The fitness industry is a fast-paced and fast-growing industry that offers many opportunities all across the world. Personal trainers are in demand, and there is no sign of this demand slowing down, due to the current obesity crisis that the world is facing. Personal trainer’s complete an accredited course in personal training and once this is done, personal trainers have the freedom to specialize in certain areas of fitness.
Personal Trainer Career Guide
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Real-Life Personal Trainer Job Profiles
What a personal trainer actually does
The primary focus of a personal trainer is to design exercise programs that bring about positive physical, and often mental, changes in their clients. The typical daily duties and responsibilities of a personal trainer will vary depending on where they work (e.g., gym, fitness club, spa or for themselves), the size of the organization they work for and what area of fitness they specialize in (e.g., yoga, womans health, spinning, group training or bodybuilding). However, a personal trainer can expect to have duties and responsibilities such as:
- Setting realistic short-term and long-term goals for each individual client
- Planning specific and unique training programmes tailored to the fitness levels and goals of each individual client
- Designing training plans that minimize injury, are engaging and enjoyable but still promote fitness and positive lifestyle changes
- Giving clients regular and up to date advice on health, nutrition and lifestyle changes
- Checking, monitoring and recording each clients’ progress, using methods such as measuring heart rate, body-fat percentage or muscle mass levels
- Providing emergency first aid if necessary
- Providing support, information and/or resources on general fitness and health issues
- Teaching and instructing group exercise classes
Why they are needed
Worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975, with 1.9 billion adults being considered overweight in 2016. Being overweight or obese comes with the increased risk of diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders, some cancers and cardiovascular diseases (which were the leading cause of death in 2012). On top of this, there are many psychological and self-confidence issues that surround being overweight.
Obviously, personal trainers, along with other health-related professionals such as nutritionists, dietitians and psychologists, help reduce the levels of obesity in the general population by inspiring people to take part in, adhere to and enjoy physical activity. The role of a personal trainers is also so important in educating clients on the benefits of exercise, preventing injury by helping to perfect form, tailoring programmes to unique requirements and indirectly helping to improve the clients mental health.
Pros and cons of a career in personal training:
- There is great freedom and flexibility in being a personal trainer as you can slot clients in whenever you like (well, within reason, not many people will want to train at 1am!). This kind of schedule works particularly well for those who don’t like the idea of a typical 9 to 5 job
- Most personal trainers love what they do and are passionate about fitness. So, a career in personal training offers them the opportunity to combine their passion with a successful and rewarding career
- It is a highly satisfying, fulfilling and rewarding career as personal trainers make a positive and lasting impact on the lives of many
- Personal trainers can earn good hourly rates. You can also be in control of how much you earn: taking on more clients if you want to earn more money or reducing the number of clients you have if you want to prioritize other things. On top of this, personal trainers have the opportunity to become self-employed, which gives them great career progression and financial opportunities
- When working as a personal trainer, no two days are the same and there is a great amount of variety in each day which keeps it exciting
- There are no fixed hours for a personal trainer. Somedays you can work all the way through from 6am to 8pm, others there might be a big gap with no clients during the middle of the day. With this can also come an unstable income as you might not work the same hours each week
- It can be a frustrating career when you are working with someone who isn’t motivated to change or stick to your plans. On top of this, there will be difficult clients who are hard to please and find flaws in everything you suggest
- Personal trainers often have to work antisocial hours, including weekends, early mornings and late evenings
Career success factors
To be a successful personal trainer, you will firstly need to be passionate about fitness and improving the lives of others. Without this passion and dedication, you will not be motivated or dedicated to the profession. Personal trainers are also likely to be successful if they are naturally customer-service oriented and can therefore offer clients the best possible service to keep them coming back. A final possible career success factor for a personal trainer is that they must have a constant curiosity and desire to learn and to continue to develop their knowledge and skills.
The Bureau of labor statistics predicts that the employment of fitness trainers and instructors is projected to grow 13 percent from 2018 to 2028, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.
The employment of fitness professionals is expected to grow as businesses, governments and insurance organizations continue to realise the benefits of health and fitness programs. On top of this, the fitness industry is also predicted to grow due to the continuing emphasis on exercise and a healthy lifestyle to decrease obesity and its health-related issues.
To become a personal trainer, you will most likely be required to have at least a high school diploma before entering the profession. Most trainers will then need to complete a certified course that gives them the skills and knowledge to become a personal trainer. These qualifications normally include both written and practical exams. However, as the field becomes more and more competitive, employers are actually starting to prefer personal trainers who have bachelor’s degree in a health related field, although this is not a necessity,
Once qualified, personal trainers often continue to develop their skills and knowledge. Most personal trainers will take continuing professional development courses to advance their skills in a particular area (e.g., yoga, spinning, working with pre and post natal women).
Example Job Titles for Personal Trainer
Benefits & Conditions
Income and benefits
The Bureau of Labour statistics predicts that the median wage per annum for a fitness trainer and instructor in the United States is $40,390, with the top 10 percent earning more than $75,400 and the bottom 10 percent earning less than $21,110 per annum.
However, like many professions, self-employed personal trainers have higher earning potential than employed personal trainers. According to PayScale, the average hourly salary of a personal trainer who is self employed is $49.58, with the top 10 percent charging over $121.81 an hour.
Autonomy and Flexibility
The levels of autonomy and flexibility are high for personal trainers. More often than not, personal trainers are responsible for managing their own time and deciding when to fit clients in. They are also responsible for planning each session and often they get to decide how much they charge, giving them flexibility and control over their earning potential.
Locations and commute
Personal training jobs are available all over the world. With the fitness industry booming and more people than ever exercising, there are jobs for personal trainers in most cities and towns. On top of this, a career as a personal trainer is suited to those who like to travel as the skills allow you to work all over the world.
The Bureau of Labour Statistics states that the largest employer of personal trainers is fitness and recreational sports centers, which employs 58% of all personal trainers in the United States. 11% of personal trainers in the United States are self-employed.
Personal trainers can work in a whole range of environments, from standalone fitness centers, to spa’s, to small family run gyms, to big chains of gyms. They may work in a small team of fitness professionals, perhaps working closely with physiotherapists, nutritionists or therapists. Or, they may work completely alone.
Self-employed personal trainers are likely to work solo and may even be lucky enough to personal train clients from home in their own studio!
Common Matching Personality Types
Which personalities tend to succeed and thrive in Personal Trainer careers? Based on our research, there is a relatively strong positive correlation between the following personality types and Personal Trainer career satisfaction. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t many exceptions, of course, but if you fit into one of the following personality types then we suggest you give strong consideration to a career in Personal Trainer.
There has been little exploration into which personality types and traits will make a good personal trainer. However, one study has found that transfer motivation, which is the desire to use the knowledge and skills you have learnt to help others, is predicted by motivation to learn, extraversion and emotional stability. As personal trainers must use all their knowledge and skills on the job to help clients achieve the best possible results, it is reasonable to conclude that successful personal trainers will present extraverted and emotionally stable personality traits. Displaying high levels of extraversion also makes sense, as personal trainers will spend nearly all of their working life interacting with others.
Accomplishment and mastery
Personal trainers will feel accomplishment and mastery. They will use their skills and knowledge regularly and will often see results from their advice in a very short space of time. On top of this, personal trainers will also feel the accomplishment that their clients feel when they meet their goals.
Meaning and contribution
As previously mentioned, the work of fitness professionals is crucial to reducing the obesity crisis and encouraging people to live healthier and happier lives. Due to this, there is high meaning and contribution to the work of a personal trainer.
Personal trainers may have to work antisocial hours, which means it can be difficult to fit into some people’s lives. However, one of the main perks to being a personal trainer is flexibility, so it is a career that can be tailored to fit to your life quite easily. However, this may mean having less clients and therefore earning less money.
Who will thrive in this career?
- People who are genuinely passionate and enthusiastic about fitness and living a healthy lifestyle
- People who like a flexible working schedule, even if it can be unpredictable and unstable at times
- Those who like to constantly learn and advance their skill set
- Those who love interacting and working with all types of people
- Those who have a business mindset and are motivated to achieve
Who will struggle in this career?
- People who don’t enjoy social interaction and prefer to work alone
- Those who are looking for a stable and secure income and working schedule
- Those who are not passionate about the fitness industry
- Those who have no interest in continuous learning and professional development
Skills and talents
The typical skills and talents required for personal trainers include:
- Customer-service skills, as a personal trainers career is built around developing a relationship with paying customers
- Sales skills will also come in handy as personal trainers will have to sell themselves, and their business, to potential clients
- Listening skills, as personal trainers must listen to (and understand) the clients concerns regarding exercising or progress
- Motivational skills are important as personal trainers need to keep clients enthusiastic about training and they need to ensure they adhere to their personal training program
- Physical fitness is key as personal trainers are essentially a walking advertisement for their services and must ‘practice what they preach’. They will also need to show clients how to perform certain exercises, so therefore need to be able to carry out these exercises themselves
- Problem-solving skills are also essential as personal trainers will need to evaluate the clients fitness levels and create appropriate fitness plans to meet the clients needs
To become a personal trainer, you will need a high school diploma. Personal trainers will then need to complete a course, normally consisting of written and practical exams, which gives them the skills and knowledge surrounding nutrition, exercise technique, biology, anatomy and group fitness.
Although not a necessity, a number of employers are beginning to prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree in a health or fitness field.
Personal trainers must be certified before they can begin working with clients. On top of this, specialized personal trainers will receive certification for their preferred type of training.
There are many organizations that offer certification, however not all of them are accredited by the relevant bodies. The National Commision for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) gives a list of organizations that are accredited in the United States. On top of the certifications relevant to become a personal trainer, most personal trainers will need to have a first aid certificate and/or certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillators (AED).
How to Become
The fitness industry is a fast-paced and fast-growing industry that offers many worldwide opportunities. Personal trainers are in demand, and there is no sign of this demand slowing down, due to the current obesity crisis that the world is facing. To become a personal trainer, you must complete an accredited course in personal training. Once this is done, personal trainers have the freedom to specialize in certain areas and to become self-employed.
Immediate action (what can you do right now)
To kick start a career in personal training, we recommend that you firstly start by ensuring your physical fitness is up to scratch. Whilst doing this, you can start researching accredited personal training courses.
Education and learning
Whilst a degree is not necessary, employers are starting to value those who have bachelor’s degrees in a sports or health related field. However, this is by no means essential and personal trainers can have a perfectly successful and fulfilling career by completing an accredited personal training certification.
Whilst working as a personal trainer, there are many opportunities for skill development and career progression. Many personal trainers continue to take courses throughout their career to increase their knowledge and skills in a particular area (e.g., pre and post natal clients, athletes).
Before qualifying as a personal trainer, it is possible to work in a fitness based environment as a fitness instructor. This will give you valuable experience and skills that can be used when you qualify as a personal trainer.
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