Business | Training Tips

How Much Do Beginner Personal Trainers Make?

 ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, How Much Do Beginner Personal Trainers Make?

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Personal training is a rewarding career. When you see a client achieve a new fitness goal, your smile is as big as theirs. And if you work with athletes, your training program can help them achieve maximum performance. You play a critical role in their sports success.

But let’s also be real. It doesn’t matter how rewarding personal training is if, when you do it, you can’t pay your bills. That’s why it’s important to know what type of personal trainer salary to expect, especially when you’re new. This begins by looking at wages for this position overall.

Personal Trainer Salary Data

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides salary information for all sorts of job roles within the U.S. One of the roles it reports data on is fitness trainers and instructors. In 2020, the median pay for a fitness trainer—which includes a personal trainer—was $40,510 per year according to the BLS. Broken down, this is an hourly rate of $19.48.

It’s important to know that this is not the average personal trainer salary, but the median. This means that one-half of all trainers earn more than this amount. The other half earn less. As the median, this is the salary that lies right in the middle. This can be different than the average. (The average is calculated by adding together all salaries and divided this number by the total salaries used.)

The BLS goes on to explain that the highest salary earners in this career role make $76,550 per year or more. The lowest earners make $21,640 or less. 

Other salary providers may show a different number. For example, Glassdoor indicates that a certified personal trainer makes roughly $40,585 per year. This is similar to the BLS amount. Yet, Salary.com reports that the median income for a personal trainer is $62,288 per year. 

Keep this in mind when doing your research. The annual salary and hourly wage can vary greatly from one site to the next. Look at all of the data to get a better idea of what you can realistically expect to earn.

How Much Do Beginner Personal Trainers Make?

When first starting out, you may not have a full client list. Your rates may be lower as well. Together, this can reduce your income potential. So, an entry level personal trainer will likely fall in the middle to lower end of the salary range.

Salary.com sheds a little more insight on this topic. During your first year as a personal trainer, you can expect to make around $5,696 less than the median according to this site’s data. During your second year as a trainer, the difference is reduced to $4,402 less. 

For every year you provide personal training services, this gap gets smaller. That is until you reach year number three. At this point, you will generally start to earn more than the median according to Salary.com. Approximately $1,062 more to be exact. 

From there, the number continues to go up. It increases to $4,247 more than the median in years 5-6 and $5,309 higher in years 7-9. Certainly, longevity is rewarded with pay raises in almost any field. Though, your salary as a personal trainer at any stage in the game can vary based on a variety of factors.

Factors That Can Affect Your Personal Training Income

Part of the reason it is hard to pin down a specific personal trainer salary for a new fitness instructor is that this number isn’t one size fits all. It can easily change depending on many different factors, such as:

  • Your geographical location. The state in which you provide personal training services can change your income potential. For example, the BLS indicates that those working in Connecticut, Vermont, and the District of Columbia tend to make more than trainers providing services in other states. The population of your area matters too. Oftentimes, training in a metropolitan area means earning a higher wage than training in a more rural area.
  • Whether you have your certification. Do you have your personal trainer certification? If so, you may be able to make more, even when first starting out. A survey conducted by Certification Magazine found that those holding a certification had higher wages than those without a certification. Being a certified personal trainer means that you have a certain level of knowledge and skills. It adds to your credibility, which can increase your income. 
  • Your level of experience. An experienced trainer can generally charge more per training session. You’ve proven that your exercise program works. As a result, you can command higher rates. This is especially true if your experience is in a specific niche. People are willing to pay more for their personal training sessions if you know how to work with their unique situation or needs.
  • If you work for a gym or as an independent trainer. Your salary can also vary based on whether you work for a gym (or health club or fitness facility) or yourself, such as if you contract out your services or own a personal training business. Provide training in a gym and you’ll be paid a pre-determined hourly rate or a certain amount per training session. As an independent personal trainer, you set your own rates. Working for a gym may also mean that there may be a cap on your hours or available pay. This cap isn’t there when you work for yourself. Not that training for a gym is inferior, because it isn’t. Being in this type of environment can expose you to a variety of personal training techniques. It’s also a good way to earn more name recognition. Both of these can help make you a better personal trainer when and if you decide to go on your own.
  • The industry you work within. The BLS reports that fitness instructor salary is often different depending on the industry. For instance, the median wage when working in a fitness center is $42,160 per year. If you offer training within a civic organization, the median is $33,860 annually. Working for governmental agencies or educational services puts you somewhere in between.
  • Any additional revenue streams. Just because you provide services as a personal trainer doesn’t mean that you can’t bring in more income. You can, such as by expanding your revenue streams. If you normally offer one-on-one training, earn more income by teaching group fitness classes too. If you are typically a HIIT instructor, offer add-on strength training sessions for an additional cost. If your workout is designed for athletes, modify it so it works for expecting mothers. Expand your training offerings and you can expand your income.

In-Person Personal Trainer Salary vs Online Personal Training Income

What does your salary look like if you are a new personal trainer who offers services primarily (or entirely) online? Does an online personal trainer make more or less?

According to a 2020 personal trainer salary survey, those training online made “significantly more money.” And this wasn’t just because of the pandemic. They also made more before the Covid-19 virus hit.

There are many benefits to being an online personal trainer. Your clients can be anywhere, so you’re not limited to your local area. You can also continue your training program when clients are on vacation or traveling for business. No workout lapses mean better results. Better results will keep them coming back. It also increases the likelihood that they’ll bring their friends.

If you’re ready to start your career, the ISSA offers Personal Training Certification. And if you’re already a certified personal trainer and want to take your business online, you can become a Certified Online Coach through the ISSA too. Both can help you become a high-earning fitness professional, right from day number one.

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