How Much Do Personal Trainers Make?

Personal trainers or fitness trainers have the opportunity to create a fulfilling career.  Trainers can find employment most typically with fitness centers or health clubs, though there are additional opportunities in the private sector with larger companies, insurance companies and within the healthcare field.  Salaried positions are available though there are also excellent prospects for trainers to operate as entrepreneurs.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage of fitness trainers and instructors was $31,090 in May 2010. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent less than $17,070, and the top 10 percent earned more than $63,400.

A slightly more current salary estimation from Salary.com, which bases its estimates on surveys from hundreds of Human Resources departments from companies of all sizes and from all geographies, show the median salary for a fitness trainer at $47,499.

ACE Fitness does a salary survey of Personal Trainers, Group Fitness Instructors and trainers with Advanced Certifications (AHFS and LWMC).  According to their 2010 survey, the Northeast has the highest average salaries followed by the Southeast then the Southwest.  Additionally, their survey shows that average salary rates for full-time personal trainers have increased by 19% since 2005.  Also, the top 5 states/territories reporting the highest annual income for fitness professionals includes the District of Columbia, Rhode Island, Oklahoma, Kansas and Maine.

Some group fitness instructors and personal fitness trainers work other full-time jobs and teach fitness classes or offer personal training sessions during the week or on the weekend. Fitness trainers and instructors may work nights, weekends, or holidays. Some travel to different gyms or to clients’ homes to teach classes or offer personal training sessions.

According to Payscale.com, hourly rates for fitness trainers can range from just over $9.50 up to almost $26.00.  Geography, experience, the number of different types of certifications and whether a trainer is independent or working for a fitness center are just some of the factors that can affect hourly rates.

From 2010 to 2020, jobs in fitness training are expected to grow 24% which is higher than the average for all jobs.  There are certain areas within fitness training that will be spawning much of this growth.  Some of these areas include:

  • Large companies – as larger companies realize the benefits of having healthier employees, proactive fitness programs are expected to expand.  Whether the company itself hires a fitness trainer or contracts with a fitness center that provides trainers, either way it will stimulate job creation in the field.
  • Baby Boomers - as the largest generation continues to age there will be higher demand for wellness care for adults over the age of 65.
  • Millenials – unfortunately the second largest generation in terms of size, the Millenials or Gen Y, are not starting off on average as the healthiest generation.  Obesity, poor diets and increasing diabetes rates are plaguing this generation.  Both the government and private sector companies are expected to address the health issues of the youngest generation in the coming years, creating new job opportunities.

Yoga and Pilates are two of the fastest growing sub-categories in the fitness area.  These exercise styles are safe for virtually every age group and can be less likely to cause exercise related injuries than aerobics, running and other more vigorous fitness disciplines.  As the demand for classes in these areas rise so too will the employment opportunities.

Some interesting additional insights into the fitness trainer filed also came of the ACE Fitness 2010 Salary Survey:

  • 69% of fitness professionals are paid hourly.
  • Over 1/3 of all fitness professionals work 21-40 hours per week, with 10% working over 40 hours.
  • 51% of personal trainers work for a club/fitness facility while 49% work independently.
  • Resistance training, traditional aerobics and step training are among the top areas of expertise among group fitness instructors.
  • 69% of personal trainers work with overweight or obese adults.
  • 68% of personal trainers work with older adults.

For those personal trainers with the experience to advance, typically a bachelor’s degree and a minimum of 5 years experience, career opportunities as a Fitness Director will begin to open up.  The median salary for a Fitness Director is a little over $76,000, according to Salary.com. The most common employment for a Fitness Director is with a fitness center though there are additional employment opportunities with larger companies and healthcare facilities.

The personal trainer or fitness trainer field has excellent prospects for the future, especially if a trainer specializes in some of the areas with the best growth projections.  The more certifications a trainer can obtain, the better their salary expectations.  And there are opportunities to move into a management position for a dedicated trainer.

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