How To Become A Personal Trainer

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At Transizion, we specialize in helping students enroll in the college of their dreams – but we want to help all young people as they transition to life as an adult, whether or not college is the right path for them. In this series of articles, we’re exploring a wide range of rewarding professions that don’t require four-year degrees.

Today’s post focuses on how to become a personal trainer. Read on to learn about education, working conditions, salary, job outlook, and more. 

What Do Personal Trainers Do?

Personal trainers lead and motivate people who are working towards fitness goals. Their focus could be on increasing flexibility, strength, or overall health. There are many different specializations within this field, and experienced personal trainers often combine multiple approaches to create their own unique style of training. 

The daily work of a personal trainer may include:

  • Promoting themselves and finding new clients
  • Evaluating their clients’ current fitness level and skills
  • Developing personalized training programs to suit clients’ goals
  • Educating clients on how to reduce their risk of injury
  • Demonstrating various exercises and routines improve fitness
  • Adapting to individual clients during workouts to help them feel successful
  • Watching clients do exercises to help them improve their technique

Working Conditions

Personal trainers work in many different settings. The majority work in gyms and other such facilities, but many personal trainers go to their clients’ homes or meet in outdoor settings such as public parks. Many personal trainers have more than one job, such as teaching group fitness classes at a gym and then taking on private clients when they can find them. 

Slightly over half of all personal trainers work in gyms and other fitness or sports centers. About one in five personal trainers is self-employed. A minority of personal trainers work for educational services, civic groups, and government organizations. 

Important Qualities

If you love being active all day and also enjoy working with other people one on one, you might enjoy working as a personal trainer. Here are some qualities to foster if you’re interested in this line of work:

  • Physical fitness: Lead by example! You’ll need to be able to demonstrate the proper form of any exercises you want your clients to try.
  • Listening skills: You’ll need to listen carefully to what clients say in order to help them visualize their goals and formulate a plan of action. 
  • Communication skills: You must be able to clearly explain exercises and help clients avoid any potential injuries.
  • Motivational skills: You’ll need to help your stay clients motivated to reach their goals.
  • Customer-service skills: You’ll need to find the right balance of encouragement and understanding to maintain client relationships.
  • Problem-solving skills: In addition to creating individualized routines for each client, you’ll need to employ your problem-solving skills in real time to help clients overcome challenges along the way.

If you’re still in school, we suggest taking biology classes and focusing on your own personal fitness goals. Explore a number of different activities such as group sports, dance classes, martial arts, and whatever other fitness classes appeal to you. Consider taking courses at your local community college that could be useful, such as physical education, kinesiology, exercise science, nutrition, exercise techniques, and anatomy. 

How to Become a Personal Trainer

If you already know a great deal about health and fitness, you might be able to find a job as a personal trainer right away. Some gyms will hire people with no previous experience. But if you’re serious about becoming a personal trainer, you might consider devoting a few months to studying a formal course so that you can become a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT).

In addition to a high school degree or GED, you’ll need cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and external defibrillator (AED) certifications before you can begin a Certified Personal Trainer program. Many gyms also require a first aid certification. 

Education

You don’t need to have a college degree to become a personal trainer, but having some sort of formal education will improve your job prospects. Gyms and health clubs may require a formal certification from applicants who want to work as personal trainers. 

There are personal trainer certifications available for $500 to $1,000 – that covers both the study materials and the exam fee. Many of these companies offer sales throughout the year.

The most popular choice for certification is the Certified Personal Trainer course offered by the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). If you don’t have your CPR and AED certifications yet, they’re also available through NASM for $50 for both. The NASM self-study program is available for $999 (or oftentimes on sale for $649). Topics include:

  • Psychology of Exercise
  • Behavioral Coaching
  • The Nervous, Skeletal, and Muscular Systems
  • The Cardiorespiratory, Endocrine, and Digestive Systems
  • Human Movement Science
  • Exercise Metabolism and Bioenergetics
  • Nutrition
  • Supplementation
  • Health, Wellness, and Fitness Assessments
  • Posture, Movement, and Performance Assessments 
  • Flexibility Training Concepts
  • Cardiorespiratory Training
  • Speed, Agility, and Quickness Training Concepts

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) offers a program for $979 that’s often available on sale for $587. The program includes videos, demonstrations, quizzes, learning activities, and a practice test. The coursework focuses on teaching you how to create programs for clients “that improve and maintain health, fitness, weight, body composition and metabolism”. It can be completed at your own pace in an average of three to six months. 

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) offers a Certified Personal Trainer program for $579 – but their certification exam costs an additional $399. The stated objectives of their course are as follows:

  • Gain a deeper understanding of the personal trainer’s role and scope of practice.
  • Review and become familiar with anatomy and kinesiology.
  • Review and become familiar with basic human physiology, nutrition, biomechanics and behavior modification in order to build and administer successful exercise programs.
  • Gain a deeper understanding of the client-trainer relationship and process, including initial consultation, preparticipation screening and fitness assessment.
  • Identify and practice practical and advanced exercise movements.

The International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) offers a program for $828. They guarantee you will be a working personal trainer within six months of certification – if not, they will refund your course fee in full. They also offer advanced certifications such as Advanced Personal Training, Strength and Conditioning, Nutrition, and Health Coaching.

Fitness Mentors offers a Certified Personal Trainer program for $499. Or for $729, you can become a CPT and earn an additional certification in nutrition. Unlike most courses, this program goes beyond the athletic side of working as a personal trainer and also addresses the business side of things. This course has the lowest cost and the highest pass rate in the industry. The curriculum includes:

  • The Fitness Assessment
  • Anatomy, Physiology and the Study of Human Movement
  • Exercise Physiology and the Energy Systems 
  • Program Design and the FORM Model
  • Flexibility, Mobility and Range of Motion 
  • Programming Considerations for Exercise Related Injuries 
  • Professionalism, Business, and Sales 
  • The Cardiovascular and Respiratory Systems 
  • Psychology: The Science of Behavior and Mind
  • Emergency Procedures for The Fitness Professional
  • Components of Nutrition 

Regardless of which program you choose, you’ll need to complete continuing education units in order to maintain your certification. The study hours required vary according to which certification you’ve chosen. The average requirement is twenty hours of continuing education units every two years. 

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How Long Does It Take to Become a Personal Trainer?

Theoretically, you could become a personal trainer as soon as you find your first client. If you’re self-educated and accomplished with regard to your own personal fitness goals, people may be willing to pay a small fee for your help in establishing their own workout routines.

There are also gyms that will hire people with little to no experience and then have their new employees complete the gym’s own personal trainer training course.

If you want to become certified as a personal trainer, the process can be completed in about six months. It might take more or less time according to the certification program you choose. It also depends on how quickly you learn and how much time you have to devote to studying. Some people may be able to complete a program in as little as four weeks, while those who are busy with other commitments may need a year or two to earn their certification. 

Career Outlook for Personal Trainers

The job outlook for personal trainers is excellent. Employment of fitness trainers and instructors is projected to grow nineteen percent over the next decade, much faster than the five-percent average for all occupations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects to see 65,500 openings for fitness trainers and instructors each year on average. 

How Much Do Personal Trainers Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, fitness trainers and instructors earned an average of  $40,700 in 2021. This was lower than the national average of $45,760. The lowest ten percent of fitness trainers and instructors earned less than $22,960, and the highest ten percent earned more than $75,940. Top-paying states include New York, Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and California. 

These numbers are for all fitness instructors, including group instructors such as yoga teachers, and the average may be much higher for established personal trainers. According to glassdoor, the average income for personal trainers is $71,326 per year. Indeed, on the other hand, gives an average of $41,328 per year. Salary estimates that personal trainers earn $65,174 per year. 

What you can expect to earn as a personal trainer will vary wildly according to location, experience, ability, and how much work you’re willing to put in. Many personal trainers begin their careers in gyms, being paid minimum wage to work the floor and earning higher hourly wages or commission bonuses when they’re able to sell gym members on personal training sessions. 

Once you have more experience, you can charge as much as your clients are willing to pay. Trainers who run their own small groups often make upwards of one hundred dollars per hour. Your success will depend upon your sales and business skills just as much as your skills as a personal trainer. 

Working as a Personal Trainer: An Overview

Working as a personal trainer can be a satisfying career path for people who love health and fitness and want to share that passion with others. It’s not difficult to become a personal trainer – assuming you’ve already attained your own personal fitness goals – and helping other people to improve their health can be very fulfilling, rewarding work. 

You’re not likely to earn very much money at the beginning of your career, but there’s plenty of room to develop professionally and earn more money over time. Established personal trainers can make higher-than-average salaries. 

Here are some pros and cons to consider:

Pros:

  • Low cost of entry
  • Active, engaging work
  • Enjoyable for sociable personalities
  • Potentially fulfilling, rewarding work
  • Growing field with plenty of work available

Cons:

  • Salary may be very low to begin with
  • It may take a long time to scale your income

If you’re interested in this profession, consider contacting local personal trainers to ask about the possibility of interviewing or shadowing them to learn more about this line of work. 

Stay tuned for our upcoming article on how to become a nutritionist!

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