Exercise Specialist: Salary, Requirements and Career Info

Exercise specialists require little formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and certification options to see if this is the right career for you.

To become an exercise specialist, one may need to earn an associate or bachelor's degree in an applicable field such as physical education. Certification is offered, which necessitates a certain amount of work experience. Exercise specialists can work in a number of medical facilities.

Essential Information

Exercise specialists are fitness trainers or instructors who create exercise plans designed to improve health for clients, such as those at high risk for heart, metabolic or lung disease. While a college degree isn't required for employment, it can give candidates an advantage in seeking career advancement; an associate or bachelor's degree may also be required for some voluntary professional certification options.

Required Education High school diploma; associate or bachelor's degree for advancement
Other Requirements CPR certification; voluntary professional certifications
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 8% for fitness trainers and aerobics instructors
Median Annual Salary (2015)** $43,229

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Salary.com

Salary Information for an Exercise Specialist

According to data from Salary.com accessed in August 2016, exercise specialists in the United States made a median annual salary of $43,229. Some exercise specialists may work on an hourly or part-time basis and thus may not benefit from employer-provided health insurance or retirement plans.

Requirements for Exercise Specialists

Education Requirements

Exercise specialists may be required to complete a certificate or bachelor's degree program. Related degree programs in physical education with an exercise specialist concentration, may also be acceptable. Core courses for bachelor's degree programs include:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Exercise science measurement and evaluation
  • Nutrition and health
  • Biology
  • Community health
  • Exercise psychology
  • Biomechanics of exercise

Certification Requirements

The American College of Sports Medicine offers a Certified Clinical Exercise Specialist credential (www.acsm.org). To attain this certification one must complete a bachelor's degree, have over 600 hours of experience in clinical exercise, and have current certification in basic life support.

The American Fitness Professionals and Associates offers a Post-Rehab Exercise Specialist certification for exercise specialists who develop exercise programs for individuals recovering from illness, injury, or who have physical limitations (www.afpafitness.com). These specialists typically work in hospitals or rehabilitation facilities.

Exercise Specialist Career Information

Exercise specialists work with patients of all ages in health care facilities, such as fitness centers, rehabilitation hospitals, and physicians' offices. They develop exercise programs based on a patient's health and abilities. Among their many duties, exercise specialists monitor patients' heart health by conducting regular electrocardiograms (ECG) and breathing tests and recording ECG and physical exercise data.

Specialists should have strong knowledge of personal fitness, exercise techniques, exercise equipment, body systems, and human behavior. Because exercise specialists work closely with people, they need strong communication and listening skills.

In conclusion, an undergraduate degree in a field related to exercise is usually needed and preferred. Certification is an alternative, but it could also be obtained in addition to a college education. Exercise specialists make around $43,229 per year, which can vary by place of employment.

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