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Be a Fitness Teacher: Course and Degree Program Requirements

Learn how to become a fitness teacher. Research the education and career requirements, certification and experience required for starting a career as a fitness teacher.

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Do I Want to Be a Fitness Teacher?

Also called instructors or trainers, these teachers lead and instruct those who are interested in improving their physical conditioning and getting into better shape. Clients may include individuals of all ages and conditioning levels, and these teachers may focus on strength training, stretching, cardiovascular exercise or a combination of all three. In addition to creating fitness plans, they show clients how to perform exercises and monitor their progress, making this an often physically challenging profession.

Job Requirements

While a high school diploma is the minimum education requirement to work as a fitness teacher or instructor, earning an associate's or bachelor's degree in an area such as exercise science, kinesiology, or physical education may give job applicants the edge. Employers may also prefer that fitness professionals earn certification in the field. The table below includes the requirements to become a fitness teacher.

Common Requirements
Degree Level High school diploma
Certification Voluntary; certification for fitness professionals is available through a number of organizations
Experience A background in fitness and being in shape are important
Key Skills In addition to being physically fit, fitness teachers and instructors must have strong communication skills and be detail-oriented

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS); ** job postings (September 2012)'

Step 1: Graduate From High School

Employers prefer to hire fitness trainers and instructors who have at least graduated from high school. While in high school, students can take courses in health and physical education to prepare for a career in the field. Additionally, taking science-related courses prepares students for postsecondary education.

Step 2: Consider a Postsecondary Program

Whether it's an associate's or bachelor's degree, prospective fitness teachers can enroll in programs entitled exercise science or kinesiology. In addition to classes involving fitness and strength training, students learn about the human anatomy, nutrition, human development and exercise science. Earning a degree in the field may prepare graduates for certification examinations as well.

Success Tip

  • Focus on a specific fitness area. Fitness programs can focus on specialties such as group exercise, Pilates, yoga, personal training and kickboxing. Learning to teach a specific program may enhance employment opportunities, as gyms and fitness centers look for classes that cater to different types of members.

Step 3: Obtain Fitness Certifications

Fitness certification is available from several different organizations. The Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) offers many accredited fitness certification programs. The association's personal fitness trainer certification program gives in-depth instruction on the duties and responsibilities of a personal trainer and prepares students for the Personal Fitness Trainer National Board exam. The AFAA also offers certification programs in group exercise, step aerobics and kickboxing.

The National Association for Fitness Certification offers certifications in personal training, health and wellness, group fitness and wellness consultation. Aspiring fitness instructors learn how to assess the fitness level of clients, design fitness plans to meet client goals and educate clients on weight management and nutrition.

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