Career Profile: Fitness Trainer

Looking at Pros and Cons of Careers in Fitness Industry

Fitness careers can be rewarding. Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

Whether the work is full-time or part-time, fitness workers often find their work improving people’s physical and mental well-being to be rewarding.

Fitness trainers and personal trainers often enjoy setting their own hours, whether it’s in a part-time position to add some income or several assignments that add up to a full-time job. Because the work is often part-time, benefits may not be available.

Fitness trainers typically have to be certified.


Whether they work through a fitness facility or gym, or in personal instruction, fitness workers should be certified. Some instructors may start in a group setting without certification but they need to work toward certification to maintain employment.

Depending on the discipline, the hours required for certification may vary. Many instructors start out as students in a fitness program. After they master the fitness regiment, they may assist an instructor in teaching classes. At this point, the prospective instructor will begin attending courses, workshops, or conventions to master the discipline.

Different employers may require different levels of certification. Specialization disciplines like yoga or Pilates typically require additional training, possibly up to 200 hours of study.

Preparing at the university level also can be useful.

Increasingly, employers are requiring fitness workers to attain a bachelor’s degree in a health or fitness field, such as exercise science or physical education.

Once certified, fitness trainers take over classes. Some become personal trainers to work individually with people attempting to improve their fitness levels.

Typically to be certified, instructors must master cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and pass an exam, which usually includes written and practical testing. The exams focus on physiology, exercise techniques, and assessment of fitness levels.

Job Description

Many fitness workers are outgoing people who are excellent at motivating their students. But they also listen to their students to assess progress. Adding clients and retaining those clients is important.

With these skills, fitness workers help motivate individuals or groups to deliver top workouts in aerobics, weight training, and other disciplines. The work typically is indoors: at health clubs, studios, hospitals, schools, workplaces, or residences.

Instructors help their students set goals and then devise a fitness plan for those students to attain those goals. They help motivate their students through the daily physical work required to reach those goals.

It is important for fitness instructors to maintain a safe environment for their classes or their individual students.

Some instructors may maintain an office where they keep track of student workouts, schedules, and goals. They may hire assistants or beginning instructors.

Opportunities, Challenges

Fitness workers typically enjoy physical activity and they usually serve as a living example to their students.

That said, the continued physical activity can put the instructors at injury risk.

Because students typically are working on weekdays, fitness workers typically work odd hours, perhaps early mornings, evenings, and/or weekends. This may be attractive to people looking for a part-time job. For others, the odd hours may be a drawback, depending on one’s situation.

Fitness workers typically work as their own boss. Even if they work for a fitness organization, they typically come up with the workouts and class plans that they implement.


The fitness industry is immense in size and scope, with billions in revenues worldwide.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects growth to occur from aging baby boomers working out to stay in shape as well as with young people, especially as cuts are made to physical fitness programs at schools.

The industry also attracts entrepreneurs, as the market is fragmented.  The IBIS report linked above points out, "The Gym, Health and Fitness Clubs industry exhibits a low level of market share concentration, with the top four operators in the industry comprising less than 12.0% of total revenue in 2015."

So the industry presents opportunities for part-time job seekers, full time employment and even starting a business, depending on your skill set and desire.



Article updated by Rich Campbell

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