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Physical Fitness Education and Career Information

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a physical fitness educator. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

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Essential Information

Physical fitness encompasses many careers, including personal training and teaching. Educational requirements vary depending on an individual's career path, but most physical fitness jobs require at least a bachelor's degree.

REQUIRED EDUCATIONBachelor's degree
OTHER REQUIREMENTSState certification
PROJECTED JOB GROWTH 2012-2022PE teachers 6-12%, personal trainers 13%*
AVERAGE ANNUAL SALARY (2014)$53,480-$59,180 PE teachers, $39,410 personal trainers*

Source *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Physical education (P.E.) teachers typically work in schools and teach physical fitness to children. They are responsible for teaching children about health, sports and personal fitness.

Educational Requirements

Physical education teachers at public schools must be certified by their state; the minimum requirement in most states is a bachelor's degree in education with an emphasis in physical education. P.E. teachers in private schools may not have to be certified. Some aspiring P.E. teachers earn dual majors in education and a fitness area like kinesiology. After completing a degree program, aspiring P.E. teachers must complete a period of student teaching under the supervision of an experienced teacher.

Career Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many teachers are expected to retire in the coming years. However, the BLS also noted that employment of teachers is greatly dependent on local and state budgets. With that in mind, the BLS projected that from 2012-2022, kindergarten, elementary and middle school teachers could see 12% growth, which was about as fast as average, while high school teachers could face growth of just 6% (www.bls.gov).

As of May 2014, mean annual earnings were $53,480 for kindergarten and elementary school teachers, $55,510 for middle school teachers and $59,180 for high school teachers. Most school districts use salary ladders, meaning teachers earn progressively more each year. Attaining a master's degree can increase earning potential. Also, many P.E. teachers coach school sports teams, which could draw them a salary supplement.

Personal Trainer

Personal trainers help individuals or small groups improve their physical fitness by guiding them through aerobic and strength-building workouts. Trainers might work in gyms or in clients' homes.

Educational Requirements

Personal trainers are expected to have a strong understanding of physical fitness techniques. They might have a bachelor's degree in kinesiology, exercise science or physical education. Additionally, many aspiring trainers seek professional certification. There are several nationally recognized certifying agencies, including the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America, the American Council on Exercise and the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Certifying bodies require applicants to have AED and CPR certifications and pass exams.

Career Information

Many personal trainers work for gyms or health clubs; others start their own businesses and work independently. Personal trainers are usually paid by the hour, but some jobs are salaried positions. According to the BLS, the mean annual salary of personal trainers in 2014 was $$39,410. Employment of personal trainers and other fitness workers was expected to grow by about 13% in 2012-2022, according to the BLS. The BLS stated that eight percent of fitness workers were self-employed in 2014 and that self-employed workers often earned much more than average.

Fitness Worker

Fitness workers lead exercise classes at gyms and fitness centers. They might specialize in an area of physical fitness like aerobics, strength building, Pilates or yoga.

Educational Requirements

Some employers require fitness workers to have postsecondary education in physical education, exercise science or kinesiology. Gyms typically require fitness workers to earn specialty certifications or complete training in a specific area. For example, yoga instructors are often expected to have completed an educational program that is approved by the Yoga Alliance; this program must include at least 200 training hours. Certifications for group fitness workers are available as well.

Career Information

In 2014, there were approximately 241,000 fitness trainers and instructors in the U.S., according to the BLS. It's expected that these workers will see 13% employment growth between 2012 and 2022. Fitness trainers and instructors earned a mean annual salary of $39,410 in May 2014, based on BLS figures. However, many fitness workers only worked part-time.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics