Fitness isn't just a fad. It's a movement toward a healthier way of living that Americans are embracing more every year. According to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), more than 58 million Americans used a health club in 2012.
If you are a career-seeker for whom fitness is a way of life, a career in fitness training might be right for you. A fitness training school could prepare you to become a personal fitness trainer working one on one with clients to help them achieve their fitness goals. If you enjoy working with groups, you could become trained as a specialized fitness instructor, who teaches popular conditioning classes such as Zumba or spinning.
Fitness training specializations
Everywhere there is a gym or other health club, there is at least one fitness trainer working inside (and probably many more). Fitness trainers work with groups, individuals, and sometimes other fitness trainers to ensure that exercises are done safely and properly.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov), fitness trainers tend to specialize in a few areas. A fitness training school might provide you with the skills to become one of the following:
- Group fitness instructors organize group exercises, selecting the music and choreographing exercise sequences.
- Specialized fitness instructors teach classes for which there is already a style and sequence of moves, such as yoga and CrossFit.
- Fitness directors oversee the fitness components of gyms and other health clubs, sometimes performing administrative tasks, such as scheduling classes and training sessions.
Fitness training certification and degrees
Most fitness trainers have a high-school degree before they enter the field, according to the BLS. Beyond that, educational requirements vary depending on the facility, but a certification in fitness training is most common.
Certification programs are offered through a variety of schools and accrediting agencies, such as the American Council on Exercise and the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America. Programs are available both online and onsite. Fitness trainers typically first obtain a general certification -- personal trainer or group fitness instructor, for example. Once certified, many fitness trainers pursue additional specialty certifications. These certifications include areas of expertise such as youth fitness, weight management and sports conditioning.
To become certified, students take courses relevant to their areas of study and complete a certification exam. General courses might include nutrition, exercise techniques, fitness training theory and exercise for seniors.
For personal trainers, there is also usually an apprenticeship component. Aspiring personal trainers often work side-by-side with an experienced trainer before taking clients alone.
Fitness training salary and career outlook
The BLS projects that employment opportunities for fitness trainers and instructors will grow 13 percent from 2012 to 2022. Most of these jobs will be in gyms and other health clubs, but businesses may increasingly open onsite facilities.
According to government data, job growth for fitness trainers and aerobics instructors is expected to be highest in the following states:
- Massachusetts: 29.5 percent
- Idaho: 26.1 percent
- Utah: 25.5 percent
- Florida: 24.7 percent
- Montana: 23.5 percent
The median national wage for fitness trainers and aerobics instructors in May 2013 was $33,020, while the bottom 10 percent earned up to $21,110, and the top 10 percent earned at least $66,950.
With solid projected job growth, fitness training could be a smart career choice. And given the nature of the profession, there's a good chance that your own personal fitness won't take a backseat to your day job.
"58.5 Million Americans Utilize Health Clubs," International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, May 8, 2013, http://www.ihrsa.org/media-center/2013/5/8/585-million-americans-utilize-health-clubs.html
Fitness Trainers and Instructors, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes399031.htm
Fitness Trainers and Instructors, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/fitness-trainers-and-instructors.htm
Long-Term Projections, Fitness Trainers and Aerobics Instructors, Projections Central, State Occupational Projections, 2014, https://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm