Highest Paying Fitness Careers

As more and more people strive to become healthier, fitness careers are growing and provide numerous well-paying positions. We discuss a handful of some of the highest paying fitness careers.

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Highest Paying Fitness Career Options

For those interested in a career involving fitness, there are several different options that pay relatively well. Although fitness is often not the highest paying industry, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports several fitness careers that had a median pay greater than $45,000 in 2016. Learn about some of the highest paying fitness careers here.

Job Title Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2014-2024)*
Exercise Physiologists $47,340 11%
Athletic Trainers $45,630 21%
Recreation and Fitness Studies Teachers, Postsecondary $59,180 10%
Fitness Trainers and Aerobics Instructors $38,160 8%
Recreational Therapists $46,410 12%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information for the Highest Paying Fitness Careers

Exercise Physiologists

The top 25% of exercise physiologists made about $60,000 or more in 2016, per the BLS. They use fitness and exercise programs that they develop to help their patients improve their health. Depending on the patient's needs, they may help the patient increase flexibility, improve cardiovascular function, and more. Their patients often are recovering from chronic diseases and need individualized plans and supervision to keep them safe as they work to grow stronger. Exercise physiologists need at least a bachelor's degree and some clinical work.

Athletic Trainers

Athletic trainers specialize in working with athletes to help prevent, diagnose, and treat various sports and fitness related injuries and illnesses. Typically these complications are in the bones or muscles, and athletic trainers help create treatment and rehabilitation plans involving various exercises and stretches to help athletes recover. They also attend sporting events to provide first-aid and emergency care as necessary. The BLS reports that the top 25% of athletic trainers made more than $56,000 in 2016. They need a bachelor's degree, and most will need a state license or certification.

Recreation and Fitness Studies Teachers, Postsecondary

One of the highest paying fitness jobs is that of a postsecondary teacher who specializes in teaching recreation and/or fitness studies. The BLS stated that the top 10% of these professionals earned over $119,000 in 2016. These teachers educate students through various courses in the field, and many also conduct their own independent research for their institution. Teaching requires them to develop their own curriculum and assessments, and possibly oversee the work of graduate students. Recreation and fitness studies teachers at this level typically hold a Ph.D., but some institutions may only require a master's degree.

Fitness Trainers and Aerobics Instructors

Despite having the lowest median salary for 2016 out of this group of careers, the top 10% of fitness trainers and aerobics instructors made over $72,000 in the same year, according to the BLS. They may work with individuals or small groups to help them set and reach their fitness goals. This involves teaching and leading various exercise programs, watching and correcting participants to improve technique, and enforcing safety rules. Trainers and instructors also provide information to their clients about nutrition and lifestyle issues, and are qualified to deliver emergency first-aid if necessary. They usually have certification, but education requirements vary by employer.

Recreational Therapists

Similar to fitness trainers and aerobics instructors, recreational therapists had a lower median salary for 2016, and the top 10% of these workers also made over $72,000 in 2016, per the BLS. Recreational therapists work with injured, ill, or disabled patients to help improve their social, physical, mental, and emotional health. They use various recreational activities to do this, such as arts and crafts, music, drama, and dance, as well as fitness activities like aquatics and sports. These activities help their patients deal with issues like depression or anxiety, and recreational therapists carefully monitor a patient's progress. These professionals need a bachelor's degree, and many are required to be certified by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC).

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