exists for personal trainers?

To become a personal trainer, you have to have at least a high school diploma. Your work towards certification will be much easier if you get an undergraduate degree in either Diet & Exercise or a related field, though this is not required. Personal trainers must also take CPR training, and learn how to use an automated external defibrillator. Certification exists for both of these requirements.

Other than that, the only thing required to earn different certificates in personal training are exams, given at specific times of year by different governing bodies.

Exams in personal training include questions and quizzes on nutrition, health screening, exercise protocols, exercise prescription, and work with special populations such as the elderly, disabled, or mentally retarded.

Official personal training certification is offered through two different bodies–trainers can earn either an American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) certificate or a certificate by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).

Most gyms and clients these days don’t want to work with personal trainers who lack certifications that are officially recognized by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies–there are fifteen such certifications available to personal trainers, two of which (the ACSM and NSCA certifications mentioned above) are the most common and most recognized in the world. There is even one recognized certification offered through distance education, meaning you can train to become a personal trainer through online courses. This is a relatively new phenomenon, but since its accredited through the NCCA, it is acceptable for work as a personal trainer.

Finding Work as a Personal Trainer

There are two basic varieties of trainer–you are either an independent contractor booking your own clients and running your own business or you work for a gym or fitness group. Finding work in either field requires a different set of skills.

If you want to work independently, training in business is a good idea. Getting an undergraduate degree in management or another business field will help you advertise to clients and book work and keep your business organized. Finding clients as an independent personal trainer takes perseverance and networking, though getting your first client will sometimes lead to many more clients thanks to word of mouth.

If you’d rather work for a gym, hospital, or fitness center, you’ll have an easier time finding jobs but you probably won’t make nearly as much money. Simply apply for jobs at gyms or other groups hiring personal trainers. You’ll make an hourly wage, but you’ll have to pay the gym or fitness center a percentage of your client’s fees. Think of it as “renting space” in a gym.

Work as a personal trainer can be as rewarding as any job related to health–you get to see your clients meeting their goals, losing weight, and growing stronger. It can also be a difficult job, especially if you plan on earning lots of certification and working independently.

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