The Average Salary of a Personal Trainer Throughout the Country
If you have a passion for fitness, a career as a personal trainer can be very rewarding. Employment opportunities are on the rise, as more people become interested in improving their overall physical health. This growing awareness of the importance of regular exercise has also lead to an increase in salaries for personal trainers at all levels.
What Is a Personal Trainer?
Personal trainers are professionals who work one-on-one with people of all ages, skills, and ability levels to help them achieve specific fitness goals. They provide feedback and promote accountability. For example:
- Trainers demonstrate how to perform different exercises, watch clients perform exercises, and correct errors in form.
- Trainers modify exercises for clients who have mobility issues or injuries that limit their ability to exercise effectively.
- Trainers help clients make healthy lifestyle choices by offering general information about nutrition.
- Trainers emphasize the importance of following safety precautions while exercising to prevent injuries.
- In the event of an emergency, trainers provide first aid.
Personal trainers can provide general assistance, but many specialize in a particular area. Examples of areas of expertise include:
- Muscle building
- Fat loss
- Sports performance
- Strength and conditioning
- Toning and sculpting
- Postural rehabilitation
- Flexibility and mobility condition
- Cardiovascular fitness
- Health rehabilitation
- Lifestyle coaching
- Pre- and post- natal fitness for women
Personal trainers are not qualified to give medical advice, provide massage, or offer psychological counseling. Going beyond the scope of their duties opens them up to possible legal action. However, most personal trainers do have professional liability insurance to protect them against claims relating to professional liability, sexual abuse liability, products liability, medical payments, and damage to premises.
Personal trainers must provide services at a time that best fits the needs of their clients. This means that nights and weekend hours are to be expected as a standard part of the job.
Where Do Personal Trainers Work?
Personal trainers work in a wide range of locations, including in fitness facilities, in their own homes, and in client homes. As the general public has become more comfortable seeking services online, many trainers have even carved out a niche offering virtual personal training lessons via live webcam feeds for clients who live far away or can’t travel.
The Occupational Outlook Handbook reports the following sources of employment for fitness trainers:
- Fitness and recreational sport centers: 58%
- Civic and social organizations: 12%
- Self-employment: 10%
- Educational services: 5%
- Government: 4%
- Healthcare and social assistance: 4%
Less common places for personal trainers to work include outdoor boot camps, corporate wellness centers, resorts, cruise ships, athletic performance centers, and apartment complexes. If you are seeking a position as a personal trainer, keep your search broad to make sure you’re not overlooking an opportunity that’s perfect for your skillset.
How Much Does a Personal Trainer Earn?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean hourly wage for fitness trainers in May 2015 was $19.70. The mean annual wage was $40,970. Percentile earnings figures were as follows:
- 10%: $8.98 per hour and $18,690 per year
- 25%: $11.19 per hour and $23,280 per year
- 50%: $17.39 per hour and $36,160 per year
- 75%: $25.45 per hour and $52,940 per year
- 90%: $ 33.74 per hour and $70,180 per year
If you’re interested in the personal trainer salary in each state, keep in mind that the top paying states for fitness trainers as of May 2015 were:
- New York: With 15,970 openings for fitness trainers, New York had an hourly mean wage of $28.76 and an annual mean wage of $59,830. This makes it the highest paying state for personal trainers and a good bet for anyone who is seeking to maximize their professional earning potential.
- New Jersey: With 9,670 openings for fitness trainers, New Jersey had an hourly mean wage of $24.58 and an annual mean wage of $51,130.
- California: With 27,540 openings for fitness trainers, California had an hourly mean wage of $23.82 and an annual mean wage of $49,450.
- Connecticut: With 3,860 openings for fitness trainers, Connecticut had an hourly mean wage of $22.99 and an annual mean wage of $47,820.
- District of Columbia: With 1,170 openings for fitness trainers, the District of Columbia had an hourly mean wage of $22.37 and an annual mean wage of $46,520.
To be more specific, you can look at which portions of each state have the highest paying jobs for personal trainers. The top paying metropolitan areas for fitness trainers as of May 2015 were:
- New York-Jersey City-White Plains, NY-NJ Metropolitan Division: With 14,330 openings for fitness trainers, this area had an hourly mean wage of $31.65 and an annual mean wage of $65,830.
- San Rafael, CA Metropolitan Division: With 780 openings for fitness trainers, this area had an hourly mean wage of $28.74 and an annual mean wage of $59,780.
- Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT: With 1,440 openings for fitness trainers, this area had an hourly mean wage of $28.07 and an annual mean wage of $58,390.
- Salinas, CA: With 220 openings for fitness trainers, this area had an hourly mean wage of $27.41 and an annual mean wage of $57,010.
- Santa Rosa, CA: With 710 openings for fitness trainers, this area had an hourly mean wage of $26.95 and an annual mean wage of $56,060.
Of course, not everyone who wants to be a personal trainer wishes to live in a big city. Those who are seeking a slower paced existence should be aware that there are lots of good paying jobs in smaller communities as well. The top paying nonmetropolitan areas for fitness trainers as of May 2015 were:
- Nantucket Island and Martha’s Vineyard Nonmetropolitan Area: With 40 openings for fitness trainers, this area had an hourly mean wage of $41.55 and an annual mean wage of $86,420.
- Northwest Colorado Nonmetropolitan Area: With 240 openings for fitness trainers, this area had an hourly mean wage of $27.02 and an annual mean wage of $56,200.
- North Coast Region of California Nonmetropolitan Area: With 400 openings for fitness trainers, this area had an hourly mean wage of $23.04 and an annual mean wage of $47,910.
- Balance of Alaska Nonmetropolitan Area: With 60 openings for fitness trainers, this area had an hourly mean wage of $22.87 and an annual mean wage of $47,580.
- Northern Mountains Region of California Nonmetropolitan Area: With 280 openings for fitness trainers, this area had an hourly mean wage of $22.46 and an annual mean wage of $46,720.
When exploring geographic differences in the salary of a personal trainer, keep in mind that the cost of living varies widely from state to state. For example, New York and California regularly rank as states with very high costs of living. When you consider how your location affects your living expenses, taking a job with a slightly lower salary in a more affordable location may be the smarter financial decision.
What Are the Highest Paying Gyms for Personal Trainers?
Since employee salary data for private companies is not a matter of public record, it’s difficult to accurately determine which gyms provide the most generous compensation for their personal trainers. However, PayScale.com attempts to shed some light on the question with user-reported salary data. Their figures indicate that the following gyms have the most generous salaries:
- Fitness Together: A personal training franchise with 170 locations across the country, Fitness Together pays its personal trainers $42,000 to $102,000 per year.
- Equinox: Equinox Fitness is a luxury fitness company nationally headquartered in New York City. Their trainers make $31,000 to $62,000 per year.
- In Shape Health Clubs: With 74 locations throughout California, In Shape Health Clubs pays its personal trainers $19,000 to $52,000 per year.
- Gold’s Gym: A nationwide chain of co-ed fitness centers founded in 1965 and headquartered in Dallas, Gold’s Gym pays its personal trainers $31,000 to $51,000 per year.
- 24 Hour Fitness: As the world’s largest privately owned and operated fitness chain, 24 Hour Fitness pays its personal trainers $25,000 to $47,000 per year.
PayScale.com’s data is perhaps most interesting in that it shows salaries for self-employed trainers as ranging from $25,000 to $37,000 per year. This is significantly lower than salaries for trainers who are employed with major fitness centers. However, self-employed personal trainers typically enjoy more flexible schedules. Those with children at home or other personal obligations may not be working full time hours either.
How Much Do Fitness Trainers Make Compared to Other Professions?
According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, personal trainers had a median annual pay of $36,160 in 2015. Here’s how this compares to people in the fitness industry with similar roles:
- Physical therapists: Physical therapists evaluate injured or ill people and create customized exercise programs to help them manage pain and improve their range of movement. They generally have a doctoral or professional degree and earn a median annual salary of $84,020.
- Exercise physiologists: Exercise physiologists develop exercise and fitness programs designed to help patients improve flexibility, cardiovascular function, and body composition or recover from chronic diseases. They generally have a bachelor’s degree and earn a median annual salary of $47,010 per year.
- Recreational therapists: Recreational therapists help coordinate, direct, and plan sports, arts and crafts, music, and community-based recreation programs for people with disabilities, injuries, or serious illnesses. They generally have a bachelor’s degree and earn a median annual salary of $45,890 per year.
- Athletic trainers: Athletic trainers specialize in the prevention and treatment of muscle and bone injuries for competitive athletes. They generally have a bachelor’s degree and earn a median annual salary of $44,670 per year.
- Physical therapy aides and assistants: Physical therapy aides and assistants work under the direct supervision of a physical therapist to help patients improve their range of movement and reduce pain. They must have a high school diploma, complete on-the-job training, and earn a license or certification from their state. Physical therapy aides and assistants have a median annual salary of $42,980 per year.
- Recreation workers: Recreation workers lead athletic, arts and crafts, music, or other related programs in playgrounds, camps, aquatic centers, senior centers, and other recreation facilities. They generally have a high school diploma and earn a median annual salary of $23,320 per year.
What Advancement Opportunities Do Personal Trainers Have?
Motivated and ambitious personal trainers can increase their earning potential by developing new areas of expertise, so they are qualified to charge more per training session. However, the most common way for a trainer to advance in his or her career is to become a manager. In a health club or fitness center, the top trainer is often promoted to office manager. He or she then schedules sessions with clients, manages the budget, supervises staff, and recruits new trainers.
Another avenue for advancing a personal training career is to become a fitness educator. This means teaching continuing education workshops for other personal trainers. Volunteering at industry conferences and taking advantage of networking opportunities for ongoing professional development can be a great way to break into this aspect of the industry.
What Future Trends Will Predict Employment Opportunities for Personal Trainers?
No one can predict the future for certain, but all signs point to strong career prospects for people interested in becoming personal trainers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the employment of fitness trainers and instructors will grow 8% from 2014 to 2024. There were 279,100 opportunities for fitness trainers and instructors in 2014 and there is a predicted employment of 302,500 in 2024. This represents an added 23,400 jobs and is slightly above the national average growth rate of 7% for all occupations.
Other trends of interest to those seeking employment in the fitness industry include:
- Battle to combat obesity: Obesity is becoming a major public health crisis in the United States, bring an increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems, and other chronic ailments. Personal trainers who specialize in helping obese clients slim down by creating an exercise program they can reasonably do given their current limitations will be in high demand for years to come.
- Growth in corporate wellness programs: Corporations of all sizes and in every industry are starting to realize that overweight and out of shape employees are not the most productive. To minimize insurance costs and maximize company profits, they’re investing in on-site corporate wellness programs with personal trainer services provided as employee benefit.
- Growing interest in Pilates and yoga: As for specific areas of expertise, there is expected to be an increase in demand for professionals with a background in Pilates and/or yoga. As the general population ages, there will be more people seeking out low-impact forms of exercise that can treat age-related ailments such as arthritis and other types of joint problems. Yoga is also growing in popularity for its ability to help participants manage stress while improving their overall fitness level.
- Trainers with a military background: Military veterans are widely respected for their physical fitness, dedication, leadership skills, and ability to motivate others. This makes them uniquely in demand as personal trainers. Clients with no previous background in the military often find the structure and intensity of military workouts to be attractive.
What Qualifications Do You Need to Be a Personal Trainer?
Personal trainers come from all walks of life. The general public often thinks of a trainer as someone who is young and naturally very fit, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Older adults and those who’ve lost significant amounts of weight on their own fitness journeys bring unique skillsets to the table.
A successful personal trainer must have the following qualities:
- Physical fitness: Obviously, a personal trainer must be in excellent physical condition. Trainers exercise with their clients and are seen as fitness role models. A fitness trainer who neglects his or her own workout routine isn’t going to keep clients for long.
- Strong motivational skills: Getting and staying fit is a challenge for many people. A successful trainer needs to motivate clients to stay focused on their goal. This can involve listening to a client’s own story as well as sharing details from your own personal fitness journey.
- Customer service skills: Personal trainers must be polite, encouraging, and able to focus on providing a positive customer service experience. Many trainers get new clients via word of mouth advertising, so unhappy customers are bad for business.
- Communication skills: A successful trainer needs to accurately convey the specifics of a workout routine in a way that the client can understand without making the exercise sound too intimidating.
In terms of education, the bare minimum qualification for seeking a job as a personal trainer is a high school diploma. However, growing numbers of employers are asking that trainers have either an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree in an area such as exercise science, kinesiology, or physical education. Post-secondary training in exercise techniques, nutrition, biology, and anatomy prepares a trainer to more effectively serve a broader range of clients.
A personal trainer who aspires to service clients independently would also benefit from courses in sales, marketing, and accounting. Owning a small business can be very rewarding, but there are many logistical challenges involved. Basic entrepreneurship training helps make the administrative side of running a business more manageable.
For those who do not want to earn a post-secondary degree or those who are seeking a career change after earning a degree in an unrelated field, certifications can be way to distinguish themselves in a competitive job market. Certifications are also more affordable and quicker to complete than earning an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree.
For example, ISTA (International Strength Training Association) certification prepares you to help clients train for marathons or fitness events, lose weight, or just feel better about themselves and their overall physical health. You can study for the certification exam from the comfort of your own home, with convenient and affordable online testing options. Once you’ve completed the necessary requirements, you certification is valid for two years.
ISTA is recognized as an affiliate of the National Board of Fitness Examiners (NBFE). This organization sets the standard for training in the fitness industry, encouraging the highest possible commitment to quality and service. Review the Personal Trainer Certification page of the ISTA website to learn more.
After earning certification, most personal trainers will work alongside an experienced trainer for a brief time period. This helps them apply their skills in a professional environment and gives them the expertise they need to tackle the challenge of training clients alone.