USA Career Guide-Fitness Trainers or Instructors

Education & Training required to be Fitness Trainers or Instructors

All trainers and instructors should at least have a high school diploma before entering the occupation. An increasing number of employers require fitness workers to have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree related to a health or fitness field, such as exercise science, kinesiology, or physical education. Programs often include courses in nutrition, exercise techniques, and group fitness.

Training for specialized fitness instructors can vary greatly. For example, the duration of programs for yoga instructors can range from a few days to more than 2 years.


There are a variety of certifications available and employers prefer certified fitness trainers and instructors. Choose nationally recognized and accredited certificate program. Group fitness instructors may be allowed to begin without certification, but employers often encourage or require them to become certified.
Most trainers or instructors need certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) before applying for certification in physical fitness. Many organizations offer certification. The National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), part of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence, lists certifying organizations that are accredited.
All certification exams have a written part, and some also have a practical part. The exams measure the candidate’s knowledge of human physiology, understanding of proper exercise techniques, assessment of clients' fitness levels, and development of appropriate exercise programs.
No specific education or training is required for certification. Many certifying organizations offer study materials, including books, CDs, other audio and visual materials, and exam preparation workshops and seminars.
Advanced certification requires an associate’s or bachelor's degree in an exercise-related subject that presents more specialized instruction, such as training athletes, working with people who are injured or ill, or advising clients on general health.

Pay of  Fitness Trainers or Instructors

The median annual wage of fitness trainers and instructors was $31,090 in May 2010. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $17,070, and the top 10 percent earned more than $63,400.

Job Prospects of  Fitness Trainers or Instructors

Employment of fitness trainers and instructors is expected to grow by 24 percent from 2010 to 2020, faster than the average for all occupations. As businesses and insurance organizations continue to recognize the benefits of health and fitness programs for their employees, incentives to join gyms or other types of health clubs is expected to increase the need for fitness trainers and instructors.
Other employment growth is likely to come from the continuing emphasis on exercise for young people to combat obesity and encourage healthy lifestyles. More young people and families are likely to join fitness institutions or commit to personal training programs.
Participation in yoga and Pilates is expected to continue to increase, driven partly by older adults who want low-impact forms of exercise and relief from arthritis and other ailments.
Job prospects should be best for workers with professional certification or increased levels of formal education in health or fitness.

Industrial Overview of Fitness Trainers or Instructors

Fitness trainers and instructors held about 251,400 jobs in 2010. Fitness trainers and instructors work in health clubs, fitness or recreation centers, gyms, country clubs, hospitals, universities, yoga and Pilates studios, resorts, and clients' homes. Some fitness trainers and instructors also work in offices, where they organize and direct health and fitness programs for employees.
Most fitness trainers and instructors worked for fitness and recreational sports centers in 2010:
Fitness and recreational sports centers    61%
Civic and social organizations    13%
Other educational services; state, local, and private    4%
Hospitals; state, local, and private    2%
About 8 percent of fitness trainers and instructors were self-employed in 2010.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13
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