According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, fitness trainers and instructors are slated to account for as many as 330,000 jobs in the U.S. by 2026.
If these above-average growth metrics aren’t attractive enough, the relatively simple road to becoming an accredited personal trainer should make it an even more alluring industry.
While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average wage for personal trainers in 2017 was just under $40,000, Salary.com puts the median annual salary at closer to $59,000. Not too shabby for a career that requires no college degree and allows you to get paid for working out.
If you have your eyes set on a career as a personal trainer, here are some actionable tips to consider before you start your journey.
Did you know that there are certifying bodies that oversee the national and international personal training certification bodies? That’s right, and it’s a good thing that they do because the personal training industry can be a bit like the wild west without them.
The most notable is the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). There are only a handful of NCCA-certified personal training programs, and you’d be smart to consider one of these because it will give you the best chance of getting a job at a gym or health club.
The most popular of all personal training certifications by a sheer number of certified trainers is the NASM certification.
NASM is one of the oldest companies in the certified personal trainer (CPT) space and boasts nearly 200,000 CPTs. Independent research also suggests that NASM trainers make the most, something else to consider if you are going for your certification.
Other notable personal training certification bodies that have NCCA-certification include:
NCCA is not the only credible certifying body, but it is something of the gold standard in the industry. If you consider that anyone can call themselves a personal trainer, the certification from a credible organization like the NCCA helps even the playing field and ensures clients are getting the best care possible.
While many people think that personal trainers are limited to gym environments, there is a wide range of career paths you can take as a trainer. Let’s start with the most obvious types first, personal trainers in a gym.
Gym trainers are typically employed by a “big box” gym or a gym with a corporate name that you will probably recognize (think 24-Hour Fitness, Gold’s Gym, L.A. Fitness, etc.).
This tends to be a great environment to get a feel for working with clients, having clients flowed to you from the traffic the gym already has, and to get plugged into some training system.
Resorts and spas are also starting to hire a lot more personal trainers these days. The clientele in this capacity will tend to fluctuate more regularly than a gym setting, but the chances of working in a beautiful environment are high.
Speaking of beautiful environments, another place you might not expect to get a personal training job is on the high seas. That’s right, cruise lines offer passengers personal training, and most small and large ships have fully-equipped gyms.
Travelers who are fitness-conscious are demanding these types of amenities. If you have the kind of hospitality background cruise lines are looking for, you could find yourself in one of the most interesting personal training careers out there.
Not all personal training careers need to be in-person, and today’s more tech-savvy individuals are finding jobs through online training.
Whether you help design and develop programs for clients who see you online or have pre-packaged plans with customizable options, these aspects of training are both flexible and rewarding as it allows trainers to have no limit to their income potential.
Finally, some in-home trainers will conduct sessions in the homes of their clients. These trainers are generally entrepreneurial and own their businesses. While these types of sessions don’t offer the full suite of equipment as gyms, they are convenient and private.
Personal trainers who thrive tend to be great marketers as well. Whether they work for a gym or themselves, there is always a certain degree of selling involved. If you are working with existing clients and don’t want to risk losing them, a great piece of marketing advice is to utilize email.
Email has three times the user accounts of Facebook and Twitter combined, so there’s a good chance your clients are using it. To maximize it for personal training, you want to position yourself as the health and wellness leader in your clients’ lives.
Practical ways to do this include: sending them weekly info on goal-setting, healthy habits, diets, and exercise. This will help to keep your brand first in their mind.
Another way to gain exposure is on niche personal training directories such as Ideafit.com. These sites provide you with real estate on high traffic websites. Most importantly, they give you access to people who are actively looking for trainers.
An online way to get exposure is to write health and fitness blogs for industry websites. This approach is for trainers with their businesses and who want to get more credibility and search engine exposure.
Do a Google search for “personal training ‘write for us’” and you’ll find a wealth of sites that accept guest posting opportunities. Contact the editors and pitch them your topic.
If you work gets some attention, and you wind up with something published, you may feature on a prominent website! This gets your name out there and a link back to your site which may result in new referral business.
Starting a business of any sort requires a lot of planning, accounting and legal assistance, and a definite plan. If you are considering this route for your training career you likely already knew this.
For trainers who are seriously considering going out on their own, here are some sound recommendations from an experienced entrepreneur.
First, learn how to manage your time. Tackling issues of high importance first is one of the best ways to be effective in setting up your business. On the other end of the spectrum is items of low importance and low urgency; these are items you don’t take action on immediately.
Another good lesson for trainers who are wanting to start their own business is taking financial considerations into account. Consider the minimum amount you need to make to pay your bills. Then, add up all the other expenses you are going to be taking on.
You will be leasing space, leasing equipment, paying utilities, buying insurance, etc. This will tell you if, and for how long, you can operate before having to borrow money or shut down.
Once you crunch these numbers, you’ll also have to figure out your growth model. You'll also need to determine if you can legitimately market your business to continue to grow it. If your business needs employees, you’ll need to determine what their costs are.
This is not an exhaustive list of what to do when you open your training business. Hopefully, it gets you thinking about all the aspects to consider.
If you are considering a career in personal training or already are one, we can help. If you are still considering a job in personal training, check out the above certification bodies to learn more about how to get certified and refer to our career advice section for new topics that are aimed to help you grow.