Fitness Trainers and Instructors

Summary

fitness trainers and instructors image
Fitness trainers and aerobics instructors lead, instruct, and motivate individuals or groups in exercise activities.
Quick Facts: Fitness Trainers and Instructors
2012 Median Pay $31,720 per year
$15.25 per hour
Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Short-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2012 267,000
Job Outlook, 2012-22 13% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 33,500

What Fitness Trainers and Instructors Do

Fitness trainers and instructors lead, instruct, and motivate individuals or groups in exercise activities, including cardiovascular exercise (exercises for the heart and blood system), strength training, and stretching. They work with people of all ages and skill levels.

Work Environment

Fitness trainers and instructors held about 267,000 jobs in 2012. They work in health clubs, fitness or recreation centers, gyms, country clubs, hospitals, universities, yoga and Pilates studios, resorts, and clients' homes.

How to Become a Fitness Trainer or Instructor

The education and training required for fitness trainers and instructors varies by type of specialty, and employers often hire those with certification.

Pay

The median annual wage for fitness trainers and instructors was $31,720 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of fitness trainers and instructors is projected to grow 13 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. As businesses, government, and insurance organizations continue to recognize the benefits of health and fitness programs for their employees, incentives to join gyms or other types of health clubs is expected to increase the need for fitness trainers and instructors.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of fitness trainers and instructors with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about fitness trainers and instructors by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Fitness Trainers and Instructors Do About this section

Fitness trainers and instructors
Most trainers and instructors spend their time indoors in gyms, training centers, or clients’ homes.

Fitness trainers and instructors lead, instruct, and motivate individuals or groups in exercise activities, including cardiovascular exercise (exercises for the heart and blood system), strength training, and stretching. They work with people of all ages and skill levels.

Duties

Fitness trainers and instructors typically do the following:

  • Demonstrate how to carry out various exercises and routines
  • Watch clients do exercises and show or tell them correct techniques to minimize injury and improve fitness
  • Give alternative exercises during workouts or classes for different levels of fitness and skill
  • Monitor clients’ progress and adapt programs as needed
  • Explain and enforce safety rules and regulations on sports, recreational activities, and the use of exercise equipment
  • Give clients information or resources about nutrition, weight control, and lifestyle issues
  • Give emergency first aid if needed

Both group and specialized fitness instructors often plan or choreograph their own classes. They choose music that is appropriate for their exercise class and create a routine or a set of moves for a class to follow. Some may teach pre-choreographed routines that were originally created by fitness companies or other organizations.

Personal fitness trainers design and carry out workout routines specific to the needs of their clients. In larger facilities, personal trainers must often sell their training sessions to members. They start by evaluating their clients' current fitness level, personal goals, and skills. Then, they develop personalized training programs for their clients to follow, and they monitor the clients’ progress.

Fitness trainers and instructors in smaller facilities often do a variety of tasks in addition to their fitness duties, such as tending the front desk, signing up new members, giving tours of the fitness center, writing newsletter articles, creating posters and flyers, and supervising the weight-training and cardiovascular equipment areas.

In some facilities, a single trainer or instructor may provide individual sessions and teach group classes.

Gyms and other types of health clubs offer many different activities for clients. However, trainers and instructors often specialize in only a few areas. The following are some types of fitness trainers and instructors:

Personal fitness trainers work with a single client or a small group. They may train in a gym or in the clients’ homes. Personal fitness trainers assess the clients’ level of physical fitness and help them set and reach their fitness goals.

Group fitness instructors organize and lead group exercise sessions, which can include aerobic exercise, stretching, muscle conditioning, or meditation. Some classes are set to music. In these classes, instructors may select the music and choreograph an exercise sequence.

Specialized fitness instructors teach popular conditioning methods such as Pilates or yoga. In these classes, instructors show the different moves and positions of the particular method. They also watch students and correct those who are doing the exercises improperly.

Fitness directors oversee the fitness-related aspects of a gym or other type of health club. They often handle administrative duties, such as scheduling personal training sessions for clients or creating workout incentive programs. They often select and order fitness equipment for their facility.

Work Environment About this section

Fitness trainers and instructors
Group instructors conduct group exercise sessions that often include aerobic exercise, stretching, and muscle conditioning.

Fitness trainers and instructors held about 267,000 jobs in 2012.

Fitness trainers and instructors work in health clubs, fitness or recreation centers, gyms, country clubs, hospitals, universities, yoga and Pilates studios, resorts, and clients' homes. Some fitness trainers and instructors also work in offices, where they organize and direct health and fitness programs for employees.

The industries that employed the most fitness trainers and instructors in 2012 were as follows:

Fitness and recreational sports centers58%
Civic and social organizations13
Health care and social assistance4
Other schools and instruction; state, local,
and private
4

About 1 out of 10 fitness trainers and instructors were self-employed in 2012.

Work Schedules

Some group fitness instructors and personal fitness trainers work other full-time jobs and teach fitness classes or offer personal training sessions during the week or on the weekend. Fitness trainers and instructors may work nights, weekends, or holidays. Some travel to different gyms or to clients' homes to teach classes or offer personal training sessions.

How to Become a Fitness Trainer or Instructor About this section

Fitness trainers and instructors
Personal trainers work one-on-one or with two or three clients, either in a gym or in the client’s home.

The education and training required for fitness trainers and instructors varies by type of specialty, and employers often hire those with certification. Personal fitness trainers, group fitness instructors, and specialized fitness instructors each need different preparation. Requirements vary by facility.

Education

Almost all trainers and instructors have at least a high school diploma before entering the occupation. An increasing number of employers require fitness workers to have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree related to a health or fitness field, such as exercise science, kinesiology, or physical education. Programs often include courses in nutrition, exercise techniques, and group fitness.

Personal fitness trainers often start out by taking classes to become certified. Then they work alongside an experienced trainer before they are allowed to train clients alone.

Important Qualities

Customer-service skills. Many fitness trainers and instructors must sell their services, motivating clients to hire them as personal trainers or to sign up for the classes they lead. Fitness trainers and instructors must therefore be polite, friendly, and encouraging to maintain relationships with their clients.

Listening skills. Fitness trainers and instructors must be able to listen carefully to what clients tell them to determine the client's fitness levels and desired fitness goals.

Motivational skills. Getting fit and staying fit takes a lot of work for many clients. To keep clients coming back for more classes or to continue personal training, fitness trainers and instructors must keep their clients motivated.

Physical fitness. Fitness trainers and instructors need to be physically fit because their job requires a considerable amount of exercise. Group instructors often participate in classes, and personal trainers often need to show exercises to their clients.

Problem-solving skills. Fitness trainers and instructors must evaluate each client’s level of fitness and create an appropriate fitness plan to meet the client’s individual needs.

Speaking skills. Fitness trainers and instructors must be able to communicate well because they need to be able to explain exercises and movements to clients, as well as motivate them verbally during exercises.

Training

Training for specialized fitness instructors can vary greatly. For example, the duration of programs for yoga instructors can range from a few days to more than 2 years. The Yoga Alliance has training standards requiring at least 200 hours with a specified number of hours in techniques, teaching methods, anatomy, physiology, philosophy, and other areas.

Many group fitness instructors often take training and become certified, and then they must audition for instructor positions. If they succeed at the audition, they may begin teaching classes.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Employers prefer to hire fitness trainers and instructors who are certified. Many personal trainers must be certified before they begin working with clients or with members of a gym or other type of health club. Group fitness instructors can begin work without certification, but employers often encourage or require them to become certified.

Most trainers or instructors need certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) before applying for certification in physical fitness.

Many organizations offer certification. The National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), part of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence, lists certifying organizations that are accredited.

All certification exams have a written part, and some also have a practical part. The exams measure the candidate’s knowledge of human physiology, understanding of proper exercise techniques, assessment of clients' fitness levels, and development of appropriate exercise programs.

No specific education or training is required for certification. Many certifying organizations offer study materials, including books, CDs, other audio and visual materials, and exam preparation workshops and seminars.

Advanced certification requires an associate’s or bachelor's degree in an exercise-related subject that presents more specialized instruction, such as training athletes, working with people who are injured or ill, or advising clients on general health.

Advancement

Fitness trainers and instructors who are interested in management positions should get a bachelor's degree in exercise science, physical education, kinesiology, or a related subject. Experience is often required to advance to management positions in a health club or fitness center. Some organizations require a master's degree for certain positions.

Personal trainers may eventually advance to a head trainer position and become responsible for hiring and overseeing the personal training staff or for bringing in new personal training clients. Some fitness trainers and instructors go into business for themselves and open their own fitness centers. Group fitness instructors may be promoted to group exercise director, a position responsible for hiring instructors and coordinating exercise classes. Trainers and instructors may eventually become a fitness director or general manager.

Pay About this section

Fitness Trainers and Instructors

Median annual wages, May 2012

Total, all occupations

$34,750

Fitness trainers and instructors

$31,720

Personal care and service occupations

$20,840

 

The median annual wage for fitness trainers and instructors was $31,720 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $17,630, and the top 10 percent earned more than $66,530.

Some group fitness instructors and personal fitness trainers work other full-time jobs and teach fitness classes or offer personal training sessions during the week or on the weekend. Fitness trainers and instructors may work nights, weekends, or holidays. Some travel to different gyms or to clients' homes to teach classes or offer personal training sessions.

Job Outlook About this section

Fitness Trainers and Instructors

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Personal care and service occupations

21%

Fitness trainers and instructors

13%

Total, all occupations

11%

 

Employment of fitness trainers and instructors is projected to grow 13 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

As businesses, government, and insurance organizations continue to recognize the benefits of health and fitness programs for their employees, incentives to join gyms or other types of health clubs is expected to increase the need for fitness trainers and instructors. Some businesses may even decide to open their own onsite facility to decrease the need for their employees to travel for exercise.

As baby boomers age, many remain active to help prevent injuries and illnesses associated with aging. With the increasing number of older residents in nursing homes or residential care facilities and communities, jobs for fitness trainers and instructors are expected to rise in the fitness centers in these locations.

Other employment growth will come from the continuing emphasis on exercise for young people to combat obesity and encourage healthier lifestyles. More young people and families are likely to join fitness institutions or commit to personal training programs.

Participation in yoga and Pilates is expected to continue to increase, driven partly by older adults who want low-impact forms of exercise and relief from arthritis and other ailments.

Job Prospects

Job prospects should be best for workers with professional certification or increased levels of formal education in health or fitness.

Employment projections data for fitness trainers and instructors, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Fitness trainers and aerobics instructors

39-9031 267,000 300,500 13 33,500 [XLS]

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of fitness trainers and instructors.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2012 MEDIAN PAY Help
Athletic trainers

Athletic Trainers and Exercise Physiologists

Athletic trainers specialize in preventing, diagnosing, and treating muscle and bone injuries and illnesses. Exercise physiologists develop fitness and exercise programs that help patients recover from chronic diseases and improve cardiovascular function, body composition, and flexibility.

Bachelor’s degree $42,690
Physical therapist assistants and aides

Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides

Physical therapist assistants (sometimes called PTAs) and physical therapist aides work under the direction and supervision of physical therapists. They help patients who are recovering from injuries and illnesses regain movement and manage pain.

See How to Become One $39,430
Physical therapists

Physical Therapists

Physical therapists, sometimes called PTs, help injured or ill people improve their movement and manage their pain. These therapists are often an important part of rehabilitation and treatment of patients with chronic conditions or injuries.

Doctoral or professional degree $79,860
Recreation workers

Recreation Workers

Recreation workers design and lead leisure activities for groups in volunteer agencies or recreation facilities, such as playgrounds, parks, camps, aquatic centers, and senior centers. They may lead activities such as arts and crafts, sports, adventure programs, music, and camping.

Bachelor’s degree $22,240
Recreational therapists

Recreational Therapists

Recreational therapists plan, direct, and coordinate recreation-based treatment programs for people with disabilities, injuries, or illnesses. Recreational therapists use a variety of modalities, including arts and crafts, drama, music, dance, sports, games, and community reintegration field trips to help maintain or improve a patient’s physical, social, and emotional well-being.

Bachelor’s degree $42,280

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about fitness careers and about health and fitness programs in universities and other institutions, visit

American College of Sports Medicine

National Strength and Conditioning Association

For information about certifications for personal trainers and group fitness instructors, visit

American Council on Exercise

National Academy of Sports Medicine

National Federation of Professional Trainers

For information about health clubs and sports clubs, visit

International Health, Racquet, & Sportsclub Association

For information about yoga teacher certification and a list of registered schools, visit

Yoga Alliance

O*NET

Fitness Trainers and Aerobics Instructors

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Fitness Trainers and Instructors,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/fitness-trainers-and-instructors.htm (visited October 01, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014