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Certified Personal Trainer: Job Description & Career Info

Learn about certification program requirements for personal trainers. Explore job responsibilities, necessary skills, employment outlook and salary data to see if this is the right career choice.

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Career Definition for a Certified Fitness Trainer

A certified personal trainer collaborates with his or her client to create an exercise program meant to improve the client's fitness by augmenting flexibility, reducing body fat, creating defined muscle tone and improving cardiovascular endurance. The trainer determines the client's areas of improvement and then helps set fitness goals, documenting the client's progress along the way.

Required Education Degree in physical education or related field recommended
Necessary Skills Teaching, motivation, communication, interpersonal skills
Average Salary (2015)* $36,160 (for fitness trainers and instructors)
Job Outlook (2014-2024)* 8% (for fitness trainers and instructors)

*Source: U.S. Department of Labor Statistics

Education Required

Though a baccalaureate or even master's degree in physical education or kinesiology is ideal in advancing a personal trainer's career, it's not absolutely necessary. Personal trainers usually must be certified to work in a gym, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and then be recertified after two years. There are plenty of certification programs, most of which tend to offer a certificate in one to six weeks once a written test is passed. A list of accrediting entities are listed on the National Commission for Certifying Agencies Website, and the Distance Education and Training Council is a good source for accredited online programs. Though even an uncertified, self-employed trainer may earn good word of mouth from clients, it behooves the trainer to study physiology, anatomy, nutrition and kinesiology either formally or informally.

Skills Needed

Since a personal trainer's client is clearly hoping to improve and maintain fitness, the trainer should have very sharp motivational, interpersonal and teaching skills. He or she should be able to assess a client's physical and mental strength and endurance, then gauge how hard to push the client and when to be patient.

Career and Salary Prospects

Because of the importance placed on fitness and appearance nowadays, particularly among urban professionals, fitness workers' employment is likely to rise 8% from 2014-2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). BLS data from 2015 also stated that the mean year-round salary of a full-time fitness trainer was $36,160.

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Alternative Careers

Some skills necessary to become a fitness trainer will help you prepare for careers in other areas.

Athletic Trainer

If a career helping people recover from bone and muscle injuries sounds interesting, becoming an athletic trainer could be an option to consider. Athletic trainers create rehabilitation and injury prevention programs for athletes, provide first-aid treatment, wrap or splint limbs and keep accurate records of effectiveness and reactions. To gain employment in this profession, earning a bachelor's degree in a related field is necessary, and most states require athletic trainers to be licensed or certified. This involves completing state education requirements and passing an exam. During the 2014-2024 decade, the BLS projects a 21% increase in job opportunities for athletic trainers, and in May of 2015, the BLS reported that the average salary for these professionals was $44670.

Physical Therapist Assistant

Those who want to improve the well-being and physical health of the sick and injured through physical activity should think about a career as a physical therapy assistant. These assistants support the rehabilitation plan laid out by physical therapists and help patients through exercises, stretching and giving massages. They also observe patients and record responses to treatment. An associate degree in physical therapy is generally required in order to enter the field, and almost all states except Hawaii also require licensure or professional certification. According to the BLS, employment of physical therapist assistants and aides should grow by 40% between 2014 and 2024. Assistants received an average wage of $55,170, as stated by the BLS in 2015.

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