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Fitness Trainers and Instructors

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Fitness Trainers

Fitness Trainers and Instructors


What’s Needed:

  • Fitness trainers and aerobics instructors do not typically need formal education but certification can open more opportunities for managerial positions.
  • For those who want to further their education two-year associate degree program in sports science or physical education are also an option. Personal trainers and fitness instructors who attend two-year or four-year colleges gain greater knowledge of sports science.
  • Privately run fitness centers often put employees through short on-the-job training sessions.

What you study:

Personal trainers and fitness instructors who attend two-year or four-year colleges can gain greater knowledge of sports science. Coursework might include:

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • CPR and general health
  • Nutrition
  • Equipment maintenance
  • Psychology
  • Communication

Video Overview

Briefly shows what fitness trainers and instructors do as part of their daily work. Produced for the US Dept. of Labor.

A Day in the Life

Your sessions can burn hundreds of calories an hour.

As a fitness trainer you start your day early with a nutritious breakfast. You’ll need the fuel; your sessions can burn hundreds of calories an hour. Your schedule is predicated on your clients’ schedules and some of them like a morning workout before they head to the office. You arrive at the gym early and greet your regulars for your morning step aerobics class as they arrive at the fitness center.

Although you’re currently one of a number of certified trainers at the center you intend to open your own studio; about 10 percent of trainers are self-employed and you hope to join that number soon. In the meantime you focus on building good rapport with the people in your class. Every class you teach has its own personality and your morning crew likes an upbeat fast-paced workout. You select music with a strong dance beat and put them through their paces demonstrating the moves and offering verbal encouragement to keep the class hopping.

Like any one-on-one interaction personal training can get intense.

Your next few hours are more low-key physically but they require more motivational input from you. You’re scheduled for some personal training sessions. Like any one-on-one interaction personal training can get intense. Your first client this morning has recently stalled during her weight loss program; you want to motivate her to push herself without criticism. She’s a sharer but you hold everything she tells you in confidence. Personal trainers are often trusted confidantes too.

The first morning session goes well but your second session presents a challenge. Your client still wants a workout but he sprained an ankle playing football over the weekend. You’ll need to rework his routine on the fly to accommodate his injury while still giving him an effective workout. Your education and training lets you change the focus to core strength and flexibility exercises that take the pressure off his ankle.

Your mid-afternoon classes have a variety of students so you show the group different levels of difficulty.

After lunch you get a little break to digest before starting your afternoon series of yoga and Pilates classes. Yoga is what you hope to teach in your own studio one day so you spend time at home devising new vinyasas or series of poses to keep your students limber. Your mid-afternoon classes have a variety of students so you show the group different levels of difficulty to allow everyone to find his or her comfort zone. Your last class contains office workers who have spent stressful days hunched over desks so you plan a relaxing restorative session with tranquil music to send them home feeling blissful. It’s a great way for you to wind down too.

Certifications and Licensing

Certification is voluntary for fitness instructors in all states but some companies require professional certification before hiring. Self-employed trainers may find that certification in a specialty is a strong selling point to clients.

Job Flexibility

Full-time versus part-time and work location:

Fitness instructors may work full-time or part-time. Although most trainers work in private fitness centers and gyms others offer personal training sessions at clients’ homes or offices or have a home studio of their own.

Recommended Websites

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook: Fitness Trainers and Instructors ? The Occupational Outlook Handbook gives prospective fitness instructors a broad overview of the profession. Median salary information and job demand forecasts are helpful tools for anyone considering this career. Future fitness trainers will also find a list of more specific resources under the Contacts tab.
  • American College of Sports Medicine ? The ACSM is the largest professional organization for sports medicine specialists including fitness trainers in the world. The organization brings fitness instructors sports science specialists researchers and allied health professionals together to pool their knowledge and promote better health care through physical activity. Useful resources include a newsletter for members extensive career guidance tools and resources for health and fitness facility owners. For private aerobics instructors the ACSM also offers insurance information and continuing education opportunities.
  • National Federation of Personal Trainers ? Aerobics instructors who want to work as personal trainers will find valuable certification information on this group’s website. Visitors will find study information for the NFPT certification exam training modules for specialists in a variety of fields and a blog that presents fitness topics from a trainer’s perspective.
  • National Strength and Conditioning Association ? The not-for-profit NSCA publishes the peer-reviewed Strength & Conditioning Journal one of the premier resources for sports science researchers and fitness instructors. Prospective trainers will find information on certification a list of NSCA events and a wealth of educational materials.

Salaries by City

See typical salaries and ranges for this career below*. Shift click to sort by more than one column — for example first shift-click on state and then shift-click on salary to find best and worst salaries in each state.


StateCity / RegionTypical SalarySalary RangeJob Count% of All Jobs
AKAnchorage$37990$19K – $57K4900.29%
ALAuburn – Opelika$33610$26K – $44KN/AN/A
ALBirmingham – Hoover$28080$16K – $46K8000.17%
ALFlorence – Muscle Shoals$23110$16K – $39K700.13%
ALGadsden$34490$20K – $47K1400.42%
ALHuntsville$28080$18K – $53K3500.17%
ALMobile$34910$21K – $43K2000.12%
ALMontgomery$39290$17K – $52K4000.25%
ALTuscaloosa$33060$18K – $46K1700.19%
ARFayetteville – Springdale – Rogers$19120$16K – $29K2700.13%
ARFort Smith$19490$16K – $38K700.06%
ARHot Springs$17500$16K – $19K600.18%
ARJonesboro$32430$17K – $47K500.11%
ARLittle Rock – North Little Rock – Conway$21360$16K – $39K4200.13%
AZFlagstaff$33150$18K – $72K1100.20%
AZLake Havasu City $ Kingman$28890$18K – $56K700.15%
AZPhoenix – Mesa – Glendale$34220$18K – $58K33700.20%
AZPrescott$27860$17K – $87K400.08%
AZTucson$38280$27K – $57K7400.21%
CABakersfield – Delano$21960$17K – $53K2600.10%
CAChico$41640$18K – $71K1900.29%
CAFresno$45560$21K – $61K3500.11%
CALos Angeles – Long Beach – Glendale (Metro Area)$43380$22K – $82K57900.15%
CAMerced$32560$23K – $42KN/AN/A
CAModesto$44800$18K – $68K3200.21%
CANapa$54730$25K – $92K1300.21%
CAOakland – Fremont – Hayward (Metro Area)$49280$18K – $84K19600.20%
CAOxnard – Thousand Oaks – Ventura$48780$18K – $94K10800.38%
CARedding$22990$18K – $37K900.16%
CARiverside – San Bernardino – Ontario$31900$18K – $66K15500.13%
CASacramento – Arden – Arcade – Roseville$45350$19K – $66K17500.21%
CASalinas$44090$18K – $73K2100.13%
CASan Diego – Carlsbad – San Marcos$42650$19K – $78K20800.16%
CASan Francisco – San Mateo – Redwood City (Metro Area)$63410$27K – $103K27100.27%
CASan Jose – Sunnyvale – Santa Clara$54500$26K – $76K12700.14%
CASan Luis Obispo – Paso Robles$38200$18K – $65K4000.40%
CASanta Ana – Anaheim – Irvine (Metro Area)$37030$18K – $72K17700.13%
CASanta Barbara – Santa Maria – Goleta$43260$26K – $65K3700.22%
CASanta Cruz – Watsonville$46860$27K – $74K2500.30%
CASanta Rosa – Petaluma$60470$21K – $90K5400.32%
CAStockton$40000$27K – $55K1800.09%
CAVallejo – Fairfield$53880$34K – $69K3400.28%
CAYuba City$35090$24K – $84K400.10%
COBoulder$46310$22K – $72K6700.42%
COColorado Springs$33030$17K – $53K7300.30%
CODenver – Aurora – Broomfield$39650$21K – $69K35500.29%
COFort Collins – Loveland$35010$20K – $56K4100.31%
COGrand Junction$30000$18K – $54K1700.30%
COGreeley$30920$23K – $42KN/AN/A
COPueblo$23200$17K – $44K900.16%
CTBridgeport – Stamford – Norwalk$38270$19K – $82K15900.38%
CTDanbury$29410$18K – $58KN/AN/A
CTHartford – West Hartford – East Hartford$37640$21K – $65K7600.14%
CTNew Haven$52700$20K – $70K3600.13%
CTNorwich – New London$37340$18K – $67KN/AN/A
CTWaterbury$37550$18K – $50K1200.20%
DCWashington – Arlington – Alexandria (Metro Area)$37990$19K – $71K55400.24%
DEDover$25770$17K – $45KN/AN/A
DEWilmington (Metro Area)$25580$19K – $41K7200.22%
FLCape Coral – Fort Myers$38390$20K – $58K3900.19%
FLCrestview – Fort Walton Beach – Destin$22700$17K – $49K1400.19%
FLDeltona – Daytona Beach – Ormond Beach$28190$17K – $97K3800.25%
FLFort Lauderdale – Pompano Beach – Deerfield Beach (Metro Area)$24310$17K – $46K16800.23%
FLGainesville$26330$21K – $30K3300.28%
FLJacksonville$23860$19K – $42K9200.16%
FLLakeland – Winter Haven$24130$17K – $53K2100.11%
FLMiami – Miami Beach – Kendall (Metro Area)$20630$17K – $41K10000.10%
FLNaples – Marco Island$32680$22K – $60K4700.41%
FLNorth Port – Bradenton – Sarasota$24770$17K – $43K7400.31%
FLOcala$21440$17K – $34K500.06%
FLOrlando – Kissimmee – Sanford$28480$17K – $60K13500.13%
FLPalm Bay – Melbourne – Titusville$21760$17K – $38K2200.11%
FLPensacola – Ferry Pass – Brent$30030$18K – $47K2700.18%
FLPort St. Lucie$33790$17K – $64K1900.15%
FLPunta Gorda$18400$16K – $26K1300.32%
FLSebastian – Vero Beach$33180$20K – $71K1200.26%
FLTallahassee$34220$20K – $56K2600.16%
FLTampa – St. Petersburg – Clearwater$26610$17K – $64K27200.24%
FLWest Palm Beach – Boca Raton – Boynton Beach (Metro Area)$23720$17K – $63K15700.31%
GAAlbany$20820$16K – $45K800.14%
GAAthens – Clarke County$31790$17K – $38K1100.14%
GAAtlanta – Sandy Springs – Marietta$42010$19K – $72K22500.10%
GAAugusta – Richmond County$24740$17K – $38K3300.16%
GABrunswick$36340$17K – $48K400.10%
GAColumbus$29400$17K – $45K1700.16%
GAMacon$30390$25K – $49KN/AN/A
GARomeN/AN/A – N/A300.09%
GASavannah$31180$17K – $47K1900.13%
GAValdosta$23230$18K – $38KN/AN/A
GAWarner Robins$33660$19K – $38K500.10%
HIHonolulu$32930$17K – $58K5000.11%
IAAmes$17960$16K – $24K700.18%
IACedar Rapids$22530$17K – $39K2900.21%
IADavenport – Moline – Rock Island$20390$17K – $36K3400.19%
IADes Moines – West Des Moines$22360$17K – $43K9800.30%
IADubuque$18230$16K – $28KN/AN/A
IAIowa City$25530$16K – $38K1300.15%
IAWaterloo – Cedar Falls$20260$16K – $31KN/AN/A
IDBoise City – Nampac$17K – $49K$18K – $61K1000.19%
IDIdaho Falls$19570$16K – $53K2204700.16%
SCColumbia$34880$18K – $48K6900.20%
SCFlorence$23240$16K – $35K2000.25%
SCGreenville – Mauldin – Easley$29910$18K – $47K7900.27%
SCMyrtle Beach – North Myrtle Beach – Conway$25900$17K – $35K900.08%
SCSpartanburg$21260$16K – $38K1200.10%
SDRapid City$22400$16K – $37K1100.19%
SDSioux Falls$25990$19K – $38K4400.32%
TNChattanooga$24560$17K – $56K3600.16%
TNClarksville$32250$20K – $38K800.10%
TNJohnson City$30990$17K – $53K1000.13%
TNKingsport – Bristol – Bristol$22030$16K – $34K1100.10%
TNMemphis$35130$17K – $58K7300.12%
TNNashville – Davidson – Murfreesboro – Franklin$32210$17K – $50K13200.18%
TXAbilene$27850$17K – $60K600.09%
TXAmarillo$27640$18K – $39K1500.14%
TXAustin – Round Rock – San Marcos$33830$18K – $72K18800.23%
TXBeaumont – Port Arthur$19000$16K – $48K600.04%
TXCollege Station – Bryan$30720$18K – $45K700.07%
TXCorpus Christi$34250$18K – $57K1400.08%
TXDallas – Plano – Irving (Metro Area)$44170$21K – $81K33100.16%
TXEl Paso$22740$17K – $41K1800.07%
TXFort Worth – Arlington (Metro Area)$25940$18K – $54K12700.14%
TXHouston – Sugar Land – Baytown$34530$18K – $67K33000.12%
TXLaredo$19010$16K – $29K1300.14%
TXLongview$26940$18K – $45KN/AN/A
TXLubbock$23390$17K – $47K2700.21%
TXMcAllen – Edinburg – Mission$41490$18K – $57K2500.11%
TXMidland$33240$18K – $61K900.12%
TXOdessa$31710$20K – $42KN/AN/A
TXSan Angelo$24430$18K – $47K1400.32%
TXSan Antonio – New Braunfels$34870$18K – $68K5300.06%
TXSherman – Denison$21500$17K – $59K600.15%
TXTyler$35110$18K – $49K2300.25%
TXWacoN/AN/A – N/A1100.11%
TXWichita Falls$17790$16K – $25K800.14%
UTLogan$23250$17K – $45K1200.25%
UTOgden – Clearfield$36800$24K – $53K6200.32%
UTProvo – Orem$34190$17K – $55K3500.20%
UTSalt Lake City$35230$18K – $67K12600.20%
UTSt. George$36930$28K – $65K600.12%
VABlacksburg – Christiansburg – RadfordN/AN/A – N/A1000.16%
VACharlottesville$26390$21K – $44K2000.20%
VAHarrisonburg$29190$17K – $40K2100.37%
VALynchburg$19980$16K – $39K1900.20%
VARichmond$31770$18K – $64K13300.22%
VARoanoke$27250$17K – $42K2200.15%
VAVirginia Beach – Norfolk – Newport News$26830$17K – $55K14100.20%
VAWinchester$21980$16K – $77KN/AN/A
VTBurlington – South Burlington$33880$21K – $58K3300.29%
WABellingham$32980$20K – $56K2000.26%
WABremerton – Silverdale$31580$19K – $56K2100.27%
WAKennewick – Pasco – Richland$38900$21K – $60K3300.34%
WAMount Vernon – Anacortes$29280$19K – $47K1100.27%
WAOlympia$40260$21K – $63K3100.33%
WASeattle – Bellevue – Everett (Metro Area)$38880$22K – $72K39500.28%
WASpokane$38300$21K – $71K3600.19%
WATacoma (Metro Area)$34410$20K – $63K6100.24%
WAWenatchee – East Wenatchee$38220$28K – $51K800.21%
WAYakimaN/AN/A – N/A600.08%
WIAppleton$18310$16K – $28K3600.32%
WIEau Claire$17970$16K – $23K2000.26%
WIGreen Bay$18530$16K – $28K4400.26%
WIJanesville$24730$16K – $52K800.13%
WILa Crosse$23050$17K – $39KN/AN/A
WIMadison$29430$18K – $51K5900.18%
WIMilwaukee – Waukesha – West Allis$26940$18K – $52K14000.17%
WIOshkosh – Neenah$18640$16K – $42K1800.20%
WIRacine$28600$17K – $45K2500.34%
WISheboygan$31070$17K – $55K1200.22%
WIWausau$21650$16K – $50KN/AN/A
WVCharleston$34640$24K – $88KN/AN/A
WVHuntington – Ashland$24010$17K – $47KN/AN/A
WVParkersburg – Marietta – Vienna$18710$16K – $31K1400.20%
WVWheeling$17760$16K – $23K1000.16%
WYCasper$41990$17K – $57KN/AN/A
WYCheyenne$24930$16K – $52K600.15%