How to Become a Personal Trainer 101 – Salary, Certifications, & More

Fitness

Having a job that you love will give you a newfound zest for life and means you’ll wake up ready to take on the world each day. If you’re a total fitness freak and the best part of your day is heading to the gym, we might have the perfect role for you. Believe it or not, if you love exercising and have a passion for helping others, you could make a career out of it. Want to know how to become a personal trainer? Here’s the details about this exciting and active role including what it involves, what the average personal trainer salary is, and how you can start training right now.

How to Become a Personal Trainer: Everything You Need to Know

Female personal trainer coaching a woman training with dumbbells at the gym

Wondering how to become a personal trainer? You’ve come to the right place. Let’s first take a brief look at this job and what it means. This role involves training and instructing people in all areas of fitness. For instance, a typical day for a fitness trainer could involve anything from teaching an aerobics class and having a one-on-one session with a client, to motivating your clients to work hard and advising gym-goers on how to work out. With that in mind, here are some of the standard job duties that a personal trainer may have to take on:

  • General exercise activities
  • Leading group sessions
  • Strength training
  • Cardiovascular training
  • Stretching classes
  • Advice and consultation

When you’ve learned how to become a personal trainer and done your training, you will be able to start looking for roles in a range of institutes and locations. There are many different types of positions available and what you choose depends on your working style. You should note that you will be expected to work weekends and evenings as well as hosting day sessions. Typically, fitness trainers will work in one of the following companies:

Of course, if you’re independent and strong-willed, you may also want to go it alone and set up your own training studio. Should you take this pathway, you will need to be responsible for finding your own clients and advertising to your audience. While this route is the harder one, it could also mean that you take home a larger salary and have a more stable work-life balance.

Fun Fact: The average personal trainer salary was $39,210 per year in 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.[1]

The personal training industry is growing

A female personal trainer coaching her female trainee through a workout at the gym

Luckily for those hoping to enter this profession, it is a growing sector. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that the career path will boom by a massive 10% between 2016 and 2026.[2] That growth is faster than the average career, which means that there’s never been a better time to start your journey toward this job role.

If all of the above sounds attractive, you may be excited to get started. However, before you begin looking for personal trainer jobs, you’ll need to understand a little more about what the role entails and the training you will need to undertake.

Average Personal Trainer Salary: How Much do Personal Trainers Make?

Female personal trainer coaching a male client at the gym using weights

Before we go any further, let’s talk money. How much do personal trainers make? The average personal trainer salary was $39,210 per year in 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.[3] That works out at around $18.85 per hour. Of course, that number is likely to have increased a little over the last couple of years. As this is a sector that is set to see growth, you can also expect the average wage to go up as well.

When you have established yourself within this sector, there is room to gain more money in the long term. The more senior you are, the more money you will be able to charge per session or hour. Once you start working with clients regularly, you may find that you’re able to set your own rates to suit you. Remember, the average personal trainer salary is merely a guideline here. Qualified instructors may make both more or less than this figure.

What are the Best Personal Trainer Certifications?

If you’re considering this type of career, it’s time to consider the first step in how to become a certified personal trainer. Education is the foundation of all career paths, and so it’s important that you find out what certificates you’re going to need. Should you want to dedicate yourself to becoming a fitness instructor, you will need to learn the art of the trade.

This area is a confusing one since the level of education you will need depends greatly on your employer. In some cases, you won’t need more than a high school diploma, while other employers will insist on further personal trainer certification. Here are a couple of options to consider.

Training and education on the job

Female personal trainer coaching a ladies workout class involving exercise balls

Not the academic type? Want to know how to become a personal trainer without undertaking masses of classroom work? For some people, the education route is not the best way to become a personal trainer. If you’re a hands-on type of learner, you may find that it’s easier to learn skills on the job. In that case, you will need to have completed your high school diploma and have some experience in health and fitness.[4]

Many gyms and health centers will take on untrained instructors and train them over a matter of years. The entry-level wage for a role (or apprenticeship) like this one will be lower than the national average. However, it will grow as you gain more skills.

National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) accredited courses

Personal trainer coaching a male client at the gym

If you quickly do a Google search for personal trainer certifications, you will find an endless ream of results. There are thousands of personal trainer school sites online. One way to figure out which course is right for you is to look for a certificate that’s National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) accredited. This particular accreditation is highly regarded within the world of health and fitness, which means that you can be certain the course will be of a high standard.

Needless to say, you should choose a course that suits your lifestyle and schedule. If you work a typical nine-to-five job, you may want to consider night school or trying an online course. The great news is that there are many options available out there to choose from. Look at the various options before you decide to commit to a specific personal trainer school or training scheme. You can sometimes get free trials, which will allow you to work out whether the course will work for you.

What Requirements Are There & How Long Does it Take to Become One?

Ready to dive in? If you decide to go down the education or course-based route, you likely have a few questions that need answering. Luckily, you’ve come to the right place. Here is everything you need to know about undertaking personal trainer certification, what requirements there are, and what the course itself will entail.

Step 1: Choose your course/certification

Personal trainer coaching a young woman on proper stretching techniques at the gym

The typical personal trainer certification course will take you around 80-100 hours of solid work.[5] Most people tend to spread that time over the course of three to four months. However, you can take more or less time to complete this diploma, depending on the external time commitments you have.

The price you pay when you start a course of this nature will vary depending on the company you choose. However, you can expect to pay around $700-$1000 per course. For example, ACE Fitness and NASM offer a range of packages around this price point.[6][7] If you can’t afford to pay up-front, you may even be able to spread the cost of the personal trainer certification over an extended period.

Before you can start studying, there are some personal trainer requirements that you need to meet to start the course. You should be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma, have completed standard CPR training, and have a valid form of ID. If you are not trained in CPR or first aid, don’t panic. You can undertake a basic course with companies, such as Red Cross America.[8] It’s worth speaking to the personal trainer certification advisor to make sure you understand the criteria you will need to meet before you get started.

Step 2: Start studying

Personal trainer spotting her male trainee doing bench presses

As soon as you’ve signed up for a personal trainer certification course, you will be able to start using online resources to help you learn. You may find that the company you choose offers specific tools for your workload. For instance, Ace Fitness has a dedicated resource center for those who are currently training.[9] It could also be useful to start searching for some communities and networks online or on social media. Having peers on whom you can rely throughout your training will mean that you can reach out when you need some help.

Step 3: Pass your exam

Personal trainer coaching her male trainee on strength exercises

If you want to be an accredited instructor, you will have to take an exam. While the criteria for each exam will differ from course to course, the fundamentals will be the same. You can expect questions about diet, nutrition, health, and exercises among other fitness-related topics. It’s worth searching for a course that includes the examination fee in the total cost of the qualification as it will save you money.

how to become a personal trainer title card

Conclusion

What are you waiting for? Now that you’ve fully briefed on how to become a personal trainer, nothing should hold you back from achieving your goal. If you think that being a fitness instructor could be your dream job, there’s no time like the present. Start doing a little research now and see what you can find out. We’ve given you the basic info you’ll need here, which means that taking that first step should be as easy as pie.

References

  • [1] https://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/fitness-trainers-and-instructors.htm
  • [2] https://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/fitness-trainers-and-instructors.htm
  • [3] BLS. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/fitness-trainers-and-instructors.htm
  • [4] https://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/fitness-trainers-and-instructors.htm
  • [5] https://www.acefitness.org/fitness-certifications/personal-trainer-certification/how-to-become-a-personal-trainer.aspx#howToStep1
  • [6] Ace Fitness. https://www.acefitness.org/fitness-certifications/personal-trainer-certification/how-to-become-a-personal-trainer.aspx#howToStep1
  • [7] https://www.nasm.org/how-to-become-a-personal-trainer
  • [8] https://www.redcross.org/take-a-class/cpr
  • [9] Ace Fitness. https://www.acefitness.org/fitness-certifications/resource-center

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