The U.S. Department of Labor reports there are 356,900 fitness trainers and instructors working in the United States. Personal trainers are employed by people of all ages. Individuals hire trainers, as do companies for the benefit of their employees. Though most health clubs hire personal trainers full time, some clubs hire trainers on an independent contractor basis. Sports and exercise programs at community colleges hire trainers part time to conduct classes.
Personal trainers can find clients in most major cities in all regions of the country. In addition to health clubs and corporate fitness centers, trainers find work at YMCAs, aerobics studios, and hospital fitness centers.
Most people who begin personal training do so after successful experiences with their own training. Once they've developed a good exercise regimen and healthy diet plan for themselves, they may feel ready to help others.
Some trainers begin by working part time or full time for health clubs and, after making connections, they go into business for themselves. As with most small businesses, personal trainers must promote themselves through classified ads, flyers posted in community centers, and other forms of advertisement. Many personal trainers have published guides on how to establish businesses. One such guide is American College of Sports Medicine's Career and Business Guide for the Fitness Professional, by Neal Pire.
Most personal trainers begin by instructing group fitness classes in a health club. Being a group fitness instructor provides a way to acquire clients for personal training. Trainers who are employed by large fitness centers may be promoted to the position of personal training director. These workers supervise and schedule other personal trainers and manage department budgets. Other personal trainers may choose to branch out and either teach in a client's home or start their own gym that offers personal training.
Top tier trainers have advanced their business by publishing fitness books and speaking to groups. Personal trainers who gain notoriety through books and celebrity clients earn salaries much higher than the median for this profession.
Tips for Entry
Check out the Health and Fitness Career Guide on the IDEA Health & Fitness Association's Web site, https://www.ideafit.com), for useful advice on breaking into the field.
If you want to work at a particular gym, ask the fitness director which fitness training certifications it accepts.
Read books about building a personal training business, such as Start Your Own Personal Training Business, by Cheryl Kimball.
Explore all types of fitness (yoga, aerobics, spinning, Pilates, kettlebells, circuit training, Zumba, etc) to determine which activities you prefer to teach.
While in high school, offer to help train a friend or family member who needs motivation. Offer to help them with a fitness and nutrition schedule and then ask for feedback on your performance.