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There is always someone who wants to get fit and live a healthier lifestyle, and you've decided that you are going to make a career out of helping them get what they want. And what you typically want—along with the satisfaction of having a positive impact on someone—is to make as much money as you can working as a certified personal trainer.
There's an approach for that.
Like fitness itself, it starts with establishing a goal. Once you know what you want to achieve in your career, you can follow the path you think will best help you get there. And certified personal trainers truly have options when it comes to career paths.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for personal trainers in 2021 was $40,700, which means half earned more than that amount and half earned less. The low 10 percent of those personal trainers earned less than $22,960, while the top 10 percent earned more than $75,940.
Half of the jobs (50 percent) were at fitness centers, but not all jobs in the fitness industry reside in gyms. Civic and social organizations, self-employed workers, educational services, and the government were other sources of employment.
It's common for newly certified personal trainers to work at a gym or health club early in their careers to gain experience and build relationships with clientele before considering branching out independently. The typical nationally recognized gym has a staff of certified personal trainers that earns a percentage of the client’s fee for a training session.
Most gyms charge about $50 per session, and the certified personal trainer can expect to be paid anywhere from $6 to $25 per session. A typical session lasts from 30 minutes to an hour.
Some gyms ask their trainers to find their own clients while others have a sales staff that signs up and assigns clients. Personal trainers who find their own clients usually earn a sales commission for each new person they sign up.
There also are bonuses for meeting sales goals and for getting clients to extend their training sessions when an agreement reaches its end.
Which state you live in impacts how much you earn as a personal trainer. According to the BLS, New York pays the highest personal trainer salary. The annual mean wage for a trainer in this state is $61,840 per year or $29.73 an hour. New York employs about 13,220 personal trainers.
The second highest paying is the District of Columbia. The mean wage for a fitness instructor is $61,370 per year. This is about $29.50 an hour. However, there are only about 660 personal training jobs here.
Vermont is the third best-paying state, with trainers earning approximately $58,780 a year ($28.26 per hour). But again, there are few fitness trainer jobs in this state—just 350.
If you’re looking for more opportunities, consider California. This state boasts 25,160 jobs for exercise trainers and group fitness instructors. Texas has the second highest employment level for fitness trainers at 24,330. The annual mean wager for trainers in Texas is $40,010 ($19.24 per hour).
Working as a fitness professional at a big gym or fitness center offers many advantages. Some potential benefits include health insurance, 401k, paid time off, or personal trainer insurance. While some gyms may not pay the highest personal trainer salary, they may still be a good option for you based on the other benefits they offer.
Here are some trainer salaries from well-known gyms, as reported on Indeed.com:
LA Fitness - $53,648 per year (calculated from $27.15 per hour)
24 Hour Fitness - $53,580 per year (calculated from $26.79 per hour)
Lifetime Fitness - $63,240 per year (calculated from $32.43 per hour)
Gold's Gym - $43,940 per year (calculated from $21.97 per hour)
Anytime Fitness - $41,579 per year (calculated from $19.99 per hour)
There certainly is money to be made working for a large fitness company but owning your own business or working as an independent contractor is the way for certified personal trainers to make the most money. Experienced trainers working for themselves can earn between $50 and $100 per session, depending on geographic location.
Independent contractors and business owners have total control of their work schedule, the hourly rate they elect to charge, and where they do their work. Salaries for personal trainers who are independent contractors could be significantly more than those of fitness professionals who work for someone else. As an independent trainer, you set your rates and don’t owe a percentage of your earnings to the gym.
One way to work as an independent contractor is to "rent" space at a nearby gym to train clients. In this instance, the gym receives around 10 percent of the personal trainer's fee for the use of the facility. But these types of arrangements are becoming less common.
Few larger gyms allow independent contractors because they can make more money by bringing on their own personal trainers. Trainers looking for this type of arrangement should concentrate on smaller, locally based gyms.
The best way to gain independence—and maximize income—is to own a small business. As daunting as that might sound to some, it doesn't necessarily take a major financial commitment to create a successful business.
For example, certified personal trainers can specialize in training clients in their own homes. All that is needed are dumbbells, a weight bench, an exercise ball and strength bands, and a vehicle to get where you need to go. Those who think bigger and have the financial means can rent space for a gym and rent the equipment to fill it.
An independent personal trainer may elect to set up a gym in their own home and have the clients come to them. Again, there are upfront costs, but there is room for a big return on the investment.
Regardless of the direction one goes, maximizing earning potential involves spending a little money up front to get a bigger return. Independent contractors should be prepared to purchase business cards and invest in various forms of marketing and advertising.
Social media can play a major role in maximizing income. More and more fitness professionals are posting video and workout demonstrations on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook to increase their exposure and reach potential clients.
Similarly, more and more personal trainers strictly offer their services online. Rather than scheduling individual, in-person training sessions, they make workouts available online for a prescribed fee.
Setting your online training program rates is partially based on your business expenses. The more costs you have, the more you need to break even, let alone earn a decent income. Read this ISSA blog article to learn more about the average personal trainer salary for virtual trainers: How Much Should I Charge for Online Personal Training?
Like most professional fields, those who serve as specialists in the fitness industry can expect to be compensated accordingly. Some people proclaim that nothing but the best will do and are willing to pay for it. There are avenues for certified personal trainers to help gain the distinction of being among the best in their field.
ISSA's master trainer certificate program first requires a personal trainer certificate, certification as a nutrition specialist, and certification in four specializations of your choice. While six courses take a substantial amount of time and effort, the payoff is definitely worth it. Those who achieve master status typically charge approximately $100 per personal training session.
The reality is that there remains a growing need for certified personal trainers. Opportunity and financial success exist for those who commit to learning the practical and scientific methods that lead to good health and proper fitness.
If you're ready to get involved in the personal training industry, sign up for the ISSA's Personal Trainer Certification course. In this course, you'll learn the essentials of human anatomy, exercise programming, behavior change, setting fitness goals, and more. It's the best way to jumpstart your new career!
Start your dream career completely online! Take the course, pass the certification final exam, and be guaranteed a job - or your money back!
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Fitness Trainers and Instructors, at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/fitness-trainers-and-instructors.htm (visited July 09, 2022).