Physical Fitness Management: Training and Education Program Options

Oct 20, 2019

Essential Information

Completion of a certificate program leads to management-level employment in private health clubs, community wellness centers, physical therapy clinics and personal training studios. Associate's and bachelor's degree programs are also available in sports and fitness management. Common prerequisites to all programs include a high school diploma or GED.

Studies focus not only on advanced management and business principles and practices, but also on exercise science, health sciences, and sports therapy. Completion of a degree program leads to personal trainer certification. Students can also partake in an optional internship scheme.

Certificate Training Programs: Fitness Business Management

Certificate programs in fitness business management primarily train individuals in managing commercial or non-commercial fitness and health businesses, which include gyms and community fitness centers. Programs incorporate fewer than a dozen courses over 1-2 semesters, and are open to anyone regardless of prior education or experience. Programs are partly or fully online, with the 100% online programs offered through asynchronous coursework requiring no set class times.

Many online and on-campus certificate programs in fitness business management culminate with an optional internship providing students with on-the-job experience in a fitness center or health club, working with customers and networking with other health and fitness industry professionals. Individual classes focus on fundamental business subjects as they relate to health and fitness:

  • Fitness and health business development
  • Entrepreneurial endeavors related to physical fitness
  • Customer service management
  • Sales and marketing strategies
  • Fundamentals of business administration and finance

Associate's Degree Programs: Sports & Fitness Management

Sports and fitness management associate's degree programs take 2 years to complete and involve many of the same core courses as the certificate programs, with the addition of general education classes. The majority of associate's degree programs in sports and fitness management do not have specific prerequisites for admission.

Associate's degree program coursework in fitness management and related academic fields involves instruction and training in business practices and procedures, health sciences, and fitness programs. In addition to their general education coursework in math, communications and humanities, courses in these programs include:

  • Anatomy and physiology related to common sports injuries
  • Fundamentals of human health and wellness
  • Computer applications, accounting and entrepreneurship
  • First aid, safety and CPR
  • Kinesiology

Bachelor's Degree Programs: Sports Management

For many students, the next rung up on the educational ladder after completing an associate's degree program is a bachelor's degree program. Many credits earned in an associate's degree program in sports and fitness management are transferable to a bachelor's degree program.

Bachelor's degree programs take 4 years to complete, with general education courses, along with coursework in marketing, promotion, and finance for fitness management. Some common classes include:

  • Principles of structural kinesiology
  • Professional procedures and office practices related to fitness management
  • Sports ethics and history in U.S. culture
  • Strategies for planning and organizing sports-related functions and events
  • Programming for recreational and therapeutic sporting activities

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted occupational opportunities in fitness training and instruction to increase by 13% between 2018 and 2028, much faster compared to all other occupations. Growth was due to an increased emphasis on health and wellness for aging and obese populations ( In 2018, about 308,470 fitness trainers and aerobics instructors were employed nationally, according to the BLS. These professionals earned a mean annual wage of $44,580 in May 2018.

Popular Careers

Managers and directors of fitness and health-related clubs supervise employees and are involved in much, if not all, of the facility's day-to-day operations, such as designing and implementing new member services and workout programs. Graduates with an associate's degree in physical fitness management may also find employment as:

  • Coaches and umpires
  • Recreation workers
  • Fitness trainers
  • Aerobics instructors

Continuing Education

Some associate's degree programs are designed to prepare students for the National Council on Strength and Fitness certified personal trainer exam (NCSF-CPT). Once an individual passes this test, he or she is awarded the professional credential of Certified Personal Trainer. Graduates can transfer the credits earned if they choose to transfer to a bachelor's degree program.

Physical fitness management training is available at the certificate, associate's and bachelor's degree levels. Graduates often go on to start popular careers as fitness trainers or coaches and umpires, among others.

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