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How to Begin a Successful Career in Personal Training

How to Begin a Successful Career in Personal Training

Reading Time: 8 minutes 17 seconds


DATE: 2019-07-25

You love fitness. When you're at work you wish you were at the gym and people ask you all the time why you don't just work at the gym. How much happier would you be if you put your passion for fitness together with a career? Maybe you've started to do some research but have realized you don't know where to begin. Don't fret. Here is your guide to picking the best certification for you and how you can turn that certification into a career.

How to Pick the Best Personal Training Certification

There are a variety of companies offering certifications for personal trainers. They may all be good companies, but which one is the best for you? Assess the following factors to help find the certification that fits your needs.

Know What You Want to Get Out of It

Of course, you are going to do your research and look at the different companies out there but know what your end goal is before you start that research. Is your goal to work with youth clients, or weight loss, or senior citizen or athletes? All those populations will require different additional coursework for you to take to become successful. Be ready to take more than just your basic personal trainer certification. Often that personal training certification is a great first step, but as you start applying for jobs and letting the hiring manager know what types of clients you want to work with, they will ask for those other certifications.

For example, say your goal is to work with weight loss clients. You will need your personal training certification, plus it is highly recommended that you also have a nutrition certification. This is because, as most of us who know fitness know, when it comes to losing weight, nutrition is a major factor. Think about it this way, you have a client who you train 3 times per week, they are with you 3 hours a week, and not with you 165 hours a week. So, your job as their personal trainer is to help them make the best decision they can all those hours they are not with you. And the best part is the more certification and education that you have, the more money you get to charge for your sessions. So, you can determine just how valuable you are to your clients!

Read the Reviews

These days there are many companies out there to get certified through. Take the time to read the company reviews, see what their customers are saying about them. Is it going to be a company that has a team to help you along the way? Are you going to have to wait hours on hold to talk to someone? Are they going to make you purchase a higher package to get your questions answered? All those things are very important to take into consideration when you are making an investment in your future and the customer reviews will let you know if companies follow through on their promises.

Ask Questions

Of course, enrolling in a personal training course is something you can do completely on your own right online. However, it's always a good idea to give the company a call. Most companies have education advisors or a sales team that will talk through what your goals are and can then recommend what courses would be best for you. Also, they can answer questions you may have, or even answer common questions that you did not even consider. Then, once you do enroll, you still have a point of contact that you can reach out to as you have questions.

Job Promise

You're looking to make a career out of personal training so you want to make sure you get a job. This is where asking those questions can be important. Some companies, like ISSA, offer what is called a job promise. With this, you have a specified period to apply for a personal training job and, if you don't get hired, you generally get your money back. Generally, a company that offers this sort of promise tends to be more reputable in the industry, otherwise, they would not be offering that sort of promise. When you are looking into this aspect of the program ask the questions on specifics; some companies only refund a portion of the package, while others have teams on staff to help assist in the process and help you find those gyms hiring in your area.

Program Details

Make sure you get all the details of the program before you decide. Some great questions here to ask are:

  • How long does it usually take to complete the course?

  • Is there a deadline to complete the course?

  • What will I learn in the course?

  • Are there different levels to get the certification? If so, what is the difference?

  • Is there a hardcopy textbook?

  • How is the test taken?

  • Who accepts your certification?

Some of these may be important to you and others may not, so feel free to ask the questions that make the most sense to you. No matter what you ask, simply make sure you get details on all the aspects important to you before you make a decision.

Getting Started as a Personal Trainer

Once you have chosen the best company for you, gone through the course, and passed your certification exam, what's next? You get hired. But how do you get clients and start building your career? Continue reading for more tips and recommendations to get started as a personal trainer.


Whether you're looking for something formal or something a bit more relaxed, an externship is always a good idea. Some fitness certifications offer this as an extra add-on to the certification program; if they offer it, it is very worth your while to take advantage of the opportunity. Generally, if you do this through your certification, it will be more structured; you can expect real, hands-on experience; and you will have set areas you can expect to learn in.

If your fitness certification doesn't offer it what is recommended is if you know someone who is a personal trainer, see if you can shadow them for a few weeks. If you don't know someone who is a personal trainer, I'd suggest talking to some gym managers and see if they would be open to something like that. Now keep in mind that is not going to have structure like an externship and you likely won't get the hands-on experience that you would with a structured program, but it is still very helpful in learning your expectations.

Where to Work as a Personal Trainer

Deciding where you want to work is going to require you to think about some goals for your career.

  • What types of clients do you want to work with?

  • What hours do you want to work?

  • Are you looking for full-time or part-time?

  • Do you have resources to start your own business?

Every trainer is going to have different goals for their career, so these are some good questions to start asking yourself.

Once you decide what types of clients you want to work with, your next step is to determine your target market. Let's say you want to work with weight loss clients. This now tells you what additional courses you should have under your belt, where you should apply to gyms, and the type of people you should be talking with to gain clients.

Keep in mind all these things as you are applying for personal training jobs and talking with managers.

Interviewing for a Personal Trainer Position

A common question people will ask once they get certified is what should I expect during an interview for a personal training job? There is no universal answer here, as every gym and every hiring manager will be different. Some of the common areas you can expect may include:

  • Personality: They are looking for friendly faces and people that are easy to talk to.

  • Knowledge: They want to make sure you know what you're talking about and they may ask you to perform or demonstrate some common movements.

  • Assessments: Don't be surprised if they give you a case study with a client and ask you to take them through the assessment and the initial program you would provide.

Keep in mind that this will differ everywhere you go, so there may be more to it or even less. At the end of the day, be friendly, knowledgeable, confident, and coachable. If they do give you feedback, take it and apply it.

Marketing Yourself as a Personal Trainer

So many personal trainers are eager to get started training and helping change lives that they forget to start by marketing themselves in order to get those clients. If you work in a gym, the gym may help you with this by giving you new-member intro sessions or making direct introductions, but that doesn't mean you can't do this for yourself as well. A great place to start is with a website, social media accounts, and business cards.

Let's first talk about the website. This doesn't have to be anything fancy or over the top, but you want to have the information on yourself, your services, and how you can help them achieve their goals. If you are an ISSA certified trainer you get this service for free. You will have to do the work to set up your website, but it can be relatively simple and save you a lot of money.

Social media is one of the top marketing resources you can use. Make sure to create business social media accounts that are separate from your personal accounts. This is a great place to showcase your personal training services, get people interested, and share client testimonials.

Business cards are important as well. As you are talking to people, it is easy to hand them out. You never know who may reach out to you or even who may know of a friend they pass your information along to. Some trainers say "Oh, I'll just give them my number," but that can be intimidating to a potential new client if they're not quite ready to commit yet. A business card, on the other hand, is a bit more passive and may even make someone feel more comfortable in that they can reach out when they are ready to make the decision to get started.


Remember, just because you're inside the gym doesn't mean your networking has to stop there. The most successful personal trainers have a great network. You can begin building this by introducing yourself to businesses in the area. Offer to provide free education to their employees in hopes of gaining clients or you can start a corporate wellness program sponsored by the company.

The other side of networking as a personal trainer is having people that you can refer clients to and vice versa. It's always helpful to have connections to professionals like dieticians, massage therapists, physical therapists, various other doctors, etc. If you think about who you want to network with, a good place to start is asking yourself what questions will clients ask that may be outside your scope of practice. Then you can create a referral network for yourself and make agreements that they'll send you clients as well.

At the end of the day, to be a successful personal trainer, it all comes down to being yourself, being friendly and confident, and keeping your client's best interest in mind at all times. If you can do all those things, then you are on the right track.

Are you ready to start building a great career? Do your research and check out ISSA's personal training course. You'll learn the science behind fitness and top programming techniques to help your clients achieve their health and fitness goals.

How to Begin a Successful Career in Personal Training Infographic

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