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How to Become a Personal Trainer

written by: Donna Cosmato • edited by: Cheryl Gabbert • updated: 5/14/2010

The health and fitness industry is growing, and so is the need for fitness trainers. Find out how to become a personal trainer and what the different career paths and income opportunities are.

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    Whether you decide to enter the fitness field part-time or full-time, if helping others set and achieve fitness goals is your passion, becoming a personal trainer is a good way to fulfill those desires.

    Image How to Become a Personal Trainer Image credit, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

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    What does a Personal Trainer Do?

    Personal trainers, or fitness trainers, act as advisers and coaches for individuals who want to lose weight, tone up, exercise more effectively, or achieve better fitness and overall health. They help people:

    • Set and achieve realistic fitness goals.
    • Exercise properly and avoid injuries
    • Design and teach exercise regimes.
    • Change workouts as needed to encourage clients to maximize results.

    Depending on educational qualifications and special certifications, a fitness trainer also advises clients about nutrition, dieting, sports conditioning, strength training, children’s fitness, or group fitness.

    Image Become a Personal Trainer Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

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    Become a Fitness Trainer by Following these Steps

    Let’s examine the steps to becoming a fitness trainer:

    1. Work with a trainer for a few days. This is sometimes referred to as shadowing. Watch them interact with clients and participate in their day-to-day activities. This gives you a feel for the job and real-time data to help decide about a career.
    2. Research the options and choose a career path. Is being a certified personal trainer and working with a wide range of clients best, or is it better to specialize in a particular niche like athletic training or weight control?
    3. Compare current credentials to the required educational and on-the-job experience required. Is more education or professional certification needed?

    Some specialized certifications are:

    • Senior Fitness Specialist Certification
    • Master Personal Trainer
    • Sports Conditioning Specialist Certification
    • Nutrition and Wellness Consultant Certification
    • Weight Management Consultant Certification
    • Children’s Fitness Specialist Certification
    • Pre or post-natal Exercise Specialist

    Devise a marketing plan to establish clients. Start with a few friends. Help them achieve their fitness goals and ask for referrals. Word-of-mouth advertising is the fastest way to get a new business up and running. Give a business card to everyone you meet, and always be talking about the benefits of your service.

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    What are the Educational Requirements for a Fitness Trainer?

    Requirements vary from state to state, so check with local certifying agencies for specific information. Most require individuals to posses at least a high school diploma or equivalent. A Bachelor of Science degree in physical education, kinesiology, exercise science, or other fitness and health related fields of study is a plus.

    Image Fitness Trainer Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Shustov

    Candidates should be at least 18 years old, and hold current cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillator (AED) certifications. The Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE) is a valuable resource for up-to-date information on trainer requirements, but most states require individuals to take the Personal Trainer Certification Exam.

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    Fitness Workers Average Salary and Income Potentials

    According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the income potential for those in the fitness industry is excellent. In fact, “employment is expected to grow much faster than the average.” The Bureau’s statistics shows an average salary of personal trainers to be about $29,000 yearly. Freelance independent fitness trainers usually earn more than salaried employees, but do not qualify for employee benefits like healthcare or vacation.

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    Fitness Workers Career Overview

    If after learning how to become a personal trainer, you decide this is the career for you, here is a quick checklist of the appropriate steps:

    1. Try out the job for a few days to be sure it is something you love.
    2. Choose a career path to suit your budget and lifestyle.
    3. Invest in yourself by obtaining any crucial education or certification. Check with ICE for credentialing requirements for personal trainers.
    4. Be aggressive in selling your services and finding clients.

    Working one-on-one with clients in the fitness field is not for everyone, but for those who choose this profession and pursue it with passion, the rewards are high. For information on distance learning courses for fitness trainers, read "How to Get an Online Personal Trainer Certification."

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    Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition,” accessed 05/13/2010

    National Council on Strength and Fitness, "Personal Trainer Certification Exam," accessed 05/13/2010