Blog by: Suryakant Tripathi
Fitness trainers motivate their clients to improve health by demonstrating exercises and teaching physical activity. They are not the same as athletic trainers, who prevent and treat sports injuries. Fitness trainers may lead aerobics classes at gyms or help clients in their homes with weight training. Employers prefer to hire trainers with credentials.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that no degrees are necessary to become a fitness trainer, though some employers do prefer an associate or bachelor’s degree in a fitness field, and master’s degrees are available. A typical major for the field is exercise science, suggests the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. This course of study explains human movement and how the body responds and adapts to physical activity. Though the field has broad disciplines, it can focus on developing and leading exercise programs. The undergraduate program typically takes four years and combines “scientific research, education and practical applications” that will “enhance health, fitness, performance, and quality of life.”
What fitness trainers need for employment is certification, which they can obtain by attending classes. They may need to work with experienced trainers until they achieve a credential and are allowed to work independently with clients. Certification can take varying amounts of time and is offered by different organizations. For example, the training for yoga instructors that is available from the Yoga Alliance can take from a few days to over two years. The National Commission for Certifying Agencies, which is part of the Institute for Credentialing Excellences, lists accredited organizations that offer certification.
Nearly all trainers have at least a high school diploma and certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation before they walk the certification path. The process usually involves classroom and practical instruction, and passing written and practical exams that measure knowledge of human physiology, assessment of fitness levels and understanding of exercise techniques. The American Council on Exercise, for example, offers personal trainer certification packages that consist of manuals, flash cards, videos, practice tests and other materials that allow study at home. Testing is computer-based but must be taken at specific sites.
The American Council on Exercise shows how education made a difference in compensation in its 2010 salary survey. A personal trainer with a high school diploma averaged $45,516 annually. Mean yearly pay increased to $47,356 with some college training, $50,597 with a bachelor’s degree and $67,287 with a master’s degree. Group fitness trainers earned a yearly mean $42,617 with some college, $43,746 with a bachelor’s degree and $54,137 with a master’s. The survey did not have sufficient data for group fitness trainers with high school diplomas.