How to Become an Aerobics Instructor

Learn how to become an aerobics instructor. Research the education requirements, certification information and experience required for starting a career in the fitness industry.

Do I Want to Be an Aerobics Instructor?

Aerobics instructors choreograph exercise moves and lead classes in aerobic exercise. In addition to teaching fitness students the moves to the aerobics workout, instructors will choose and provide the music and complete job requirements as specified by the fitness center in which they teach, such as logging hours. Instructors are trained to provide basic first aid, should an emergency occur during class.

While some fitness instructors are able to secure full-time positions with a gym, many aerobics instructors teach individual classes on a part-time basis, sometimes teaching at a number of fitness centers. Some hours may be spent in an office setting, organizing health and fitness programs for clients.

Job Requirements

Aerobics instructors typically need certification from a reputable source to find a job. Many organizations offer online and workshop training in preparation for a certification exam. Additionally, some employers may require a degree in exercise science or a related discipline. The following table summarizes the basic requirements for aerobics instructors:

Common Requirements
Degree Level A high school diploma is the minimum educational requirement for an aerobics instructor; some employers require associate's or bachelor's degrees*
Degree Field Exercise science, kinesiology, physical education or a related fitness field*
Certification Many employers require aerobics instructors to be certified*
Experience Up to 3 years of experience may be necessary**
Key Skills Excellent physical fitness; solid customer service, listening, motivational, problem-solving and speaking skills*
Computer Skills Experience with exercise database programs may be helpful***
Technical Skills Ability to use microphones to communicate instruction to classes and tools like balance boards and disks, medicine balls, ankle weights and exercise tubing***
Additional Requirements Night, weekend and holiday hours may be required*; first aid knowledge**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ** and job postings from September 2012, ***O*Net OnLine

Step 1: Earn a Degree

Though there are generally no educational requirements beyond earning a high school diploma or equivalent to become an aerobics instructor, many employers may prefer or even require instructors who have earned a degree in a related field, such as exercise science. In fact, O*Net OnLine points out that approximately 25 percent of fitness and aerobics instructors hold bachelor's degrees.

Degree programs in exercise science can also help prepare aspiring aerobics instructors to earn certification; some programs may even offer courses specifically geared toward certification exam preparation. Students in these programs study a variety of fitness subjects, including anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, nutrition, exercise leadership and athletic training.

Success Tips:

  • Make physical fitness a priority. Aerobics instructors must be physically fit to successfully demonstrate and lead a class. Experience in a variety of formats, such as step aerobics, kickboxing, body sculpting, boot camp and indoor cycling, may provide a solid foundation for a career in fitness instruction. Additionally, membership at a gym or fitness facility may help individuals to keep up with the latest trends in fitness and group exercise.
  • Take a CPR/AED course. Students who wish to pursue a degree in aerobics instruction may wish to take a course in cardiopulmonary resuscitation/automated external defibrillator or CPR/AED. Successful completion of a CPR/AED course may be required for certain certifications; employers may also seek candidates with first aid skills.

Step 2: Earn Certification

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that certification from a recognized program is a preferred qualification for aerobics instructors. Available certifications include those offered by the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA), and the International Fitness Professionals Association (IFPA).

Depending on the organization, a practical examination may be required in addition to a written exam. Exams test fitness knowledge in a number of areas, including physiology and exercise technique. Organizations that offer certification may also make study resources available for certification exams, though these resources may be at a cost to the student.

Success Tip:

  • Hone key customer service skills. Some aspiring aerobics instructors may start out working as customer service or sales representatives in gyms or health clubs. This is one way to develop the strong customer service and interpersonal skills needed to work as an aerobics instructor.

Step 3: Gain Experience

Gaining experience and familiarity with the fitness industry is an important part of securing employment as an aerobics instructor. Though the BLS notes that experience may not be required for entry-level jobs, a survey of job postings in September 2012 shows that employers may seek applicants with up to 3 years of experience. Individuals can find employment in a variety of positions in gyms, recreation centers and aerobics studios. Working in any position within the fitness industry may provide insight into the field and help potential aerobics instructors gain valuable experience.

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