Physical Trainer: Job Description & Career Requirements

Mar 22, 2019

A physical trainer helps people of all ages and fitness levels to safely improve their physical condition through exercise and proper diet. Read on to learn more about the required education, necessary skills, salary and employment outlook to decide if this is the career for you.

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Career Definition for a Physical Trainer

These days a successful physical trainer is expected to do more than simply shout directions at his or her willing victim inside a sweaty gym. Today's physical trainers are required to be knowledgeable in the areas of nutrition, weight loss, physical rehabilitation, stress management, and sports medicine, just to name a few. Education for a physical trainer takes from three months to four or more years and includes certification from an accredited institution.

Required Education Academic and certification program completion required by many employers, though requirements vary
Job Duties Giving directions to training session attendees; giving nutrition, weight loss and other advice
Mean Salary (2017)* $43,720 (all fitness trainers and aerobics instructors)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 10% growth (all fitness trainers and aerobics instructors)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Becoming a physical trainer is fairly easy to do and the requirements vary, but always include the completion of a physical training program from an accredited organization. There are two main paths to a career in physical training: academic with certification or certification only, but be aware that more and more employers are requiring the completion of both academic and certification programs. The academic/certification path will require a 2- or 4-year degree in a field such as sports medicine or physical education plus the completion of an accredited certification program. Certification courses may take from 3-12 months and can be done through home-study. In both cases, coursework will include topics such as nutrition, business management, sports medicine, and physiology. Currently, there are few regulations guiding the industry of physical training and standards are largely set by employers so it is important to decide what environment you would like to work in and make sure your education meets the general guidelines for that workplace.

Required Skills

Those aspiring to a career as a physical trainer must be energetic, enthusiastic, and enjoy helping others reach their goals. Also, in order to relate successfully with clients, a physical trainer must be as interested in listening as they are in teaching. Depending on the work environment they choose, a physical trainer may need to be skilled at self-promotion and experienced in the basics of running a small business.

Career and Economic Outlook

With a continued growing interest in physical fitness, the number of places a physical trainer may find employment also continues to grow. Along with working at a fitness club or as a private physical trainer, spas, resorts, hotels, cruise ships, country clubs, rehabilitation clinics, hospitals, and businesses with on-site gyms also provide opportunities to launch a successful career in physical training. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the field of fitness trainers and aerobic instructors will grow at a rate of 10% between 2016 and 2026, which is faster than average when compared to other occupations. The mean annual income for a trainer was $43,720 in May 2017, per the BLS.

Alternate Career Options

Here are some examples of alternative career options:

Athletic Trainer

These trainers normally have bachelor's degrees and work with people of all ages in the prevention and treatment of muscle and bone injuries or illnesses. Much faster than average employment growth of 23% was projected by the BLS for athletic trainers, during the 2016-2026 decade. They earned a mean annual salary of $48,630 in 2017, the BLS reported.

Physical Therapist Assistant

An associate's degree from an accredited program is the most common entry point to this career that had much faster than average employment growth of 31% predicted by the BLS, from 2016-2026. Supervised by physical therapists, these assistants help patients who are in the process of recovering from illness or injury regain their mobility. The average salary reported by the BLS in 2017 for this occupation was $57,620 per year.

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