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How to Become a Personal Trainer and Maximize Your Salary

written by: Finn Orfano • edited by: KJ Fitness,Ink • updated: 2/11/2009

So you want to become a personal trainer? The job outlook for fitness workers is good. To get started, you’ll need a certification, some business savvy, and the right frame of mind. Learn more about the average personal trainer salary and how to maximize your earning potential as a fitness worker.

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    Jumping on the Bandwagon

    The diet and fitness industries are booming, and there is great demand for fitness workers. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the job outlook for trainers is good. The labor market for fitness workers is expected to grow 27% between 2007 and 2016. As more and more people focus on health, they are discovering that personal training isn’t just for celebrities and the wealthy elite. Aging baby boomers are turning to trainers to keep them healthy while parents are also turning to trainers to help keep kids fit when schools do away with physical education.

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    Become a Personal Trainer: What Does it Take?

    So just what does it take to become a personal trainer? Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be a muscle-bound behemoth. There is no physical requirement for a fitness worker, though the way you look will have an impact on how you can market yourself to potential clients.

    Mental attitude counts far more than looks. Leading another person to achieve his or her fitness goals requires a trainer to be analytical, disciplined, encouraging, patient, and organized. After all, trainers do not simply show clients how to exercise; they also design specific fitness programs and serve as good role models.

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    Personal Trainer Certification

    In addition to having the right personality, personal trainers need to have a solid knowledge of fitness, health, and diet issues. That’s why trainers are required to obtain a certification. To become certified you’ll have to study a wide variety of topics including anatomy, exercise physiology, physical fitness, nutrition, and weight management among others. Certification tests are designed to test your knowledge of health and fitness as well as your ability to design and plan workouts and tailor them to many different types of people. Testing costs between $200 and $600 depending on which certification you choose. Expect to spend an addition $50 to $300 on study materials.

    There isn’t just one standard personal trainer exam. There are several U.S. organizations that offer accredited certifications. Some trainers take only exam while others hold multiple certifications. Holding multiple certifications allows trainers to have a wider knowledge base and, therefore, charge more for any specialty he or she might be able to offer clients. (See the Resources section at the end of this article to find a list of personal trainer certification programs.) To get an idea of which certification(s) you need to have, call local gyms and ask about their requirements for trainers.

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    Average Salary of a Personal TrainerWhat is the average salary of a personal trainer? And once you become a certified personal trainer, how do you run a successful business?average salary of a personal trainer
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    Marketing Yourself

    Once you obtain personal trainer certification, you’ll be on your way to getting started. But simply passing a certification test will not jump-start your personal training career. Personal training is a business, and successful trainers are business-minded.

    The business-side of personal training involves setting up your own company (if you choose to be an independent consultant), getting liability insurance, and marketing yourself. Marketing will be very important to your success since you cannot achieve financial self-sufficiency if you do not attract clients.

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    Average Personal Trainer Salary

    Just what is the average personal trainer salary? It depends. There’s no way to say what the exact average salary of a personal trainer is because salary depends on a number of factors. The factors that determine how much you’ll make include geographic location, your experience, whether you work for a gym or as a consultant, and how many certifications you hold. The rate that you can charge for your personal training services will be determined by what your market will yield.

    The average personal trainer salary in California is more than trainers in any other U.S. state. You can chalk up that statistic both to California’s health-conscious vibe, an abundance of high-earning residents, and a climate that encourages exercise. Though personal trainer salaries are highest in the Western states, that doesn’t mean you can’t earn a decent living elsewhere in the country.

    The average salary of a personal trainer in the United States is anywhere between $34,000 and $48,000. Keep in mind that these numbers are averages. You may make less if you can’t develop a solid client base. Those who make more than the average tend to own their own businesses and develop fitness product lines.

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    Other Avenues for Trainers

    Personal trainers or any other fitness worker doesn’t have to live their lives in the gym. Trainers can find employment in many different kinds of fitness facilities including cruise ships, spas, and resorts.

    Once you’ve established yourself as a personal trainer, you’ll be qualified to take on other roles within the fitness industry. Many also choose to work as consultants, lending their knowledge to a variety of clients. Fitness writing and coaching are options as well.