Breaking into the fitness industry isn't as difficult as you might think. Yes, you need to have the right knowledge and at least personal experience, but professional experience isn't always required.
It's best to get a certification for personal training, but after that you should be able to land your first job without experience. Doing so takes some networking, persistence, and a good resume.
Experience is important, but lack of experience should not keep passionate new trainers out of the industry. Everyone has to start somewhere. Don't get frustrated if you are turned down several times. Keep trying, build experience with friends and family, and you will land that first job.
Education can't replace real-world experience, but it is the best starting point. A certification program provides you with the fundamentals, a foundation on which to build a successful career. Experience is a valuable teacher, but it isn't the same as learning the facts.
For most people starting off in the fitness industry, getting certified is the best first step. Many gyms are willing to hire certified trainers with no experience for entry-level positions. There are a lot of other reasons to start with a certification:
Many employers require certification for trainers.
Clients also look for trainers with certification.
Fitness is an unregulated industry, so it is up to professionals to seek out reliable, credible information, which begins with a certification course.
You'll ultimately earn more as a certified trainer.
Most certifications require you to stay current, so you'll keep learning as you progress in your career.
Most programs include CPR/AED certification, which may be required by an employer.
With certification, you reduce your liability in the event a client gets injured.
Choose a nationally recognized program with an accredited exam. It should be a general personal training course. You can specialize later, but to start your career, get a broad education in the basics of fitness, nutrition, and training.
Becoming a certified personal trainer could be the most rewarding thing you do. Here are seven reasons why.
A solid resume is essential for any job, not just personal training. How you present yourself can make up for areas in which you lack, such as hands-on experience. Take your time drafting your personal trainer resume and let other people read it and give you advice. Any fitness professionals you know will be able to provide important pointers and share what gyms look for on resumes.
You may be tempted to be brutally honest on your resume, specifically pointing out that you have no actual training experience. This isn't necessary. If asked directly, be honest about your lack of experience, but don't offer it up right away.
Instead, highlight what you have to offer: your certification, any additional relevant classes, your own personal athletic experience, any mentoring work you have done with young athletes, volunteer work, and of course past jobs, even if they weren't fitness jobs. Focus on the positive to showcase what you have done, not what you haven't.
Networking is a smart strategy for any career. Get to know people in your industry, and let them get to know you, and you'll find more opportunities. A gym or other employer is more likely to reach out to and hire someone they've met in a professional setting.
A great way to network is to attend classes in as many gyms as you can. Of course, a membership at every gym in town isn't feasible, so look for programs that allow you to try several of them for one price. A lot of gyms offer this; you pay a fee for a pass that gets you into a specific number of classes at participating gyms.
Don't just take classes. Introduce yourself to the instructors and talk to them about your training and what you hope to do with your career. They can offer pointers, notify you of opportunities, and circulate your name among employers they know. Here are some other ideas for places and situations for networking and making new connections:
Gym open houses
Fitness and athletic competitions
Local run clubs and recreational sports teams
Health, fitness, and wellness conventions and seminars
Online and social media groups that target fitness in your area
Fitness-focused events and groups are most important as you look for work, but also consider attending events for local small businesses or entrepreneurs.
As you build up your network and write your resume, don't be afraid to go ahead and apply for jobs. The worst that can happen is that you don't get the job. There are opportunities at gyms for trainers with no experience. You just have to find them.
Your best bet is to target big box gyms. They often have high turnover and are looking for new trainers or group instructors most of the time. You'll most likely be hired to do some part-time instruction as a group fitness instructor, but this is a great way to get work experience.
Many big, commercial gyms take on new trainers even with no experience. They may require certification, or that you are working on certification. Some will offer a little training to get you started, while others may just observe you for the first class and then let you dive in on your own.
A big, commercial gym is a great target for any new fitness trainer starting out with no experience. You may want to apply at all the commercial gyms in your area to see what you get, but also try a more focused search. If you look on job sites, you'll find there are facilities that offer to take on trainers with no experience for entry-level jobs.
For example, check out this search on Indeed.com for "entry level personal trainer." It lists a lot of different positions that specifically state no experience required. Some offer on-the-job training and support to entry-level employees looking to get certified as trainers.
Finding a personal trainer job that doesn't require experience is not impossible. Try several different job sites, and you'll see a lot of options. The pay may be lower, but these are good opportunities to break into the industry and to gain valuable experience for your resume.
Not all personal trainers work in gyms. Consider online personal training or these alternative careers to put your personal training certification to work.
You don't have to have held an official position as a personal trainer in a gym or studio to gain experience. As you earn your personal trainer certification and look for your first job, offer to work with friends or family members with fitness or health goals. You can help them in-person or work as an online personal trainer.
You should be able to find a few people happy to help you and to get a free or discounted training session. You can use these personal experiences on your resume and in interviews as you apply for jobs. These sessions may even lead to connections that help you get your first job or that lead to a freelancing career.
Everyone's journey to a rewarding personal training career is unique. Take these tips to heart but follow the path that works best for you. With a fitness education, passion, and dedication, landing a job and building a career is inevitable.
Experience is important, but the starting point for a career in training is an education. The ISSA's Certified Personal Trainer - Self-Guided Study Program teaches you all the basics needed to begin working in the fitness industry and become a successful personal trainer.
Start your dream career completely online! Take the course, pass the certification final exam, and be guaranteed a job - or your money back!