Career Testing
Career Testing
Career Testing
CHOOSING A CAREER / AUG. 30, 2013
version 5, draft 5

Are You Cut Out For a Career as a Fitness Trainer

Healthy living, clean eating, and getting fit has regained its importance due to the increasing number of celebrities who are promoting this "clean" lifestyle. The new “get fit, live healthy” trend is going worldwide and with the spotlight firmly on eating and looking your best, the profession of fitness trainers has dramatically increased.

A career in fitness

A career as a fitness instructor is physically demanding but highly rewarding. Unlike many other jobs, fitness trainers benefit from earning an income whilst keeping physically fit themselves. 

The main duties of a fitness trainer involve instructing individuals and groups in exercise activities to lose excess weight and maintain a good level of fitness. Whether you decide to work for a large, reputable gym, open your own gym, or simply go self-employed, the benefits and job satisfaction are great.  

The average annual pay for fitness trainers and instructors (according to figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2010) is $31,090/$14.95 per hour.

Have you got what it takes?

The main skills and characteristics required in order to become a successful fitness instructor are as follows:

  • Excellent communication skills
  • Excellent listening skills
  • Ability to lead a team and motivate large groups
  • Patience
  • Ability to work in close proximity when giving one-to-one lessons
  • An interest in living healthy and being fit

Typical activities of a fitness trainer include:

  • Teaching people how to get the maximum benefit from exercise routines
  • Helping clients reach their goal weight through tailored fitness regimes and diet plans
  • Observing clients participating in your exercise routines to help them improve their skills  
  • Planning exercise classes in line with the level of the participants
  • Developing suitable training programs based on clients' skills, fitness levels and special requirements

Education and training

The first thing you need to know is that whilst a degree is not necessary, you do need to attain certification in order to become a fitness trainer. You should however bear in mind that come employers do prefer their recruits to have a bachelor’s degree in a related health or fitness field. Master’s degrees can also be obtained but this is not a common requirement for fitness instructors (especially if you are going to be self-employed or set up your own gym).

You must decide which specialization you want to pursue in order to determine the appropriate certificate you need to get. There are many different certifications available and you can build up your credentials by completing several of them.

There are many areas you can specialize in, such as: weight management, nutrition, yoga, children’s fitness, pilates, cardio, kick boxing, post-natal exercising, and so on.

The personal trainer certification is one of the most popular, and can be obtained from AFFA (Aerobics and Fitness Association of America), which is one of the most highly regarded certifying organizations in the industry.  AFPA certified instructors are highly regarded and without this certification, you may struggle to land work in such a competitive industry.

Career progression

You have several avenues of career progression in this field.

  1. Self-employed personal trainer – You can progress to an employed position with a top health club where you hold your own classes. This will give you a regular income and enable you to be more financially secure. You can then use this experience to network and gain clients to become self employed. Whilst this is not going to give you guaranteed financial security every month, the financial returns will be much higher.
  2. Business owner – You can obtain a bachelor’s degree in a science, health or management subject and start up your own health club or gym. This is a lucrative industry and so a great deal of profit can be made.
  3. Teaching – By obtaining a teaching degree and the relevant fitness certifications, you can become a qualified physical education (P/E) teacher. This will give you great job satisfaction (provided you like working with children and teenagers),job security, promotion opportunities to become the head of the P.E. department, and of course, a great deal of paid vacation time!

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the outlook for fitness trainers is excellent with a growth rate of higher than the average between now and 2020. This is therefore an excellent career path to follow.

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