Career Choice: Personal Trainer

Career Choice: Personal Trainer
  • Opening Intro -

    Also known as fitness trainers and aerobic instructors, personal trainers are tasked with helping individuals or groups with exercise.


Such professionals teach participants various techniques and methods for carrying out specific exercise regimens, measuring for skill improvement and related outcomes.


Personal trainers instruct participants how to maximize the benefits from their exercise routines including demonstrating how to achieve exertion levels. Trainers will develop routines based on a participant’s physical abilities and stamina, developing customized routines. Instructors will often choose the appropriate music for work outs and demonstrate various movements to strengthen muscles and maintain proper breathing. Fitness trainers also may explain safety rules, offer nutritional and diet tips, and administer first-aid when needed.


Only one-quarter of personal trainers including fitness trainers and aerobic instructors have a college degree with another 21 percent having some post-secondary training. Clearly, you may be able to call yourself a personal trainer and make a living without a college degree. Certification, however, is a requirement of many employers, who expect trainers to have a certificate in cardiopulmonary resuscitation or possess accredited certification.

An associate or bachelor’s degree in a fitness or health field can be beneficial according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Courses in nutrition, exercise science and management can be beneficial. Candidates should have very good customer service, listening, speaking and motivational skills to work as a fitness trainer.

Related occupations requiring more advanced education include physical therapists and occupational therapists.


The average salary of fitness trainers and aerobic instructors was $31,030 as of 2011 reports the BLS. Those in the 10th percentile earned $17,300 per year while trainers in the 25th percentile earned $19,800. The median annual salary in 2011 was $31,000. Those in the 75th percentile earned $46,100 annually while trainers in the 90th percentile earned $65,200 per year.

Salaries across the United States varied dramatically with New York, New Jersey, California and Washington paying an average of $41,300 to $45,100 per year. On the other end of the spectrum, salaries were lowest in North Dakota where personal trainers earned just $18,800 annually. Iowa and West Virginia were two additional states where average salaries were below $20,000 annually.

Job Outlook

The job forecast for personal trainers is a bright one with the BLS predicting a 24 percent growth from 2010 to 2020, or about twice as fast as the pace for all jobs. Businesses and insurance companies are realizing the benefits of having personal trainers overseeing health and fitness programs, in a bid to keep workers healthy and to hold down the cost of insurance. Trainers may also benefit from an increasingly aging populace, one that includes large numbers of Baby Boomers that desire to maintain optimum health and physical fitness.


O*Net OnLine: Summary Report for: 39-9031.00 – Fitness Trainers and Aerobics Instructors

U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook for Fitness Trainers and Instructors

National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA): Institute for Credentialing Excellence

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Categories: Career Planning