How Do I Become A Certified Fitness Trainer?

Fitness instructors are growing in number as people become more health conscious and more willing to spend time and money to get physically fit. It is difficult for any individual with no training in fitness to determine the best diet and exercise regimens, especially when inundated with numerous and often conflicting programs on television, the internet, and in printed media. Therefore, a personal fitness instructor becomes an important asset for those who are serious about becoming physically fit.

What Do Fitness Instructors Do?

Fitness instructors work with individuals and groups to help people stay in top shape and avoid sports-related injuries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, common job duties for fitness instructors include:

  • Demonstrating exercise routines and techniques
  • Helping clients minimize injury or undue stress by demonstrating proper technique when exercising
  • Adjusting exercise for age, skill and fitness level, and any physical disabilities or injuries
  • Encouraging clients and monitoring progress in achieving fitness goals
  • Teaching clients or athletes about safety rules and safe practices in fitness and sports
  • Helping clients with diet and other issues related to health and lifestyle
  • Administering first aid in emergency situations

Fitness instructors often develop one-on-one relationships with clients, so good interpersonal skills are important for a fitness instructor. Further, fitness instructors must have good communication skills in order to help clients understand and set realistic fitness goals and assess progress made. Finally, fitness instructors must have good decision-making skills and judgment so that they can avoid client injury while working out.

Job Outlook and Pay For Fitness Instructors*

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, fitness training jobs are expected to increase in number by 24 percent over the next ten years, or about twice the national average for all jobs. Most of these increases in job opportunities should occur at privately-operated gyms and fitness centers, although some growth is expected among high school and college sports teams as well as professional sports organizations.

In May, 2010, fitness trainers earned between $17,070 and $63,400 for a median yearly salary of $31,090, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Higher salaries come from more experience with fitness training and from working in more exclusive venues such as high-end fitness clubs. Many fitness instructors work part-time at health clubs and gyms and hold second jobs in other fields.

Do I Have To Be Certified To Be A Fitness Instructor?

Most health clubs and sports teams prefer to hire fitness instructors with proper certification. There are several organizations that offer fitness instructor certification in various types of sports and physical fitness activities, and fitness instructors can choose to become certified in any or all of these areas, depending on the requirements of the jobs they are seeking.

Most certification programs require individuals to first be certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation techniques (CPR) and first aid before they can work with clients. Some programs require applicants to have obtained this certification prior to taking the certification courses, while others include this training as part of their programs.

You can find a list of accredited organizations that offer certification classes by visiting the website of the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, or NCCA. Most of these programs have no specific prerequisites for training, although they often include training materials as part of the certification program. Applicants are required to pass both written and practice knowledge tests in order to attain certification.

For applicants interested in personal fitness training, a period of internship is usually required in which the individual works with a certified and experienced personal trainer before working with clients. Group fitness class instructors can receive certification for various types of fitness classes such as aerobic exercise or cycling. Yoga instructors can take classes accredited by the Yoga Alliance and take the certification test after a minimum of 200 hours of study.

While a college degree is not required to become certified, many employers prefer to hire those applicants with at least a two-year degree in a physical fitness field.

*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (

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