Career Profile – Personal Trainer and Fitness Instructor

Job Summary

Almost all personal trainers and fitness instructors work in physical fitness facilities, fitness centers, and health clubs, mainly within the amusement and recreation services industry or civic and social organizations. About five percent are self-employed; many of them personal trainers. Because fitness centers and health clubs offer a variety of exercise activities such as weight training, yoga, aerobics, pilates, and kickboxing, fitness workers typically specialize in only a few areas.

Personal trainers provide individualized fitness programs that include education and guidance on proper food intake, cardio-respiratory exercise, supplementation and resistance training. Their main goal is to assist their clients in achieving fitness goals. They may also evaluate, advise, and treat athletes to assist in recovery from injury. Personal trainers must be strong motivators. Dedication and commitment to clients is necessary for success.

Fitness instructor is a very general term for someone who specializes in the teaching of a particular exercise technique. Fitness instructors include people who teach yoga, aerobics, weight training, pilates, spinning, circuit training, martial arts, and many other activities. They normally instruct or coach groups or individuals in exercise activities. Fitness instructors typically lead by example, demonstrating techniques and methods of participation. They observe participants and inform them of corrective measures necessary to improve their skills or techniques. Most instructors carry out inductions, consultations with new members and may even design personal programs. Instructors with an advanced qualification may work with specialist groups of people, such as older adults or children with disabilities. In smaller clubs, instructors may also carry out routine duties, such as reception, sales, maintenance, marketing, health and safety checks, and pool operations.

Training and Certification

Generally, personal trainers and fitness instructors must obtain a certification in the fitness field to obtain employment. Certification may be offered in various areas of exercise such as personal training, weight training, yoga, aerobics, and other specialized exercise techniques. In most cases, certification is good for two years, after which workers must become recertified. Recertification can be achieved by attending continuing education classes. Another requirement is to maintain cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification. Some employers also require workers to be certified in first aid. Personal trainers can go through a certification program through various organizations, including the National Strength and Conditioning Association and the American College of Sports Medicine.

An increasing number of employers require personal trainers and fitness workers to have a Bachelor’s degree in a field related to health or fitness, such as physical education or exercise science. Some employers allow workers to substitute a college degree for certification, while others require both a degree and certification. A Bachelor’s degree and, in some cases, a Master’s degree in exercise science, exercise physiology, sports medicine, physical education, biomechanics, kinesiology, or a related area is usually required to advance to management positions in a health club or fitness center.

Training, education, and certification aside, persons planning fitness careers should be outgoing, good at motivating people, and sensitive to the needs of others. Knowledge of current fitness trends and safety practices is also a must. And excellent health and physical fitness are essential due to the physical nature of the job. Physical effort will be required daily for duties that may include lifting heavy weights, squatting, bending, reaching, spotting, and prolonged standing, walking, and other physical activity.

Achieving Success

Job opportunities in this field have been steadily rising for a number of years, and in a new trend, many fitness instructors are becoming personal trainers and going into business for themselves. Employment of personal trainers and fitness instructors is expected to increase much faster than average due to rising interest in personal training, yoga instruction, and other fitness activities.

Continuing education and renewing certifications is essential to having a successful career as a personal trainer or fitness instructor. Experience will also help elevate your status in this field. The biggest asset for any trainer or instructor is a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree.

The financial aspect of this field can be very rewarding. According to a 2004 compensation survey completed by IDEA, the median annual salary for fitness instructors teaching group classes was $40,000. Those classified as fitness instructors, primarily employed at wellness, recreation and university centers come in slightly below the commercial average, earning an annual median salary of $37,440. Meanwhile, specialty instructors, defined as those teaching classes such as indoor cycling and martial arts, earned an annual median salary of $43,680. Topping the list are yoga and pilates instructors with a median annual salary of $58,280.

Personal training programs at gym and health clubs are usually the most profitable programs and the salaries that they pay their employees tend to reflect that. In 2004, the annual median salary for personal trainers employed at a health club or gym was $54,080. Earnings of successful self-employed personal trainers can be much higher.

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