Personal Trainer Salary

Salary Overview

The personal trainer salary can vary due to inconsistent work hours. Weekly earnings may fluctuate regularly, as clients sign up for and terminate sessions, and frequently reschedule appointments. Often weekends are required to work around clients’ schedules. Personal trainers who work independently generally have higher salaries, since a portion of earnings does not go to a club. General annual salaries for new full time personal trainers begin as low as $20,000 through fitness clubs, or $10 to $12 an hour; independent personal trainer salary may start at $40,000, or $20 an hour. More experienced personal trainers or those with multiple certifications or degrees and developed reputation may earn even more.*

*According to the BLS,

Most gyms do not provide healthcare benefits, although they typically provide liability insurance for personal trainers. Advantages include free club membership and free exercise equipment access for sessions. Private trainers make more money but also have more expenses. Independent personal trainers must purchase medical and liability insurance, and cover studio and equipment costs. Drive time to clients’ homes burns time and fuel, so consider mileage compensation.

Job Description and Outlook

Personal trainers primarily work one-on-one with clients. Most work in gyms or fitness clubs, but may also train individuals independently either at a client’s home or at the trainer’s home or studio. Personal trainers assist clients with nutrition, educate on fitness, or find ways to improve a current workout. They demonstrate safe technique and posture when using free weights, weight machines, or engaging in cardiovascular exercise. The trainer determines an appropriate level of intensity for each client in order to maximize his or her progress. Personal trainers may also be group exercise instructors, or may become fitness directors and gym owners or managers.

A personal trainer primarily provides clients with accountability and motivation. Many clients will not adhere to a workout on their own and find having to report their progress to another keeps them on track. Regular encouraging reminders from a personal trainer inspire clients to stay on track to meet their fitness or weight loss goals.

Fitness professionals are always in demand. Several factors keep the fitness industry dynamic and in need of fitness trainers. Many personal trainers begin working in fitness clubs and gyms and move on to other opportunities. Some insurance companies reimburse personal training costs to encourage proactive health measures. Many fitness clubs offer exercise programs for children. Personal trainers now have opportunities to work with aging populations and individuals with physical and mental special needs to lessen their medical problems and even vastly improve their quality of life.*

People want to enjoy a better quality of life, but have difficulty making the necessary lifestyle changes. Growing awareness of physical fitness benefits, coupled with increasing healthcare costs, ensures a growing need for personal trainers to help develop healthier lives.*

*According to the BLS,

Training and Education Requirements

A personal trainer should at least have a GED. College degrees are not required, but greatly improve personal trainer credentials. Helpful degrees to consider are Associate Degrees that include anatomy, physical education, physiology; a two year certification in physical therapy assistance; Bachelor Degrees or higher in kinesiology, wellness, nutrition, exercise physiology, education, physical therapy, and child development (if planning on working with children).


Adult and child CPR with basic first aid is a required certification for the personal trainer. Most facilities have AEDs, so look for a class that demonstrates how to use this device.
Personal training certifications are also necessary, although not always required for group exercise instructors. Certifications will all cover the same personal training basics, but some have different areas of focus than others. Some certifications are available through community colleges and career schools, and almost all provide online courses. Consider multiple certifications for a wider range of ideas and for the resume. Some certification programs offer a package of courses to earn a Master Trainer credential, opening doors to higher pay and more job opportunities.

Some of the most well known certifications offered:

  • ACE – American Council on Exercise certification; 3-6 months to complete; 2-year recertification
  • ACSM – American College of Sports Medicine; 4-9 months to complete; 3-year recertification
  • NASM – National Academy of Sports Medicine; self-paced; 2-year recertification
  • NCSF – National Council on Strength and Fitness; 4-6 months to complete; 2-year recertification
  • NFPT – National Federation of Personal Trainers; 2-6 months to complete; annual recertification
  • NSCA – National Strength and Conditioning Association; 4-9 months to complete; 3-year recertification
  • NESTA – National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association; 4-6 weeks to complete; 4-year recertification
  • IFPA – International Fitness Professional Association; 2 day workshop or self-study; 2-year recertification
  • ISSA – International Sports Sciences Association; 2 day workshop or self-study; 2-year recertification
  • YMCA – Some YMCA locations provide certification workshops through their organization.
  • Cooper Institute – The CI personal training certification is recognized by the NCCA, the IHRSA (International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association), and the Veterans Administration; 3-year recertification.

Professional Associations

  • NCCA – National Commission for Certifying Agencies; most widely recognized certifying agency
  • IDEA – largest association for fitness professionals; resource for personal trainer listings, continuing education courses, and educational articles

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