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


Fitness trainers and instructors typically do the following:

  • Demonstrate or explain how to perform various exercises and routines to minimize injuries and improve fitness
  • Watch clients do exercises to ensure that they are using correct technique
  • Provide options during workouts to help clients feel successful
  • 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 topics such as nutrition and lifestyle
  • Give emergency first aid if needed

Fitness trainers and instructors work with individual clients or prepare or choreograph their own group classes. They may do a variety of tasks in addition to their fitness duties, such as managing the front desk, signing up new members, giving tours of the facility, or supervising the weight-training and cardiovascular equipment areas. Fitness trainers and instructors also may promote their facilities and instruction through social media, by writing newsletters or blog posts, or by creating posters and flyers.

Exercise trainers, also known as personal fitness trainers, work with individual clients or small groups. They may train in a gym or in clients’ homes. They evaluate their clients’ current fitness level, personal goals, and skills. Then, they develop personalized training programs for their clients to follow and monitor the clients’ progress. In gyms or other fitness facilities, these workers often sell training sessions to members.

Group fitness instructors organize and lead group exercise classes, which may include cardiovascular exercises, muscle strengthening, or stretching. Some instructors create a routine or select exercises for participants to follow, and they then choose music that is appropriate to the movement. Others teach prechoreographed routines that were created by fitness companies or organizations. They may lead classes that use specific exercise equipment, such as stationary bicycles; teach a specific conditioning method, such as yoga; or instruct specific age groups, such as seniors or youths.

For information about workers who develop fitness programs to help people recover from illness or injury, see the profile on exercise physiologists.

Work Environment

Fitness trainers and instructors held about 306,400 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of fitness trainers and instructors were as follows:

Fitness and recreational sports centers 52%
Self-employed workers 22
Educational services; state, local, and private          7
Civic and social organizations 6
Government 4

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.

Work Schedules

Many fitness trainers and instructors work variable or part-time schedules that may include nights, weekends, or holidays. Some travel to different gyms or to clients’ homes to teach classes or conduct personal training sessions. Exercise trainers and group fitness instructors sometimes hold jobs in other fields and conduct training sessions or teach fitness classes at times that accommodate their work schedules.

Education and Training

The education and training required for fitness trainers and instructors varies by specialty. Employers usually prefer to hire those with certification, but requirements vary by facility.


Fitness trainers and instructors typically need a high school diploma to enter the occupation. Employers may prefer to hire fitness workers, particularly personal trainers, who have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in a field such as recreation and fitness or healthcare and related studies. Programs in exercise science, kinesiology, physical education, or related majors often include courses in nutrition, exercise techniques, biology, and anatomy. Personal trainers also may learn how to develop fitness programs for clients of all ages.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Most fitness trainers or instructors have certification related to the area of fitness in which they specialize. Personal trainers usually must be certified before they begin working with clients or with members of a gym or health club. Group fitness instructors may begin work without certification, but employers often encourage or require them to get their credentials. Most fitness instructors receive certification for their preferred type of training, such as yoga, kickboxing, or strength training.

Many organizations offer certification. For example the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) accredits certifying organizations in the fitness and wellness industry, including several that offer personal trainer or general certification. In addition, some private companies offer certification in the types of classes they offer.

Certification exams that have a written portion measure candidates’ knowledge of human physiology, understanding of proper exercise techniques, and ability to assess clients’ fitness levels and develop appropriate exercise programs. Certification also may require the candidate to teach a class for a live or video skills demonstration, which is then assessed by the certifying organization.

Most trainers or instructors also need certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first aid, as well as in use of automated external defibrillators (AED).


After becoming a certified personal trainer, new trainers may be required to work alongside an experienced trainer before they are allowed to train clients alone.

Training for fitness instructors varies greatly. For example, the Yoga Alliance requires 200 and 500 hours of training, depending on the credential.


Fitness trainers and instructors who are interested in management may need a bachelor’s degree in exercise science, physical education, kinesiology, or a related subject. Employers often require that trainers or instructors have experience in order to advance to a management position, such as the fitness director who oversees scheduling, workout incentive programs, and selecting exercise equipment in a health club or fitness center.

Personal trainers may 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. Fitness trainers and instructors also may go into business for themselves or open their own fitness centers.

Personality and Interests

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 $40,700 in May 2021. 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 $22,960, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $75,940.

In May 2021, 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 $46,260
Educational services; state, local, and private          39,310
Government 38,840
Civic and social organizations 34,590

Many fitness trainers and instructors work variable or part-time schedules that may include nights, weekends, or holidays. Some travel to different gyms or to clients’ homes to teach classes or conduct personal training sessions. Exercise trainers and group fitness instructors sometimes hold jobs in other fields and conduct training sessions or teach fitness classes at times that accommodate their work schedules.

Job Outlook

Employment of fitness trainers and instructors is projected to grow 19 percent from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations.

About 65,500 openings for fitness trainers and instructors are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire. 


As employers 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.


Where does this information come from?

The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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This information is taken directly from the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Truity does not editorialize the information, including changing information that our readers believe is inaccurate, because we consider the BLS to be the authority on occupational information. However, if you would like to correct a typo or other technical error, you can reach us at

I am not sure if this career is right for me. How can I decide?

There are many excellent tools available that will allow you to measure your interests, profile your personality, and match these traits with appropriate careers. On this site, you can take the Career Personality Profiler assessment, the Holland Code assessment, or the Photo Career Quiz.

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