Be a Fitness Teacher: Course and Degree Program Requirements

Jan 02, 2019

Learn how to become a fitness teacher. Research the education and career requirements, certification, and experience required for starting a career as a fitness teacher.

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Fitness Teacher Career Info

Also called instructors or trainers, fitness teachers lead and instruct those who are interested in improving their physical conditioning and getting into better shape. Clients may include individuals of all ages and conditioning levels, and these teachers may focus on strength training, stretching, cardiovascular exercise, or a combination of all three. In addition to creating fitness plans, these teachers show clients how to perform exercises and monitor their progress, making this an often physically challenging profession.

Degree Level High school diploma
Certification Voluntary; certification for fitness professionals is available through a number of organizations
Experience A background in fitness and being in shape are important
Key Skills Must be physically fit, have strong communication skills, and be detail-oriented
Salary (2015) $36,160 per year (Median annual salary for fitness trainers and instructors)*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Monster.com job postings (September 2012)

Graduate from High School

Employers often prefer to hire fitness trainers and instructors who have at least graduated from high school. While in high school, students can take courses in health and physical education to prepare for a career in the field. Additionally, taking science-related courses prepares students for postsecondary education.

Consider a Postsecondary Program

Whether it's an associate's or bachelor's degree, prospective fitness teachers can enroll in postsecondary programs related to exercise science or kinesiology. In addition to classes involving fitness and strength training, students learn about human anatomy, nutrition, human development, and exercise science. Earning a degree in the field may prepare graduates for certification examinations as well.

Fitness programs at this level can focus on specialties such as group exercise, Pilates, yoga, personal training, and kickboxing. Learning to teach a specific program may enhance employment opportunities, as gyms and fitness centers look for classes that cater to different types of members.

Obtain Certification

Fitness certification is available from several different organizations. The Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) offers many accredited fitness certification programs. The association's personal fitness trainer certification program gives in-depth instruction on the duties and responsibilities of a personal trainer and prepares students for the Personal Fitness Trainer National Board exam. The AFAA also offers certification programs in group exercise, step aerobics, and kickboxing.

The National Association for Fitness Certification offers certifications in personal training, health and wellness, group fitness, and wellness consultation. Aspiring fitness instructors learn how to assess the fitness level of clients, design fitness plans to meet client goals, and educate clients on weight management and nutrition. With certification, training, and experience, fitness teachers may be able to become personal trainers, employed with gyms or working freelance. Personal training often offers more income opportunity.


To recap, many aspiring fitness trainers need a high school diploma, though some postsecondary education and additional training can help them secure jobs and earn certification in the field.

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