Personal Trainer Salary: Everything You Need To Know

Personal trainers serve an important purpose in society by helping individuals live healthy lifestyles and achieve the physical states they have always wanted. Through their work, they motivate, support, and educate people of all backgrounds.

This article will go over everything you need to know about personal trainers. We will cover, first and foremost, what a personal trainer is. Then we will look into the necessary education and certification. Following that, we will outline the various career paths that personal trainers take. Then, of course, we will take a look at the average personal trainer salary.

What is a Personal Trainer?

Trainer watching a patient

The personal trainer offers a multi-faceted service. Personal trainers generally fall under the categories of fitness trainers or aerobics instructors. Regardless of their specific role, however, personal trainers help people meet their fitness goals.

You can find personal trainers in a wide variety of settings. You will find them in clubs, gyms, private businesses, and even in clinical practices. The personal trainer salary and day to day work will naturally vary depending on the setting.

Personal trainers offer instruction. They teach their clients how to perform various exercises with a safe and correct technique. They also teach clients the background health information necessary for meeting their fitness goals efficiently and intelligently.

Personal trainers usually do much more than teaching, however. They provide their clients with the necessary motivation to push through difficult physical challenges. They offer a degree of psychological support, which helps their clients bounce back from setbacks.

Below are some of the specific tasks that a personal trainer can expect to complete during a typical work day:

  • Personal trainers often teach and demonstrate how to use fitness machines and equipment.
  • They teach clients how to perform their exercises safely.
  • They monitor their clients as they go about their exercises, making sure that they are maintaining proper technique.
  • They create a personalized diet and exercise plans for their clients.
  • They monitor their clients’ progress in enacting these plans, making any necessary changes to diet and exercise regimens along the way.
  • They provide their clients with information and resources related to nutrition, weight management, and healthy living.
  • Sometimes, personal trainers also act as businessmen and women. They serve as ambassadors for their gyms, and they may sell products, memberships, and other services.

Education & Certification

Woman writing some notes on a paper

In most cases, personal trainers will need to have at least a high school diploma or equivalent before they can qualify for any of the required examinations.

Personal trainers will also need to earn certification for automated external defibrillators (AED) and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Because they work with clients in a highly physical capacity, personal trainers must be able to recognize medical emergencies and swiftly address them.

In the event of any sort of cardiac or breathing emergency, the personal trainer is often the client’s last line of defense before professional first responders arrive.


Personal trainers will also need to determine a fitness specialty. This decision is necessary before they can embark on their unique career pathway. They will need to consider their skills, interests, and professional goals. For instance, do they prefer working in groups or with individuals? Do they have a stronger interest in crafting fitness programs or in implementing them?

Different personal trainer pathways can have varying requirements. Those hoping to become personal trainers will need to do the necessary research to find out what exact certifications their chosen path demands.

Personal trainer candidates have some options when it comes to where they receive their certification. Some prominent organizations include the American Council on Exercise, the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, and the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

Regardless of where they choose to receive their certification, personal trainer candidates will need to prepare for and take exams. They can take exam prep courses or multi-session training classes. They can also earn undergraduate degrees in various exercise sciences, or even graduate degrees in kinesiology.

Undergraduate and graduate level courses will go deeper into the knowledge necessary to be a personal trainer, and they will usually make one a much more attractive job candidate. While they require more time and money, they often result in a higher personal trainer salary.

However they prepare, every personal trainer will need to pass an exam. The specific exam will depend on what type of trainer they hope to become and where they are seeking their certification. Usually, registration will involve an application process as well as a fee.

The exams themselves are often a computer-based and multiple choice. Candidates can expect to have to answer between 120 and 150 multiple choice questions. These questions will cover a number of sections, such as program planning, client consultation, fitness assessment, exercise technique, and safety/emergency issues.

Usually, education and certification alone will only get a trainer’s foot through the door. Just as important as one’s education and certification, is the personal trainer’s work experience and portfolio. In many cases, these are the factors that will determine the personal trainer salary. Trainers will need to build a robust portfolio of clientele in order to be strong candidates.

Career Path

Trainer helping his patient on doing some dumbells

Personal trainers have a number of career paths available to them. The personal trainer salary and day to day work will vary depending on the path they choose.

In general, there are five career specializations available to personal trainers. These include the exercise physiologist, the sports nutritionist, the group exercise instructor, the corrective exercise specialist, and the strength and conditioning coach.

Exercise Physiologist

Exercise physiologists have a special knowledge of the body’s responses to stress from physical activity. They work with a wide variety of clients, from professional athletes to patients with chronic diseases. Usually, to become an exercise physiologist, one must earn an undergraduate degree in kinesiology or exercise science at the very least.

Sports Nutritionist

Sports nutritionists are experts in nutrition. They have a specialized understanding of how the body uses food energy to perform physically. They work with sports teams, patients in wellness programs, and schools to develop menus, implement nutritional programs, and provide nutritional counseling. Usually, to become a sports nutritionist, one needs a bachelor’s degree in nutrition, kinesiology, exercise science, or a related field.

Group Exercise Instructor

Group exercise instructors design and facilitate group personal training classes. Their classes can cover a wide variety of fitness activities, like yoga, aerobics, cycling, and Pilates. This work is often highly physical, as these instructors often lead the activities through example. Usually, one does not need to pursue higher education to become a group exercise instructor.

Corrective Exercise Specialist

Corrective exercise specialists are experts in posture and body movement. They often deal with flexibility problems, joint pain, and muscle instability. To address these issues, they need to form exercise programs and assess and instruct their clients. One can usually become a corrective exercise specialist with professional experience and certification.

Strength and Conditioning Coach

These coaches help their clients improve athletic ability and avoid injuries. They often work with sports teams, but they can also be found in physical therapy clinics, fitness clubs, and high schools. Usually, one will need a bachelor’s degree and certification to become a strength and conditioning coach.

Average Personal Trainer Salary

Trainer helping a woman doing sit-ups

With the growing importance placed on physical health and appearance, the demand for personal trainers has increased. Naturally, pay has also seen a significant rise over the last several years. It should be noted, though, that as there are many different types of personal trainers, the salaries can vary widely.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, personal trainers, on average, earn an hourly wage of $18.95. The average personal trainer salary is $39,410.

These averages, however, fall within wide ranges. The hourly rate can range from $10 to $50, while the annual salary can range from $28,000 to $81,000.

There are many factors that determine these pay scales. For example, pay can differ depending on the workplace. Private studios, for example, often pay more than health clubs.

Pay can also vary based on the location. The highest personal trainer salaries are in San Francisco, California; Somerset, New Jersey; New York, New York; Chicago, Illinois; Portland, Oregon; Yuma, Arizona; Houston, Texas; and Miami, Florida. In these cities, the salaries can get as high as $50 to $70 thousand.

Another factor that plays a huge role in determining the personal trainer salary is the specialization and its specific education requirements. In general, the more education a specialization demands, the higher the pay will be.

Those hoping to become personal trainers should also consider the clientele that their chosen career path will expose them to. Naturally, an exercise physiologist working with a professional athlete will likely earn much more than a group exercise instructor at a local gym.


People aiming to become personal trainers can find comfort in the sheer variety the profession offers. There are many different specializations a personal trainer can pursue. It should be noted, however, that the pay can vary widely depending on the chosen career path.

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