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How to Become a Personal Trainer | Guide to Beating the Competition

So you’ve decided to become a personal trainer?

You’ve chosen a rewarding career that allows you to help people achieve their fitness goals while staying active and healthy yourself.

Before you start fantasizing about the number of clients you can work with, you should understand that standing out in such a competitive career can be challenging. It takes hard work, dedication, knowledge, and experience.

But don’t worry. In this guide, we’ll explain how to become a personal trainer. So let’s dive in!

An Overview of Personal Training: A Primer

Before kickstarting your career as a personal trainer, you should know more about the job’s requirements and duties. 

A personal trainer is a professional fitness expert who works with clients to help them achieve their health and fitness goals. As a personal trainer, you should guide clients by establishing personalized training programs for each individual. 

You’ll also craft nutritional plans depending on your client’s objectives to help them reach their dream physique.

The job requirements may vary depending on your specialization and job. But generally speaking, personal trainers usually have the following job duties:

  • Analyze clients’ fitness levels and understand their needs and goals.
  • Implement tailored workout plans and track the client’s progress.
  • Demonstrate exercises to beginner clients. 
  • Assist clients in creating nutritional plans to complement their fitness goals.
  • Provide emergency first-aid when needed.
  • Monitor clients’ progress and adjust their routines accordingly.

How Much Do Personal Trainers Make?

Becoming a personal trainer can be a decent-paying job for many. But the earnings vary depending on location, experience, certification, and other factors.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the median annual salary of personal trainers was $40,700 in 2021.

According to Glassdoor, personal trainers have an average annual salary of $51,467. Certified personal trainers can make up to $117K and as low as $42K annually.

It’s worth noting that independent personal trainers or those who run their businesses set their rates and have more control over their income. That means some trainers may make way more or less than the above numbers. 

What You’ll Need to Become a Personal Trainer

Having a high school diploma or equivalent is preferred. Your next step should be to obtain an accredited personal training certification. 

A sportswoman doing push-ups and her personal-trainer helping her

You’ll also need to invest in your skills to boost your chances of succeeding in this competitive industry.

What else do you need, though?

  1. Certificate: Obtain an accredited personal trainer certificate
  2. Degree program: Consider a degree in a related field such as physical education, exercise science, or kinesiology
  3. Personal skills: Enhance your personal skills such as communication, fitness, problem-solving, and customer service skills
  4. Resume: Craft a professional resume showcasing your qualifications and work experience
  5. Clients: Start building a clientele or apply to work at fitness companies and gyms

How Much Does it Cost to Become a Personal Trainer?

Now that you know the basic requirements to become a fitness trainer, you might wonder how much it costs to get started.

Most employers look for personal trainers with CPR/AED certification to help their clients in an emergency. This would cost you around $75 (including materials).

Next, aim to obtain a personal trainer certification, and there are several programs to choose from. An entry-level certification would cost you around $400-600. Meanwhile, master certifications can cost up to $2000.

If you’re planning on obtaining a degree in a related field, such as exercise science, biology, or sports science, there are online courses that cost a few thousand dollars. University programs will cost a lot more, up to $65,000.

If you’re ready to start looking for clients, there might be expenses to consider, such as:

  • Gym fees
  • Marketing (such as creating a website or a Google ad)
  • Business Insurance
  • Taxes

Is it Hard to Become a Personal Trainer?

Becoming a certified personal trainer isn’t hard, but it’s not a piece of cake either. The career path is quite clear and straightforward, and acquiring a personal trainer certificate makes it much easier to excel in it.

To become a personal trainer, you’ll have to study and understand human anatomy, physiology, exercise science, and nutrition. There’s a lot to learn, but everything becomes easier by following a structured approach and putting in effort and dedication.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Personal Trainer?

The time to become a personal trainer varies depending on many factors, such as the certification type, educational background, and experience.

For example, having a bachelor’s degree is preferred, but it’s not essential. It would take you around four years. You’ve already come a long way if you have a bachelor’s degree.

Getting an accredited personal trainer certification from ISSA, ACE, or NASM might take you anywhere between 3 to 6 months. 

It might take more or less, depending on your background and the time you spend studying. But in general, it shouldn’t take more than one year.

How to Become a Personal Trainer in Five Simple Steps 

The fitness industry is irregular, and you might have come across multiple people who call themselves personal trainers even though they’re not certified.

This is a problem, and clients are now more aware than ever. To help you stand out as a personal trainer, we’ll explain how to become a personal trainer in five simple steps.

An elderly woman doing exercises with her personal-trainer at the gym

Step 1: Research Certifications Program and Choose One

As a fitness professional, you’ll design workout plans, develop nutritional plans and teach people how to do exercises properly. That said, it’s crucial that you receive a reputable certification for personal training.

There are several personal training programs out there, and you should focus on reputable organizations to build a career in the fitness industry. Here are some of the best personal fitness trainer certification programs:

  • American Council on Exercise (ACE)
  • National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
  • Action Personal Trainer Certification
  • National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT)
  • American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
  • International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA)

Before you apply, consider factors like the exam requirements, duration, cost, study materials, and recertification.

Step 2: Study and Prepare for the Exam

After you pick a suitable certification program, you should study the course material and prepare for your exam. 

Depending on the accrediting organization you work with, they might offer packages that contain the course material and the exam fees. The course material usually includes anatomy, physiology, exercise science, and several relevant topics.

Step 3: Develop Your Personal Skills

To become a successful personal trainer, you shouldn’t solely rely on your knowledge and experience. You should have some essential soft skills to attract clients. These skills include the following:

  • Effective communication: Be able to effectively communicate with clients by listening to their needs and providing your insights
  • Emotional intelligence: Know what motivates each client to get the best out of them
  • Time management and organization: Dealing with multiple clients simultaneously demands adequate time management
  • Friendliness: Being friendly is key to attracting new clients 
  • Networking: Building connections with fitness professionals will open up better opportunities 
  • Patience: It takes a lot of time to get the best out of your clients

Step 4: Choose a Specialization

The fitness industry is growing more than ever, and there’s fierce competition between personal trainers. To stand out and attract more clients, you shouldn’t rely only on one certification. 

It would be best to choose a specialization and study more about it. Depending on your passion, skills, and interests, you can be a specialist in the following fields:

  • Weight loss
  • Youth Fitness
  • Pain management
  • Bodybuilding
  • Strength training
  • Senior fitness
  • Sports performance
  • Corrective exercise

Step 5: Market Yourself to Start Attracting Clients

Once you enhance your personal skills and get your certification, it’s time to build a clientele. There are various ways to go around this.

For example, you can start working out regularly at the same gym and then get a job as a fitness instructor.  

After that, you can offer free training sessions or reduced rates. This will help you network and spread the word that you’re a personal trainer. Working as a group fitness instructor will also help you network and make more connections.

Creating an online presence is as crucial in today’s digital world. Create a website and use social media to contact clients and network with other fitness professionals.

Reasons to Consider Becoming a Personal Trainer

Becoming a personal trainer isn’t only a decent-paying job; it’s also a flexible and entertaining one, especially if you’re a fitness enthusiast. 

Personal trainer and a client sitting at the gym discussing his fitness progress

As the saying goes, do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life. Even if you’re not a health fanatic, there are many reasons to consider becoming a personal trainer.

  1. Flexibility: You get to set your schedule and working hours, allowing a better work-life balance. Check out our article on the benefit of work-life balance
  2. Financial potential: You can earn a competitive income by building a client base
  3. Variety: You can work anywhere, not just in a gym. You can also become a specialist in a specific fitness area, such as strength training or weight loss
  4. Healthy lifestyle: Working with various clients in different settings will help you stay fit and healthy

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the answers to a few more burning questions you could have:

Is personal training a stressful career?

Becoming a personal trainer can be frustrating for many. If you’re working in a gym, you might be forced to sell a certain number of sessions per month, or you’ll get fired. 

In case you start your own business, dealing with multiple clients with different personalities at a time can be stressful too.

What’s the biggest obstacle that faces personal trainers?

Personal trainers face many challenges, and it’s hard to tell which one is the biggest. Getting started in such a competitive industry can be difficult.

Keeping a steady stream of clients is also another burden.  You’ll need to find ways to keep your clients motivated too, which isn’t the easiest task.

Can you actually make money as a personal trainer?

Becoming a personal trainer is a lucrative career, and a great second job, especially if you build a clientele and have a good reputation. 

The average hourly rate of a personal trainer in the U.S. is around $25.58. But you can set your own rates and earn much more with enough experience.

Is 30 too old to be a personal trainer?

There’s no specific age limit to enter the fitness industry. In fact, many pursue the personal trainer career as a second job or after discovering their passion for fitness. 

Similar Gigs to Check Out

If you think a personal trainer job isn’t for you, here are some similar gigs to check out:

If you’re looking to make extra income, read our post about uncommon side hustles.

Wrapping Up

Many aspire to become personal trainers in the competitive and ever-growing fitness world, but only a few know the right steps. Our guide should help you kickstart your career as a professional trainer if you follow the steps properly. 

We hope our guide on how to become a personal trainer was informative. Don’t forget to share the guide if you like it, and if you have any comments, drop them in the comments section below.

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