Fitness trainers and instructors held about 356,900 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of fitness trainers and instructors were as follows:
|Fitness and recreational sports centers||58%|
|Civic and social organizations||10|
|Educational services; state, local, and private||6|
Fitness trainers and instructors may work in standalone fitness centers or centers maintained by other types of establishments for their employees or for members of civic and social organizations. Some work in clients’ homes.
Fitness trainers and instructors may work nights, weekends, or holidays. Some travel to different gyms or to clients’ homes to teach classes or conduct personal training sessions. Some group fitness instructors and personal fitness trainers hold full-time jobs in other fields and teach fitness classes or conduct personal training sessions during evenings or weekends.
The education and training required for fitness trainers and instructors varies by type of specialty, and employers prefer to hire those with certification. Personal fitness trainers, group fitness instructors, and specialized fitness instructors each need different preparation. Requirements also vary by facility.
Almost all trainers and instructors have at least a high school diploma before entering the occupation. An increasing number of employers are requiring fitness workers, particularly personal trainers, 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, biology, anatomy, and group fitness. Personal trainers also learn how to develop fitness programs for clients of all ages.
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 specialized fitness instructors receive certification for their preferred type of training, such as yoga or Pilates.
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, and ability to assess clients’ fitness levels and develop appropriate exercise programs. Many certifying organizations offer study materials to prepare for the exam, including books, webinars, other audio and visual materials, and exam preparation workshops and seminars.
Most trainers or instructors need certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillators (AED) before applying for certification in physical fitness.
After becoming a certified personal trainer, new trainers typically work alongside an experienced trainer before they are allowed to train clients alone.
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 offers several credentials that require a minimum of between 200 and 500 hours, with a specified number of hours in techniques, teaching methods, anatomy, physiology, philosophy, and other areas.
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 often is required in order for a trainer or instructor to advance to a management position in a health club or fitness center. Some organizations prefer 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. Head trainers also are responsible for procuring athletic equipment, such as weights or fitness machines. Some fitness trainers and instructors go into business for themselves and open their own fitness centers.
Fitness trainers and instructors typically have an interest in the Building, Helping and Persuading interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Helping interest area indicates a focus on assisting, serving, counseling, or teaching other people. The Persuading interest area indicates a focus on influencing, motivating, and selling to other people.
If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Helping or Persuading interest which might fit with a career as a fitness trainer and instructor, you can take a career test to measure your interests.
Fitness trainers and instructors should also possess the following specific 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.
The median annual wage for fitness trainers and instructors was $40,390 in May 2019. 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 $21,110, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $75,400.
In May 2019, the median annual wages for fitness trainers and instructors in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
|Fitness and recreational sports centers||$42,700|
|Educational services; state, local, and private||38,320|
|Civic and social organizations||33,080|
Fitness trainers and instructors may work nights, weekends, or holidays. Some travel to different gyms or to clients’ homes to teach classes or conduct personal training sessions. Some group fitness instructors and personal fitness trainers work other full-time jobs and teach fitness classes or conduct personal training sessions part time during evenings or weekends.
Employment of fitness trainers and instructors is projected to grow 13 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than 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 are expected to increase the need for fitness trainers and instructors. For example, some organizations may open their own exercise facilities onsite to promote employee wellness.
Other employment growth will come from the continuing emphasis on exercise to combat obesity and encourage healthier lifestyles for people of all ages. In particular, the baby-boom generation should continue to remain active to help prevent injuries and illnesses associated with aging.
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 should be best for workers with professional certification or increased levels of formal education in health or fitness. Overall opportunities are expected to be good because of the need to replace workers who leave the occupation.
For more information about fitness careers and about health and fitness programs in universities and other institutions, visit
For information about certifications for personal trainers and group fitness instructors, visit
For information about health clubs and sports clubs, visit
For information about yoga teacher certification and a list of registered schools, visit
For a career video on fitness trainers and aerobics instructors, visit